UK MP urges re-establishment of Maldives rule of law in early day motion

Conservative Party MP Fiona Bruce has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons this week urging the United Kingdom to take “all reasonable steps to encourage the re-establishment of democracy and rule of law throughout the Maldives.”

The motion – which has so far gained just three signatures – expressed alarm at the series of events that have led to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s removal from office, arrest, conviction on terrorism charges and sentencing to 13 years in jail.

It noted several irregularities in Nasheed’s trial, including the Criminal Court’s decision to deny legal representation at a number of hearings and to reject defence witnesses before they were heard.

Bruce, who also serves as the Chairperson of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission, also highlighted that many of Nasheed’s supporters have been arrested and the live broadcast feed from the People’s Majlis chambers has been cut “so the public have very little knowledge of what is happening within the Parliament.”

She said that any allegations against Nasheed must be considered openly, and with due respect for justice and legal processes.

Early day motions are tabled by MPs to publicise a particular event or cause, and to gather support among MPs for that event or cause.

Nasheed’s terrorism trial regarding the military’s abduction of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed has drawn international concern. The UK, United States, and the European Union expressed concern over the lack of due process while Canada said it was “appalled by the guilty verdict”.

Bruce has previously called for sanctions against the Maldives, stating Britain and the international community could not afford to remain silent in the face of “such gross injustice.”

“Targeted sanctions against the international assets of senior members of the regime, as well as a boycott of tourist resorts owned by senior members of the regime of their associates, should be seriously considered. The Commonwealth should consider suspending the Maldives,” she said.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) hit back at Fiona’s comments claiming Nasheed had been “fully accorded his rights in line with the Constitution and the laws of Maldives.”

The PPM recommended Bruce do a “basic fact-check” and said the government cannot drop the charges against Nasheed, or anyone else.

President Abdulla Yameen has previously described advocating for charges to be dropped against Nasheed as judicial interference, and said foreigners must not meddle in Maldives’ domestic affairs.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul said the trial made a “mockery” of the Maldives Constitution and said: “The speed of proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the trial was “hasty and apparently unfair” and urged Nasheed be given adequate time to prepare and present his defence during the appeal process.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has since invited the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the EU to send experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal process.

Nasheed’s legal team has suggested that tomorrow’s deadline for an appeal cannot be met, arguing that the court has not supplied the necessary documents.


UK MP Bruce condemns Nasheed’s terrorism sentence, reiterates calls for international sanctions

UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission has called the Criminal Court’s decision to jail former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges a “blatant and grotesque injustice.”

Condemning the 13 year jail term, Chairman of the commission, MP Fiona Bruce reiterated calls on the international community to consider a drastic range of sanctions against President Abdulla Yameen’s regime.

These include targeted financial sanctions, freezing overseas assets, imposing travel bans, arms embargos, suspension from the Commonwealth and tourism boycotts.

“We need to use every means to put pressure on the Maldivian regime to permit an appeal by Mr Nasheed, release him, drop the charges, begin a political dialogue, and move towards the restoration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law,” she said.

Bruce also expressed concern over the Criminal Court denying Nasheed legal representation, right to appeal and bail. The court had refused to hear evidence from his defence witnesses, she noted.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last week condemned Bruce’s earlier calls for sanctions.

Referring to Bruce calling Nasheed “a champion of non-violent, peaceful democracy,” the PPM claimed the former president had “resorted to violent, unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic methods during his regime from 2008 to 2012, including the unlawful ‘abduction and isolation’ of the Criminal Court Chief Judge in 2012.”

“We are further baffled by her baseless allegation that Nasheed was ‘physically mistreated while in custody,’” the statement read.

“We would like to emphasise that he has been fully accorded his rights in line with the constitution and the laws of the Maldives.

The statement added that Nasheed had succeeded former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – the PPM’s leader – “who had ushered in modern liberal democracy in the Maldives, in addition to transforming the country from one of the poorest five countries in the world to a flourishing economy with the highest per capita income in the whole of South Asia.”


UK Conservative Party’s human rights body calls for sanctions on Maldives

The UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission has called a rushed terrorism trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed a “grotesque travesty of justice,” and urged the international community to consider sanctions against senior government officials.

