Government accuses Amnesty of colluding with MDP to tarnish Maldives’ image

The government has accused Amnesty International of tarnishing the Maldives’ image in collusion with the opposition, dismissing its concerns of a crackdown on human rights as “preposterous fabrications with zero truth”.

Amnesty’s observations of a “rapidly deteriorating” human rights situation are “fallacious”, contended foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, accusing the organisation of seeking to “undermine and defame the Maldives judiciary and its national institutions.”

“The general human rights situation in the Maldives has been improving steadily especially following the reform agenda launched in 2004 leading to the ushering in of a modern constitution in 2008,” she insisted in a statement on Friday.

“Additional impetus has been seen during President [Abdulla] Yameen’s government in terms of promotion and protection of human rights.”

The enactment of 18 pieces of legislation under the current administration is “an unparalleled record in the history of the Maldives,” she added.

Amnesty had said in a report last week that the government is cracking down on peaceful protests, stifling dissent, and “abusing the judicial system” to imprison opposition politicians.


Amnesty’s allegation of police attacking peaceful protesters “is ludicrous and an absolute lie”, Dunya said.

The nightly anti-government protests staged by the opposition coalition in the capital “attract an extremely small crowd, and the police are able to control the protest well and ensure peace and security for all citizens of Malé.”

“The opposition MDP have however, by contrast, in the past been responsible for systematic acts of arson and other violent acts,” the ministry claimed.

MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News today that Dunya was speaking on behalf of the Gayoom family. Dunya is the daughter of ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and niece of president Yameen.

“Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon sounds like North Korea when she keeps rejecting any concern raised by any international organisation, be it Amnesty, the Commonwealth, European Union, United Nations or even concerns raised by friendly countries,” he said.

“This says it all. The government has no intention at all to protect human rights in the country and come into line with the internationally recognised standards.”


Amnesty’s briefing report titled ‘Assault on civil and political rights’ was released after a delegation conducted a fact-finding mission in the Maldives from April 17 to 22.

The delegation said it sought meetings with government officials and a visit to Dhoonidhoo detention centre to meet ex-president Nasheed, but the foreign ministry offered to facilitate the meetings in May.

However, Dunya said the delegation visited the Maldives on April 27 despite a mutual agreement to schedule a visit for May and “choose to meet with only officials and supporters of former President Nasheed’s opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).”

The ministry said it has facilitated visits to Nasheed in prison by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Commonwealth, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

“The government of Maldives maintains its engagement first policy and continues to hold constructive dialogue with its international partners, including international non-governmental organisations that are serious about and value such dialogue,” it said.

“Sham trial”

After launching the briefing at a press conference in Delhi last Thursday, Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher, said Nasheed’s imprisonment “came after a sham trial.”

“It is disturbing how far the Maldives government has co-opted the judiciary as a tool to cement its own hold on power,” he said.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison last month after a 19-day trial widely criticised by foreign governments and the UN for its apparent lack of due process.

However, the foreign ministry said Amnesty’s accusations about Nasheed’s trial are “without any basis.”

Nasheed was sentenced for the “abduction and enforced disappearance” of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

“President Nasheed has been tried, convicted and sentenced for this heinous crime as per Maldivian laws,” the ministry said.

“His rights were assured to him and he chose not to appeal the verdict or sentence of Criminal Court. Amnesty through its baseless allegations once again seeks to undermine and defame the Maldives judiciary and its national institutions.”

Amnesty had said it “welcomes the investigation of alleged past human rights abuses committed in the Maldives, but the organisation remains concerned that the case pursued against Mohamed Nasheed was politically motivated and selective” as human rights abuses under both the current and previous presidents remain unaddressed.

“Amnesty International is also concerned that the outcome of the trial appeared to have been predetermined to procure a conviction against Nasheed even before the trial began,” the briefing stated.


CEDAW committee welcomes progress on women’s rights, expresses concern with child marriages, flogging and gender stereotypes

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has welcomed the Maldives’ progress on protecting women’s rights whilst expressing concern with child marriages, flogging and gender stereotypes in society.

