EU calls for political dialogue to resolve crisis

The European Union has called on political parties in the Maldives to engage in dialogue to resolve a deepening political crisis.

The EU delegation along with EU heads of mission and the ambassador of Norway in Sri Lanka called for dialogue after strongly condemning “the violence which occurred at the public demonstration held in Malé on 1 May 2015.”

Nearly 200 protesters were arrested from the anti-government mass rally following a police crackdown, including Adhaalath Party (AP) president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed.

The opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance had vowed to bring president Abdulla Yameen to the negotiating table through the mass rally.

Last week, Imran refused to negotiate with president Yameen’s envoy for the talks, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, calling the ruling party’s deputy leader “corrupt” and “a criminal.”

The EU meanwhile called on all sides to “exercise restraint and to refrain from any acts which could make the current political situation worse.”

“The EU delegation is especially disappointed because of the reassurances which the visiting EU [heads of mission] had received from all major Maldivian political parties and the government that every effort would be made to ensure that peace would prevail on 1 May,” reads a statement released yesterday.

The opposition May Day protest began peacefully with an estimated 20,000 supporters marching across the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu, calling for an end to the government’s “tyranny” and demanding the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed, ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

However, clashes erupted when protesters attempted to break through police barricades to perform sunset prayers at the Islamic centre. Protests are prohibited at the Republic square or the restricted ‘green zone’ in front of the mosque.

Police cracked down with tear gas, thunder flashes, stun grenades, and the indiscriminate use of pepper spray.

Later in the night, a Specialist Operations (SO) police officer left behind after a baton charge was tripped and severely beaten by protesters. He was sent to Sri Lanka for medical treatment along with another officer injured after a protest pickup charged through police lines at dusk.

The president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali declared after Sheikh Imran’s arrest that the government will no longer hold discussions with the Adhaalath Party leader.

The EU parliament meanwhile passed a resolution last week calling on member states to issue warnings on the Maldives’ human right records on their travel advice websites and demanding the release of ex-president Nasheed.

In a visit to Sri Lanka, US Secretary of State John Kerry echoed the calls and warned that democracy is under threat in the Maldives.

“We’ve seen even now how regrettably there are troubling signs that democracy is under threat in the Maldives where the former president Nasheed has been imprisoned without due process,” he said.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon.”


EU calls on Maldives government to free ex president immediately

The EU parliament today passed a resolution urging the Maldives to free ex president Mohamed Nasheed and calling on member states to issue warnings on the Maldives’ human rights record on their travel advice websites.

Nasheed was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to a 13 year jail term in a trial that sparked international outrage over lack of due process.

MEPs insisted that Nasheed should be immediately released, noting that the “controversial trial failed to meet national and international standards of justice.”

The EU parliament said it was gravely concerned about increasing tendencies towards authoritarian rule, noting a crackdown on political opponents including the imprisonment of former defence ministers and a ruling party MP, as well as the intimidation of media and civil society and the politicization of the judiciary.

The resolution, which comes ahead of a mass antigovernment protest tomorrow, encouraged “all actors in the Maldives to work together constructively in all areas,” and said the government must immediately end political interference in the judiciary, end all forms of violence including that against peaceful protesters.

MEPs urged a proper investigation into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who has been missing since August last year, the resolution said.

They also condemned the reintroduction of the death penalty.

The resolution did not call for an asset freeze or a travel ban on government officials, as proposed by the conservative group of MEPs.

Hours before the resolution’s passing, state minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef, said the resolution did not concern the government, noting it is non-binding on member states.

He said the stronger provisions for a travel advisory and punitive measures had been removed from the final document.

State minister for tourism Hussain Lirar meanwhile said the government does not foresee adverse impacts on Maldives tourism from the resolution.

“The resolution carries no legal weight. Members states will only issue advisories if their national parliaments approve it,” he claimed.

Europeans make up nearly half of the tourist arrivals in the Maldives, and a strong travel warning could have devastating impact on the country’s economy, which is largely dependent on revenue from tourism.

A tourism industry insider, who wished to remain anonymous, also said: “as long as there are no punitive measures, it may not have impacts on business. But this does increase consumer awareness. A more ethical tourist may choose not to come to the Maldives now. But tour operators will continue selling holidays here.”

Calls for a selective tourism boycott has been growing internationally following Nasheed’s arrest, with Richard Branson of the Virgin group saying he will no longer holiday in the Maldives.