The opposition leader is accused of ordering the “abduction” of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012. If convicted under the 1990 anti-terrorism laws, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

The chair of the Conservative Party’s human rights body, MP Fiona Bruce, said Britain and the international community could not afford to remain silent in the face of “such gross injustice.”

“Targeted sanctions against the international assets of senior members of the regime, as well as a boycott of tourist resorts owned by senior members of the regime or their associates, should be seriously considered,” she said in a statement today.

“The Commonwealth should consider suspending the Maldives. We must all do everything we can to ensure that Mohamed Nasheed is freed, democracy is restored and justice is done.”

The Conservative Party has long been an ally of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), assisting with party building and campaigning.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has meanwhile slammed the international community for its alleged “double standards and hypocrisy” over Nasheed’s trial.


Bruce expressed concern over the Criminal Court denying Nasheed legal representation at a first hearing, and the police’s manhandling of the former president when he was brought to court on February 23.

Nasheed appeared in court with his arm in a makeshift sling and requested immediate medical attention and legal counsel.

“I am deeply concerned that he has been physically mistreated while in custody. The images of him being dragged along the ground into court were truly shocking,” she said.

“Mohamed Nasheed is a champion of non-violent, peaceful democracy. Charging him with terrorism is in itself absurd, and blatantly politically-motivated,” she added.

She went on to question the impartiality of the Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and the three judges—Abdulla Didi, Abdul Bari Yoousuf and Sujau Usman—who are overseeing Nasheed’s trial.

“In Mr Nasheed’s trial the prosecutor-general is a former associate of Judge Mohamed, and the lead judge had refused to take disciplinary action against Judge Mohamed as deputy head of the Judicial Services Commission. Another judge faces allegations of bribery and the third has a criminal record. What hope can there possibly be of a fair trial? “

The chairperson called on the government to release Nasheed and engage in political dialogue.

“Today I urge the Government of the Maldives to drop the charges, release Mr Nasheed and engage in a political dialogue to find a peaceful way forward towards the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights.”

Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen has declared foreigners must not meddle in domestic affairs, insisting Nasheed’s trial demonstrated the law would be enforced without bias.

In a statement on Thursday, the PPM said “many observers, ‘experts’ and ‘proponents of democratic values’ including many countries and organisations had ignored the many unconstitutional and undemocratic actions of President Nasheed.”

When Judge Abdulla was detained, “only a few organisations released statements condemning this illegal act,” but today “every minor incident in Maldives warrants a statement by some countries and organisations while many serious and deteriorating situations in other countries are ignored,” it added.

The PPM has repeatedly called on the international community to respect Maldives sovereignty and not to undermine its institutions.

Stressing the PPM remained committed to strengthening and consolidating democracy in the Maldives and protecting human rights, the party said it believed “justice should take its course and no man is above the law.”

Local human rights group Maldivian Democracy Network has also highlighted 11 issues of concern with Nasheed’s trial, ranging from alleged witness coaching to Criminal Court’s refusal to provide sufficient time to mount a defence.

The Criminal Court, however, has insisted Nasheed’s legal team had been afforded sufficient time, arguing case documents had been provided three years ago when the former President was charged with arbitrarily detaining Judge Abdulla.

Nasheed’s legal team maintain they require more time to prepare a defence for the new harsher charges of terrorism.

When lawyers quit in protest on March 9, the Criminal Court proceeded without affording Nasheed ten additional days to appoint new lawyers, insisting the former president could appoint lawyers at any time via a phone call.

The Criminal Court is to hear concluding statements tomorrow night. Judges could issue a verdict at their discretion afterwards.

The Commonwealth, EU, Canada, UK, Australia and India have expressed concern over new terror charges against Nasheed, and denial of legal representation and police mistreatment at the trial’s first hearing.

Related to this story

Nasheed trial “not free or fair,” says Maldivian Democracy Network

Foreigners cannot meddle in domestic affairs, declares President Yameen

PPM accuses international community of “double standards and hypocrisy” in Nasheed’s trial

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court

Global change makers demand a fair trial for Nasheed

Indian Prime Minister Modi cancels Maldives trip

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution


Comment: Some Conservatives failed over Mandela – others are failing now over climate change

I am a Conservative and an environmentalist – a position, it seems, that is increasingly irreconcilable. Australia’s centre-right administration is busy dismantling a carbon tax. Canada’s Conservative Government has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol. And, in the United States, the Tea Party is purging Republicans who agree with the 97 per cent of climate scientists who say that human activity is causing global warming.