In its concluding observations released last Friday (March 6) on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Maldives – reviewed at meetings on February 27 with a high-level delegation led by Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – the committee welcomed progress achieved since the last review in 2007, including the adoption of a new penal code that includes a definition of rape.

The committee noted other legislative reforms such as the Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Act of 2014, the Sexual Offences Act of 2014, the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act of 2013, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2012, the Employment Act of 2008, and the new Constitution in 2008, “which removes provisions barring women from being elected as President and Vice-President.”

The committee also noted the establishment of the Family Protection Authority in 2012 and welcomed “forthcoming amendments to the Family Act to regulate the distribution of matrimonial assets upon divorce.”

The Maldives acceded to the UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in July 1993 with reservations to article 16, which deals with equality in marriage and family relations.

“We strongly believe that equality of women in all walks of life, within the family, and in public life, is indeed a prerequisite for social justice and inclusive development that benefits all segments of society,” said Foreign Minister Dunya in her opening remarks at the treaty reporting session.

She reiterated the government’s commitment to addressing emerging challenges such as stereotypical practices that hinders equal representation of women in society.

Issues of concern

Whilst welcoming legislative initiatives on improving access to justice, the committee expressed concern with “persistent barriers faced by women in accessing justice”.

Of particular concern was the “insufficient independence of the judiciary, bias and gender stereotypes among judges and law enforcement officials, the absence of gender sensitive procedures and the limited capacity of the police to deal with complaints from women about violations of their rights in a gender-sensitive manner.”

Noting “the high number of unregistered marriages in rural and remote areas, including child marriages,” the committee recommended setting an age limit of 16 for exceptional cases of underage marriages.

The committee also recommended the abolition of flogging for fornication “as a matter of urgency,” noting that flogging “disproportionately affect women and girls and deter them from reporting sexual offences.”

Moreover, the committee noted the “existing discriminatory provisions regarding the participation of women as witnesses and delays in amending the stringent evidentiary provisions required for sexual violence offences.”

The committee noted that marital rape was not criminalised in law, the lack of enforcement of the anti-domestic violence law, and the lack of resources for the Family and Child Service Centres and safe houses.

The committee suggested that social stigma attached to women who report abuse as well as the perception that domestic violence cases were private family matters deters reporting.

Traditional stereotypes regarding the role and responsibilities of women in society meanwhile remain deeply entrenched, the committee observed, “which overemphasise the role of women as wives, mothers and caregivers, as well as prevent them from asserting their rights and actively participating in decision-making and other aspects of political and public life.”

The committee also expressed concern at “the growing trend in conservative interpretations of religion which encourage stereotypical patterns which negatively impact women and girls, as acknowledged by the State party during the dialogue. The Committee is further concerned about the emergence of cases of female genital mutilation in the State party, despite legislative prohibitions.”

Stereotypes as well as geographic constraints also limit girls’ access to higher education, the committee observed, noting “de facto restrictions on the re-entry of pregnant adolescent girls and married girls under the age of 18 in the formal educational system.”

Whilst noting the high representation of women in political parties, the committee noted that “social and cultural barriers continue to stigmatise women wishing to participate in political and public life which prevent them from running for public office.”

The committee noted the underrepresentation of women in parliament, the executive, the judiciary and decision-making level posts in the civil service.

“Further, it regrets the limited participation of women in local governance at community level, in particular in atolls, islands and city councils,” it stated.

On anti-trafficking, the committee expressed concern over “delays in establishing shelters for victims of trafficking and the absence of procedures for early victim identification, case management, and victim protection” and noted the “risk of internal trafficking for women and girls from remote islands placed in households in Male to access higher education opportunities.”

On health issues, the committee noted “limited access to obstetric health services, including pre- and post-natal services, for women living in remote areas,” “restricted access, in practice, to sexual and reproductive health services, for unmarried women and girls,” and “the absence of a study and data on the prevalence of unsafe and illegal abortion which is reportedly increasing.”