A group called Ethical Maldives, which calls on tourists to avoid resorts owned by businessmen who support the ruling party, is also gaining international media attention.

Opposition politicians were not responding at the time of going to press.


Comment: International community must not ignore the plight of ‘Mandela of the Maldives’

The following op-ed was written by Anders Henriksen and Lykke Friss from the University of Copenhagen and first appeared on The Conversation. Republished with permission.  

This year has been anything but tranquil in paradise. In March, after a prolonged period of tension in the Maldives – the Indian Ocean island nation better known as a honeymoon paradise – a panel of judges found the former president, Mohamed Nasheed, guilty of terrorism and sentenced him to 13 years imprisonment.

The international community has condemned Nasheed’s trial as a farce. The charges against him were highly dubious, he was denied the right to legal counsel, given just a few days to prepare his defence – and two of the presiding judges even testified on behalf of the prosecution. Amnesty International labelled the trial as “a travesty of justice”.

As numerous UN reports have shown, the Maldivian judiciary is highly corrupt. It is a judiciary that is loyal not to the rule of law, but to the regime that has been in charge since a coup d’état in 2012. Nasheed is now back in the same jail where he spent years as a prisoner of conscience during the former Maldives dictatorship.

Shattered dreams

At the end of 2008, when democracy swept aside 30 years of dictatorship, it all looked so promising. The Maldivian people chose Nasheed as president in their first democratic elections and, for a brief moment, freedom blossomed.

During Nasheed’s presidency, Maldivians could speak freely for the first time, enjoy new found political freedoms, and express themselves through art and culture. Internationally, the charismatic new leader gained fame for his remarkable efforts to persuade the world to combat climate change, which threatens low-lying Maldives. Nasheed toured the world as a political rock-star, receiving accolades from the White House to Windsor Castle.

But it did not take long for the old regime to move against the young democratic government. On February 7 2012, Nasheed was forced to resign and the presidency was handed to Mohamed Waheed, a puppet of the former regime. The Maldivessoon reverted to type: journalists were targeted, protesters beaten up, and opposition politicians threatened and murdered.

The subsequent presidential elections 2013 were marred by widespread allegations of vote-rigging. The former dictator’s half brother, Abdulla Yameen, won – despite an overwhelming expectation that Nasheed would be returned.

Democracy trampled

Nasheed’s incarceration should be cause for concern to anyone who cares about democracy, liberty or the rights of women. In the Maldives, the moderate, freedom-oriented version of Islam that Nasheed espoused is under threat from a regime that colludes with Islamic extremists.

Unless the current trajectory is turned, the liberal forces in the countries will lose the on-going battle with fundamentalist Islam. In the last year alone, Islamic State supporters have rallied in the streets of Male, the Maldivian capital, and a growing number of Maldivians – some with experience of terrorist training camps in Pakistan – have gone to Syria to fight for Islamic State. Only Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party have been willing to tackle the growing problems of Islamic radicalism.

There are few statesmen of Nasheed’s stature. Many foreign journalists, with good reason, refer to him as the “Mandela of the Maldives”. In the interests of democracy and stability, the international community must take a clear stand. Unless Nasheed is swiftly released from prison, the European Union and other nations should impose targeted sanctions against those in power.

These sanctions should include travel bans and foreign asset freezes. The sanctions should target President Yameen, his cabinet ministers, including the minister of tourism, and the corrupt judges who imprisoned Nasheed, and members of the security forces responsible for attacks on peaceful protesters.

Furthermore, since the survival of the regime depends on the annual arrival of the more than a million foreign tourists, individual countries should also supplement sanctions with a tourism boycott. Just like potential tourists should think twice before spending their money on the atolls. Yameen’s regime is baring its teeth. It is time for the international community to respond in kind.

Anders Henriksen is an associate professor of public international law and Lykke Friis is the prorector for education at the University of Copenhagen.

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]


Government invites international experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal hearings

The government has invited experts from the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union (EU) to observe the appeal hearings of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison on March 13 over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
“On behalf of the Government the invitation was extended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Dunya Maumoon,” read a press statement from the foreign ministry.
“President Mohamed Nasheed was sentenced on 13 March by Criminal Court of Maldives for abducting a sitting judge in 2012.”

Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has called on all parties to respect the Criminal Court’s verdict against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

In a statement released by the President’s Office last night, President Yameen noted that the opposition leader has “a constitutionally guaranteed right of appeal” to challenge his conviction on terrorism charges at the High Court.

“The government calls on its international partners to engage constructively, based on mutual respect and dialogue in consolidating and strengthening democratic values and institutions in the country,” reads the brief statement.

“The government remains steadfast in ensuring the separation of powers as stipulated under the Maldivian constitution and upholding the rule of law in the country.”

In the wake of the Criminal Court sentencing the opposition leader to 13 years in jail on Friday night (March 13), the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International said Nasheed’s conviction “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

Domestically, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives said the former president was denied fundamental rights that guarantee a fair trial in line with the Maldives’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Moreover, human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network urged the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges to intervene in order to prevent a “slide back to autocracy,” whilst Transparency Maldives expressed “grave concern” and stressed that Nasheed was denied legal representation, the right to appeal, and sufficient time to mount a defence.

However, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News yesterday that he believed the Criminal Court “would have afforded due process in the conduct of Nasheed’s trial.”

“If you study this case, from the beginning to the end, it is clear the charges are not politically motivated,” Muaz insisted.

President Yameen as head of state could not “interfere in judicial proceedings and is not to blame for court proceedings,” he said.


Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma released a statement yesterday noting that the intergovernmental organisation would continue to closely follow the judicial process after the verdict.

The Commonwealth urged restraint and advised peaceful resolution of “differences of view” through dialogue.

“The Foreign Minister of Maldives, Hon Dunya Maumoon, has made recent public comments welcoming constructive and close dialogue with international organisations,” the statement read.

The Commonwealth assured its commitment to working with the Maldives to address issues of concern.

“All societies should have the space and opportunity for dialogue in order to ensure that universally shared values are advanced, and to create a stable and harmonious future,” the statement continued.

“All societies should also have national institutions that enjoy the confidence, trust and respect of the people they serve. The Commonwealth is committed to offering practical support in a collaborative partnership to achieve these goals in an enduring way.”

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has meanwhile called on the UN to hold an emergency session on the situation in the Maldives.

The ACHR “urged the members of the UN Security Council to take necessary measures to seize assets and freeze accounts of President of Maldives Mr Abdulla Yameen, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and the three judges overseeing Nasheed’s trial i.e. Abdulla Didi, Abdul Bari Yoousuf and Sujau Usman and other key officials of the regime, impose travel restrictions and trade embargo, and withhold financial assistance and technical cooperation to the Maldives until the release of Nasheed.”

“The trial is a travesty of justice – Judge [Abdulla Mohamed] who claims himself to have been illegally detained for which former President Nasheed was charged under terrorism charges still heads the Criminal Court trying Nasheed and effectively allowed his deputy, Judge Abdulla Didi, to convict Nasheed in a kangaroo trial. If the United Nations and international community fail to intervene now, democracy may never return to the Maldives,” said ACHR Director Suhas Chakma.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) also condemned the verdict and noted that Nasheed was “never investigated for the fresh charges of terrorism before trial.”

“The trial of Nasheed was riddled with numerous violations of basic human rights and fair trial standards, and his conviction must be condemned. This is a clear case of political persecution and therefore the verdict is not surprising, considering the manner in which the court has conducted the trial,” said Forum-Asia Executive Director Evelyn Balais-Serrano.

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US, EU, and UK concerned over lack of due process in Nasheed trial

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have expressed concern with the lack of due process in the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was convicted of terrorism charges and sentenced to 13 years in prison last night.

“Despite the calls from the international community for due process to be followed, we are concerned that the former President’s trial has not been conducted in a transparent and impartial manner or in accordance with due legal process,” said UK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire in a statement.

He added that the UK would be watching the appeal process closely.

“I recognise that this outcome will be deeply worrying for many in the Maldives. I therefore urge calm across the Maldives and encourage all political parties to act with moderation, restraint and within the bounds of the law,” Swire urged.

“We have been consulting closely on our concerns with Commonwealth partners, and we will continue to do so over the coming days.”

The US meanwhile expressed concern with “the apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures during the trial”.

“We are particularly troubled by reports that the trial was conducted in a manner contrary to Maldivian law and Maldives’ international obligations to provide the minimum fair trial guarantees and other protections under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” reads a statement by the US embassy in Colombo.

“This includes the denial of legal representation to former President Nasheed during the first hearing and concerns regarding the lack of impartiality and independence of the judges.