As a politician (and former president) of the Maldives – one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations – this places me in a quandary. A believer in free markets, small government and globalisation, I feel a natural kinship with the school of thought that brought us Thatcherism and Reaganomics. But the Maldives lies just 1.5 meters above the rising seas. To deny the dangers of climate change is to ignore my country’s greatest national security threat.

I suspect I am not alone in this predicament. As climate change bites, more and more world leaders are forced to grapple with its consequences: fiercer droughts, wildfires, storms and floods. A denialist, Conservative movement has no solutions to offer these countries and therefore risks irrelevancy.

It also leaves Conservatives on the wrong side of history. Over the past few weeks, as the world commemorates Nelson Mandela, an uncomfortable spotlight has been shone on Conservatives who branded the ANC as terrorists in the 1980s. How will today’s crop of Conservative climate refuseniks explain themselves to future generations, in a world made hotter, nasty and poor by global warming?

Strong action today to curb emissions should prevent catastrophic climate change. But if we ignore the issue for another decade, we face a world of soaring temperatures, ferocious storms and a climate out of control. Future generations will hold Conservatives responsible for wrecking the planet.

My party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), owes much to the Conservative movement. They have provided us with ideological inspiration and practical know-how. Britain’s Conservative Party taught the MDP how to campaign – invaluable support in a young democracy like the Maldives. We are also grateful to conservative-run governments, such as Canada’s, who pressured the Maldives to hold recent elections when the country looked like it might slip back into dictatorship. The actions of politicians such as David Cameron, William Hague and John Baird, in support of democracy in a far off land, demonstrate the very best in enlightened leadership. When our movement is capable of exemplary governance, why do so many Conservatives let us down on climate change?

It was not always like this. Teddy Roosevelt founded America’s national park system. Richard Nixon introduced the Clean Air Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol to limit CFCs. And George H Bush introduced a cap-and-trade system to curb acid rain. But contemporary politicians fail to uphold one of the founding principles of Conservatism: the duty to conserve. There is nothing Conservative about advocating for the destruction of the climate, and thus all we hold dear. This is not a credible Conservative standpoint: it is reckless and extreme.

Our movement’s pro-fossil fuel advocacy also flies in the face of the free market economics we espouse. The oil, gas and coal industries have benefited from a century of subsidies and tax breaks. So why are we continuing to subsidise highly profitable and polluting fossil fuel firms, while choking off support for clean energy?  We are not supposed to be the fossil fuel industry’s trade union.

Capitalism, free trade and globalisation have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and helped countries, such as my own, graduate from developing to middle income status. We owe a lot to neoclassical economics. But as any economist will tell you, markets sometime fail. The modern economy allows companies to dump dangerous greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at no cost. The responsible, Conservative approach to this problem is to price and/or regulate these emissions.

Fortunately, this position is starting to find acceptance, even in the unlikeliest quarters. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP and Shell are already planning their future growth on the expectation that governments will impose a price on carbon emissions. If oil companies can accept the inevitability of climate action, why can’t Conservative politicians?

Enough of this antediluvian denialism – it is time for climate conscious Conservatives to speak out. We should ask ourselves what Churchill, Thatcher or Reagan would do. Even in the face of vested interests or powerful opponents, they would not shirk their responsibilities. They would lead the fight to conserve our climate.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Nasheed’s trial and Maldives’ human rights record debated in Westminster

The ongoing trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed was again the subject of debate in London this week, as well as the current human rights situation in the country.

On Tuesday night, the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission convened to discuss the Maldives, inviting speakers from the government, the opposition, and civil society to participate in the event titled “Human rights and Democracy in the Maldives: Where do we go from here?”

The following day, a private members debate was secured by Karen Lumley MP in the House of Commons to discuss the role of the UK government and the Commonwealth in ensuring a fair trial for Nasheed, whose case was postponed on Sunday following a high court injunction.

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Dr Farahanaz Faizal, former Foreign Minister and current UN Special Rapporteur Dr Ahmed Shaheed, barrister – and current member of Nasheed’s legal team – Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, as well as Amnesty International’s South Asia specialist Abbas Faiz.