The committee urged the Maldives to honour its commitment to withdraw its reservation to paragraph two of article 16, which states: “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.”

The committee also recommended a review of the reservation to paragraph one of article 16, “with a view to fully withdrawing it, taking into consideration practices of countries with similar religious backgrounds and legal systems which have successfully harmonised their domestic legislation with international human rights obligations”.

Despite its ratification in 1993, the committee noted that the convention “has yet to be incorporated into its domestic legal system and can therefore not be applied by the courts” and expressed concern with the delay in conducting a gender impact analysis of existing laws.

The committee called on the state to pass gender equality legislation with a definition of discrimination in line with the convention.

Referring to the restructured Ministry of Law and Gender headed by the Attorney General, the committee said the move “weakened [the national machinery’s] institutional capacity to develop coherent and sustainable plans and policies and to ensure effective gender mainstreaming across relevant sectors” and expressed concern about the “the insufficient financial, human and technical resources” available to the ministry.

On the Supreme Court’s suo moto proceedings against members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concerning its submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Period Review last year, the committee said “such actions seriously undermine the independence of the commission.”

Related to this story

Amnesty calls for moratorium on flogging in Maldives

Some police officers believe women to blame for domestic violence, says HRCM

Supreme Court slams HRCM for basing rights assessment on “rejected” UN rapporteur findings


Indian Prime Minister Modi cancels Maldives trip

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has dropped the Maldives from an upcoming tour of Indian Ocean neighbours.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced in a statement yesterday that the prime minister would visit Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka from March 10 to 14, but gave no explanation for the omission of Maldives from the itinerary.

The cancellation comes amidst nightly anti-government protests and heightened tension sparked by the arrest and prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement yesterday that the prime minister’s visit “has been postponed to a later date by mutual agreement.”

“The dates for the visit were being discussed between the Maldives and India and both countries have decided to postpone the visit to a later date to give more time for both countries to prepare well for the visit. New dates will be announced once finalised between the two countries,” reads the statement.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali insisted that there was “no connection between Nasheed’s trial” and the postponement.

However, President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu’ told the Associated Press (AP) that Maldives had been on Modi’s itinerary and the country had made extensive preparations for the maiden visit.

Mundhu said the Indian government informed the Maldives the visit was cancelled because the “local environment is not conducive.”

“He says India was not more specific,” AP reported.

Local media had reported last month that Modi was due to visit the Maldives on March 15 during the regional tour whilst Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon announced the trip following a meeting in New Delhi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has welcomed the prime minister’s decision, characterising the cancellation as “a clear sign of Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to democracy and stability in the Maldives.”

“The people of the Maldives will always welcome the Prime Minister of India to the Maldives. The MDP regrets the authoritarian actions and confrontational nature of President [Abdulla] Yameen that has resulted in the Indian PM Modi cancelling his first visit to the Maldives,” said Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“The MDP has always believed in strong regional partnerships to ensure stability and security of the Indian Ocean. India has been our closest friend, and we hope that Yameen takes swift action to restore the Maldives-India relationship.”

Domestic issues

Indian media reported diplomatic sources as saying that the Indian government did not want to be seen “involved in domestic issues” of the Maldives.

“Sources said the government was taken by surprise over the treatment of former President Mohammad Nasheed, who was arrested and charged with treason and roughed up by the police on the way to court,” reported The Hindu newspaper.

A day after his arrest, Nasheed appeared in court for the first hearing of his trial on terrorism charges with his arm in a makeshift sling after police manhandled and dragged the opposition leader into the court building when he attempted to speak to reporters.

The incident prompted official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, to express concern over the developments, “including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed,”

“But our concerns haven’t been heeded, and in this situation it makes little sense for the Prime Minister to visit,” a senior Indian official told The Telegraph.

“His trip would be pitched by the Male government as an endorsement of its policies.”