“We call on the government of Maldives to take steps to restore confidence in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence, and to ensure fundamental rights are respected including the freedom of speech and of the press as well as the right to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest.  We urge the government to ensure former President Nasheed’s safety and well being in custody, and we hope all Maldivians will express their views peacefully.”

The EU said Nasheed’s conviction “raises very serious questions about due process of law and risks undermining people’s trust in the independence of the judiciary.”

The EU statement also noted that due legal process was obligatory for the Maldives under the ICCPR.

“Should the conviction be appealed, the appeal process must be fair and transparent with former President Nasheed being accorded all his rights, including adequate access to his lawyers,” the EU stated.

“The European Union calls on all sides in the Maldives to act responsibly and uphold constitutional freedoms.”

Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin meanwhile tweeted saying India was “deeply concerned at developments in the Maldives, monitoring situation closely.”

“Travesty of justice”

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has previously condemned international statements of concern, stating: “Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact-check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party.”

Dunya asserted in a statement that President Abdulla Yameen’s administration “will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country.”

Moreover, President Yameen has declared that foreigners would not be allowed to meddle in domestic affairs and the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned the international community’s “hypocrisy and double standards” with regard to Nasheed’s trial.

Meanwhile, in a statement today, Amnesty International said Nasheed’s sentencing “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

“Amnesty International condemns the conviction of Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail by judges who were state witnesses during an earlier investigation of this case. This trial has been flawed from start to finish, and the conviction is unsound,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“Rather than responding to international calls to strengthen the impartiality of the judiciary the government of the Maldives has proceeded with this sham trial for political reasons”.

Amnesty noted that the opposition leader was denied legal representation at the first hearing of the trial and that at latter hearings his lawyers were not given sufficient time to prepare his defence.

Nasheed’s conviction last night received widespread coverage in international media and was greeted with outrage by several prominent figures who have called for his release.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, called the outcome of the trial “beyond a joke” and declared he would not visit the Maldives until the opposition leader was released.


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Asking Maldives to abide by commitments “not undue interference,” says UK High Commissioner

The international community asking the Maldives to abide by commitments under UN conventions does not amount to “undue interference,” UK High Commissioner to Maldives John Rankin has said.

In an interview with private broadcaster Raajje TV in Malé yesterday, Rankin said decisions on domestic matters were up to the Maldives as a sovereign nation.

“But it is legitimate for one country to [remind] another country to abide by the undertakings which together we have signed up to,” he explained.

“That is a normal matter of diplomatic relations. So it is perfectly proper and not undue interference for one country to ask another to operate by those principles which we both voluntarily agreed to.”

Last week, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon hit back at statements issued by the Commonwealth, India, Canada, EU, and the UN expressing concern with the denial of legal representation to former President Mohamed Nasheed following the opposition leader’s arrest and prosecution on terrorism charges.

“Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact-check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party,” Dunya said in a statement.

Dunya insisted that due process was followed in Nasheed’s arrest and prosecution.

“The government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” Dunya said, urging foreign countries and international organisations to “refrain from acts and signals that could undermine the sovereignty of independent states.”

Nasheed arrived in court on Monday (February 23) for the first hearing of his trial without legal representation and with his arm in a makeshift sling after police manhandled and dragged the former president into court when he attempted to speak with journalists.

Rankin said the international community was watching developments in the Maldives closely and that the British government “remains very concerned” over Nasheed’s detention.

“The international community as a whole is watching what is happening here. Our concern is that President Nasheed, like any other citizen of the Maldives, should enjoy due legal process, that this fundamental right should be protected, and that we have transparent court procedures,” he said.

The Maldivian government has assured Nasheed’s safety following discussions on Thursday (February 26), Rankin added.

Prior to Rankin’s arrival in the Maldives, UK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire issued a statement stressing the importance of following due process and respecting Nasheed’s rights “for international confidence in the Maldives”.

“It is also incumbent upon the Government of Maldives to ensure his safety. We urge calm right across Maldives and we encourage all parties to act with moderation and restraint,” reads the statement.

“The UK will continue to monitor the situation closely.”


Rankin meanwhile referred to the Maldives’ obligations as a signatory to relevant UN conventions.

Rankin said the UK was “a friend of the Maldives” and that stability in the country was important to Britain with thousands of British tourists visiting the Maldives annually.