Invitations were also extended to the Acting High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Ahmed Shiaan and Minister for Tourism Ahmed Adheeb.

However, after queries from panel members in attendance as to the whereabouts of the government’s representatives, the committee’s Chair Robert Buckland MP informed those present that, despite having initially accepted the invitation, the government representatives had withdrawn.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said that Adheeb had been unable to attend the meeting as it had clashed with a ministerial dinner. He had also been busy with duties related to the 2012 World Travel Market, which had been the primary purpose of his visit to London.

Where do we go from here?

Shaheed was the first to speak at the Conservative’s meeting, urging the government to uphold the commitments made via its international commitments as well as the pledges made this summer at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).

Farah was the next to speak, choosing to focus in particular on the issues of gender based violence and rising religious extremism in the country.

She argued that the treatment of female protesters in the aftermath of the February 7 transfer of power had highlighted this endemic abuse.

Farah deviated from her prepared testimony to mention the recent incident of the 11 year old girl who gave birth in Seenu atoll last week.

“The silence of the authorities is disturbing,” she added, before chastising President Mohamed Waheed Hassan for failing to speak out, despite his history of working with UNICEF.

Abbas Faiz spoke next, taking time – after distributing a copy of the recent Amnesty International publication, ‘The other side of paradise’ – to assert the independence of his organisation: “Some still believe we are not. We do not take sides.”

After the release of the report in the summer, Amnesty was accused by Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed of acting with bias towards anti government supporters.

Faiz pointed out that Amnesty also condemned any acts of violence by protesters and stated that it still considered the detention of Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January this year to have been “arbitrary”.

Sir Ivan Lawrence QC contended that the “arbitrary” arrest of Abdulla Mohamed was yet to be proven in a court of law.

The member of Nasheed’s current defense team recalled his previous work in the country in 2005, noting the proven gains to be made from garnering global attention on human rights abuses.

He did acknowledge the difficulty of this task, with far greater human rights atrocities occurring elsewhere in the world, and expressed his belief that the Commonwealth was best placed to help solve the country’s current problems.

When taking questions from the floor, Farah expressed her concern that international observers were often sheltered from the real Maldives when visiting the country, arguing that this must change if observers are to assist with free and fair elections.

Buckland, the Chair, concluded the meeting by saying that he would pass on the details of the forum to the Foreign Secretary William Hague as well as the Under Secretary Alistair Burt.

Private members’ debate

Burt was unable to attend the private member’s debate the following day, sending Mark Simmonds to represent the Foreign Office on his behalf.

Lumley described the 2008 election victory as a “political fairy tale”, but argued that Nasheed had been left with a “constitutional time bomb” regarding the unreformed judiciary, which the Commonwealth ought to have offered greater assistance with.

Robert Buckland, also present at this debate, remarked that the “current government is in a supremely ironic situation.”

“They criticised the former president for interfering in the judiciary and now it seems they are using judicial processes to frustrate a free and fair election,” he said.

“Is not the message we need to send to them that the guarantee of a true democracy is an independent judiciary, and that they had better make sure that is so,” he asked.

Both Karen Lumley and John Glen MP both stated their firm belief that the events of February 7 amounted to a coup.

On behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Simmonds said that he disagreed with the assertion that the Commonwealth had “taken its eye off the ball” in the Maldives.

“I do not think that is an entirely accurate reflection of matters,” he said.

He said that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) was concerned about the situation – noting that the recent meeting in New York went on for five hours, despite being scheduled for 45 minutes – and that it had pledged additional support for civil society and judicial reform.

Simmonds was keen to stress that, after the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), “we fully accept the legitimacy of the current president and his government.”

He described the current legal proceeding as a “significant test” which was being “watched closely” by the international community before noting that the government had previously sought and received assurances from President Waheed that the trial would be free from political influence.

“At this stage of proceedings, we have no reason to believe that this will not be the case,” said Simmonds.

“I have no doubt that the Maldives government and judiciary will feel the eyes of the world on them, and that they realise that a fair and impartial trial is most evidently in the national interest,” he added.

The second hearing in Nasheed’s trial had been scheduled for last Sunday but was postponed pending a High Court ruling on the procedural points raised by his legal team.

A High Court decision had been expected on the day after the private members debate, but the Supreme Court was reported to have instructed the lower court to halt its hearings on Wednesday afternoon.