Shortly after Nasheed’s arrest on February 22, the Maldives foreign ministry tweeted: “The impending visit of PM Modi is a clear reflection of the warm friendship between India and President Yameen’s Government – FM Dunya.”

The Telegraph meanwhile quoted a second Indian official as suggesting a Chinese role in the recent developments.

“Without a concrete commitment from the Chinese, there is no way the Maldives would take on India the way they have,” the official was quoted as saying.

“I’m not saying the Chinese are orchestrating this, not at all, but the Maldives government is using China’s support to challenge us.”

Asked at a regular press conference on February 25 about China’s view on the situation, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Spokesperson Hong Lei said the issue was “a domestic matter of the Maldives.”

“China upholds the principle of non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs. We believe the Maldivian side can deal with its domestic affairs properly,” he said.

Foreign Minister Dunya had meanwhile dismissed statements expressing concern with Nasheed’s prosecution by the Commonwealth, India, Canada, UN and the EU.

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

In his address to the nation on the occasion of Republic Day (November 11) last year, President Yameen slammed “Western colonial powers” and declared his administration was “looking East” towards China.

Related to this story:

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

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

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

Nasheed calls for Indian protection in state of emergency

Chinese documents show silk route was discussed with India: Foreign ministry


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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Former President Nasheed arrives in court with arm in makeshift sling


Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has slammed statements issued by the Commonwealth and Canada expressing concern over the denial of legal representation to former President Mohamed Nasheed at the first hearing of his terrorism trial yesterday.

At a press conference today, Dunya dismissed Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson’s statement as “blatantly untrue.”

Nicholson had called Nasheed’s detention and denial of constitutional rights “abhorrent.”

“[Nicholson] had described Nasheed’s arrest as unlawful or illegal. Nasheed was arrested in relation to the kidnapping or unlawful detention of the Chief Judge of Criminal Court in 2012. That act was illegal by all international laws and principles” said Dunya.

Nasheed appeared in court yesterday with his arm in a makeshift sling after police officers manhandled the former president outside the court building when he attempted to speak with journalists.

The Commonwealth meanwhile stated that Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma was “concerned to note reports that former President Nasheed was denied the right to legal representation”.

Responding to the statements, Dunya said: “To criticise us in public statements with lies or biased with having only heard the oppositions point of view is not acceptable. The government will not accept these statements and will not pay any attention to them.”

She added that the Maldives has long been an independent and sovereign country, “and we do not want to be under any foreign influences or under a colonial power. No foreign power can tell Maldives what to do under President [Abdulla] Yameen.”


Dunya said the Maldives does not have a significant relationship with Canada.

“I don’t think they know what actually is happening in here,” she suggested.

“Canada is a very influential country in the Commonwealth. Big countries do influence [the Commonwealth] and especially if they are funding and assisting the Commonwealth, then the organisation will do what they want.”

Dunya also said the Maldives would not accept the Commonwealth’s offer of expert legal assistance.

“[The Commonwealth] wants to provide us with their expertise but we simply do not want it. We have other ways, countries ready to help and even our own way of consolidating democracy here,” she said.

Questioning the value of the Maldives remaining a member state of the Commonwealth, Dunya said the organisation had “wronged” the Maldives by placing the country on a watch-list in the wake of the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

While the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) had suspended the Maldives and placed the country on its formal agenda, Dunya noted that a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) later concluded that the transfer of power was constitutional.

“So we want to say to the Commonwealth, you have wronged us in the past and you are still mistreating us,” she said.

“We don’t get much aid or development from being a Commonwealth country. In 2012, Maldivians questioned the importance of us remaining in the Commonwealth. I am sure the question will arise again.”

She added that President Yameen would make a decision on whether to remain in the Commonwealth.

“Strategic misrepresentation of basic facts”

Dunya went on to say that she did not believe Maldivians could be adversely affected as a result of the government’s stand.

“Looking at the history, even if we are to face any problems [from the international community] we have to adhere to our principles, our methods and especially our independence and sovereignty,” she said.