“As friends though, we are also honest friends and sometimes honest friends have to raise difficult issues, but we raise it precisely because we want to support that continued stability here,” he said.

Asked about Dunya warning that the Maldives might leave the Commonwealth, Rankin said the decision was up to the Maldivian government, but suggested that “together we can make progress internationally by working together in the Commonwealth.”

At a press conference last week, Dunya also accused Canada of exerting undue influence in the Commonwealth through funding. Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson had issued a statement suggesting that “the brutal and unjustified treatment of the former president call into question Maldives’ commitment to due process and democratic principles.”

Rankin said the Commonwealth was “a consensus organisation” of sovereign nations working together.

“But all members of the Commonwealth have signed up for the Commonwealth charter – a set of values which we have agreed between us, which we are all committed to. And therefore, the United Kingdom, for whom I speak, hopes that Maldives will continue to abide by those values.”

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Opposition delegation in meetings with diplomatic missions in Colombo

A joint delegation from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) are meeting with diplomatic missions in Colombo today.

The delegation – comprising of JP Leader MP Gasim Ibrahim, JP Vice President Dr Hussain Rasheed, JP MP Abdulla Riyaz, MDP Foreign Relations Committee head MP Abdulla Shahid, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and MDP Male’ City Mayor Mohamed Shihab – departed Malé last night.

The delegation met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and European Union delegations and briefed them on the state’s prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim.

The delegation is due back tonight. The JP and MDP have called for mass demonstrations in Malé against what they allege to be repeated constitutional violations by President Abdulla Yameen. The parties have pledged to topple the government.

Yameen’s administration maintains it has remained within the constitution’s ambit and condemned what it calls the opposition parties attempts at destabilizing the country.


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

The United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) have joined a growing international chorus of concern over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest and surprise trial on terrorism charges.

In a statement today, the UN urged “fairness and transparency in regards to the legal proceedings” against the former president.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, “stressed the need for full respect for due process and transparency” in Nasheed’s trial.

He also appealed to the government to allow peaceful political dissent and to engage with the opposition in the interest of long-term political stability in the Maldives, the statement read.

At a first hearing yesterday, a visibly injured Nasheed appeared in court with his arm in a makeshift sling and repeatedly asked for medical attention and legal counsel.

Presiding Judge Abdulla Didi denied Nasheed bail and gave him three days to appoint a lawyer and answer charges.

The former opposition leader is to remain in police custody until the conclusion of the terrorism trial over the January 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

The EU Heads of Mission and Ambassadors of Norway and Switzerland in Colombo in a statement this evening said the delegation was “very concerned” over Nasheed’s arrest and was seeking clarification as to the nature of the terrorism charges.

“Equally, reports of former President Nasheed having effectively been denied appropriate legal representation at the court hearing on 23 February 2015, are of great concern,” the statement read.

“The EU Delegation reiterates the importance of respect for democratic principles, including respect for the rule of law, for the Constitution, for due legal process and for the independence of the judiciary.”

Foreign Minster Dunya Maumoon has hit back at the UN, and previous statements by the Commonwealth and Canada, expressing disappointment over what she called biased statements.

“Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact-check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party,” a press release by the Foreign Ministry this afternoon said.

Dunya insisted the police followed due process and standard procedure in arresting Nasheed and presenting him at court.

“The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” she said.

She urged foreign countries and international organisations to “refrain from acts and signals that could undermine the sovereignty of independent states,” and said President Abdulla Yameen’s government “will implement to the letter, the decisions and verdicts of the Courts.”

It added that Nasheed was arrested with a court warrant and presented before a judge within 24 hours in accordance with “normal procedure,” after which the judge granted the former president the opportunity to appoint a lawyer.

However, Nasheed was brought to court more than 24 hours after the arrest for the first hearing of a trial on terrorism charges, rather than a remand hearing.

Meanwhile, the Asian Centre for Human Rights has called “upon the United States, European Union, India, Singapore and others to impose a travel embargo on Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and presiding Judge Abdulla Didi for the illegal arrest and detention of Mr Nasheed.”

“The arrest and detention of former President Nasheed on terrorism charges is a grotesque act of political vendetta. The accountability of Prosecutor General Muhsin and Presiding Judge Didi must be established, including under universal jurisdiction for meting out torture, inhumane and degrading treatment to former President Nasheed in the court premises,” stated the ACHR’s Director Suhas Chakma.

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