Dunya also issued a statement today casting doubt on the Commonwealth’s assertion that it was “closely monitoring” the situation in the Maldives, noting that the Commonwealth Secretariat had not contacted the ministry over the past few days.

“On the contrary, I initiated a phone call to the Secretary General last night in which we exchanged views about issues of mutual concern in the Commonwealth and in the Maldives. I therefore regret the strategic misrepresentation of basic facts in the Secretary General’s statement,” reads Dunya’s statement.

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.

The former president appeared at the hearing without legal representation.

Citing new regulations, the Criminal Court informed Nasheed’s legal team on Monday morning (February 23) that the lawyers had to register at the court two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the former president’s arrest less than 24 hours ago.

Dunya, however, insisted that that police “followed the standard procedure and due process.”

“I wish to recall that the Commonwealth Secretariat had misread the situation in the Maldives once before, in 2012 and presented it to the CMAG, which took punitive measures against the country,” Dunya noted in her statement

“The Maldives, however, emerged from the situation vindicated by the CoNI Report. The government is hopeful that the Commonwealth will not repeat the same mistakes again.”

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Chinese Embassy marks the Chinese New Year in Malé

The Chinese Embassy in Malé held a reception to mark the Chinese New Year in Dharubaaruge last night.

Speaking at the reception, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon stated that relations between the Maldives and China have strengthened and “accelerated to unprecedented levels in the last year”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Maldives in September of last year prompted talks that led to the the Maldives officially agreeing to participate in the Silk Road trade route and to engage upon free trade in the future.

Dunya noted that the relationship between the two countries was based on “sovereignty and territorial integrity; it is about non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; it is about peaceful co-existence; and most importantly, it is about cooperation for mutual benefit.”

Chinese Ambassador Wang Fukang stated while “high level exchanges have been frequent and fruitful” between the Maldives and China, “economic cooperation has been enhanced and expanded”, along with “people to people exchanges”.

Fukang pledged that the Chinese government will facilitate Maldivian fish products to be exported to China, will encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the Maldives, will provide more training and scholarship opportunities for Maldivians, will improve cooperation “in areas like technology, culture and wealth”, and will “enhance cooperation particularly on issues like climate change”.

Last night’s speeches were followed by cultural performances from both Maldivian and Chinese youth, including a song sung in Mandarin by a Maldivian performer.


Avaaz petition urges government to find those behind Rilwan’s disappearance

Social activist website Avaaz has called upon President Abdulla Yameen and his foreign minister Dunya Maumoon to identify those involved in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

“We call on you to ensure a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and bring to justice all those involved in his alleged abduction,” read the petition launched this week.

Avaaz – which means ‘voice’ in various languages – is urging Maldivian authorities to protect free speech in the Maldives and to address the threat of violent extremism.

A private investigation into the 29-year-old’s disappearance implicated radicalised gangs, while – despite a lack of progress in the search – the home minister has acknowledged gang involvement.

Avaaz campaigns in 15 different languages, claims over 40 million members in 194 countries, and has been described as the “globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network” by the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Rilwan’s brother Moosa told the organisation that he had turned to them after fearing that Maldivian authorities were doing nothing to aid the search.

“Rilwan was a brave journalist who exposed the dangerous Islamic radicals operating in these paradise islands and who had issued many death threats to my brother. But many of these extremists have links with ruling politicians and that’s why the police are not moving on Rilwan’s case,” suggested Rilwan.

Similarly, speaking with Minivan News on the occasion of Rilwan’s 29th birthday last month, his mother Aminath Easa said she was convinced her son was a victim of a coordinated abduction.

“The police will look for him and find him if their superiors order them to do so. I believe government officials are complicit in this case,” said Easa, aged 67.

Friends and family of Rilwan take part in the second 'Suvaalu March' on January 8

International pressure

After suggesting opposition groups, friends, and family of the journalist were obstructing the investigation, authorities have assured that the search continues six months after Rilwan was last seen at the Hulhumalé ferry terminal – shortly before witnesses reported a man being forced into a car outside of Rilwan’s apartment.

Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed told the media last month that the search was continuing without “interruption or boredom”, though he declined from revealing specifics, saying that information previously circulated by sources had “cast a shadow over our work”.

While foreign minister Dunya has previously spoken out about the case, noting the importance of protecting free speech, President Yameen has yet to comment on the matter beyond a brief remark made shortly after the disappearance.

Rilwan’s brother told Avaaz that international pressure was the only thing that would make the authorities act, noting the country’s heavy reliance on the billion dollar tourism industry.

“This Sunday [January 8] it will be 6 months since Rilwan disappeared. When we get to 50,000 signatures, Avaaz will take out ‘Missing person’ ads in major Maldivian newspapers and launch a massive media awareness campaign on the extremism and corruption in my beautiful islands,” said Moosa.

“Please join my family’s search for Rilwan.”

Avaaz previously launched a Maldives campaign in March 2013, calling for the flogging sentence given to a 15-year-old rape victim to be rescinded.

After 2 million people signed the petition, the High Court overturned the sentence in August 2013.

Deputy Minister of Tourism at the time of the first petition Mohamed Maleeh Jamal – now minister of youth and sports – called the campaign’s motive “dubious”.

Meanwhile, then President Dr Mohamed Waheed – to whom the petition was addressed – thanked the international community for its concern but warned against calls for a tourism boycott.

In response, Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel denied a boycott had been called for, suggesting that tourists had the right to know the issues of countries they intend to visit.

“Around the world people are interested (and have a right to know) what kind of systems they’re supporting with their tourism dollars, and to make their holiday decisions accordingly,” said Patel.

Sign the petition here


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Maldives not obliged to consult neighbours before joining China’s Silk Route, says foreign minister

The Maldives, as an independent and sovereign nation, is not obliged to consult other countries before making foreign policy decisions, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon told the People’s Majlis today.

The foreign minister appeared in parliament to respond to a question tabled by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Nashid concerning the Maldives’ participation in the Chinese ’21st Century Maritime Silk Route’ initiative.

President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jingping has called on the Maldives “to get actively involved” in the creation of a maritime trade route linking China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

Nashid, MP for Shaviyani Komandoo, asked whether neighbouring countries in the Indian Ocean were consulted before the decision was made.

“If we join this project, is it likely that the longstanding close relations we have with neighbouring countries could be adversely affected?” he asked.

In response, Dunya noted that the agreement signed with the British in 1965 to secure independence “states in clear language that the Maldives is not obliged to consult or seek consent or approval from any other nation to implement Maldivian foreign policy.”

Former Presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom did not join any “military or political alliance” during the Cold War, she added, out of fear of losing the independence gained in 1965 as the Maldives would be obliged to consult major powers before making foreign policy decisions.

“We should all know that the interest of any foreign country should not take precedence over Maldivian national interest,” she said.

MDP MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi – a retired brigadier general – asked whether relations with India could deteriorate if Chinese naval activity is conducted in a Maldivian port, which would threaten Indian “geopolitical interests”.

Dunya declined to answer citing national security concerns and advised raising the issue through parliamentary committees.

Asked if India has expressed concern with the decision, Dunya said the Indian government also welcomed the Silk Route initiative during Chinese President Xi’s visit to New Delhi in September.

Foreign policy

Dunya said President Abdulla Yameen’s foreign policy was based on Article 115(d) of the Constitution, which states that the president has a duty “to guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of the Maldives, and to promote respect for national sovereignty in the international community.”

The government decided to participate in the Silk Route initiative as it would promote national interest and benefit the Maldivian people through trade and commerce, she said.

Dunya referred to a joint communique issued during President Xi’s state visit in the Maldives in September, which declared that the Maldives “welcomes and supports the proposal put forward by China to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and is prepared to actively participate in relevant cooperation”.

Fostering ties with South Asian countries and ensuring national security was one of the most important aims of the government’s foreign policy, she continued, noting that Maldivian security was intertwined with Indian Ocean regional security.

The Maldives would consult all nations and work together to ensure regional security and stability, she assured.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has criticised the decision to join the Silk Route initiative, contending that it would threaten Indian Ocean security and risk putting the Maldives in the middle of war or disputes between Asian powers.

China’s rising economic presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that China is creating a “string of pearls” to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Asked if closer ties with China would adversely impact relations with India or Japan, President Yameen told reporters upon returning from a visit to China in August that Sino-Maldives economic cooperation would not affect “the very friendly, close relations with India”.

“All these projects are also open to India and we are doing a lot of diplomatic work with India,” he said, referring to his administration’s decision not to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States as an example of cooperation.


Foreign ministry, US embassy, international organisations condemn attack on Minivan News

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the US embassy in Colombo, and international press freedom organisations have issued statements condemning the attack on the Minivan News office.

A machete knife was buried in the door of the Minivan News building on Thursday afternoon (September 25) after a known gangster removed the CCTV security camera outside the premises.

Expressing “deep concern” with the increasing intimidation and threats faced by journalists, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon “noted that the government remains strongly committed to create an environment that gives protection to media personnel to exercise their duties freely and responsibly.”

“Media freedom and freedom expression are fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the Maldives and the human rights instruments that the Maldives is party to,” read the foreign ministry statement.

“At the ongoing Human Rights Council Session in Geneva the Maldives co-sponsored the resolution calling for the safety of journalist.”

The US embassy also expressed concern “about the recent attacks on media and political offices in Malé as well as continuing threats to media personnel.”

“Peaceful freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic right, and we strongly condemn these acts. The embassy notes the prompt Maldivian Police Service action to launch an investigation, urges the authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators, and calls for an end to all intimidation and violence,” the US embassy stated.

Press freedom

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) meanwhile noted that the attack came after an investigative report – commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network – on the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan was made public.

“The fact that [Thursday’s] attack on Minivan came three days after the report’s publication is not seen as a coincidence,” RSF stated.

Citing the abduction of several young men in June by a vigilante group in a push to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism, the investigation report found gang activity in Rilwan’s abduction to be a strong possibility.

“Reporters Without Borders condemns this latest attack and calls on the authorities to provide Minivan’s journalists with protection, especially as this is not the first time the website and its staff have been targeted,” the statement read.

Rilwan remains missing after 50 days and is believed to have been abducted.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation and expressed concern with declining safety for journalists in the Maldives.

“This attack is clearly intended to intimidate an independent news organisation for its editorial line,” said IFJ Asia Pacific Deputy Director Jane Worthington.

“It’s a lame and condemnable attempt that the Maldives government should investigate thoroughly to ensure the perpetrators are punished as soon as possible.”

The IFJs local affiliate, Maldives Journalist Association (MJA), also put out a press release condemning the attack.

“Minivan News is an established and active news organisation, and this attack is a clear attempt to threaten and intimidate journalists in the Maldives. MJA calls upon the authorities to investigate this incident with utmost urgency,” MJA said.

The MJA noted that institutions and mechanisms were in place to investigate complaints regarding the media, noting that “differences [of opinion] with regard to content published by news organisations do not warrant vandalism and intimidation.”

“While establishing an environment where journalists could work freely is a responsibility for all, we call on the relevant authorities of the state to do everything necessary to ensure [press freedom],” the MJA said.

After rising to 51st in 2009, the Maldives dropped to 108th place to pre-2008 levels in the RSF Press Freedom Index for 2014, marking a decline in press freedom for the third consecutive year.

In February 2013, opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV reporter Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed was nearly beaten to death, while the station’s offices and equipment were destroyed in an arson attack in October.

In June 2012, two men slashed the throat of freelance journalist and blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed with a box cutter.