Maldives “tied acceptance of prisoners” to American help with IMF assistance

Secret US diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks reveal that the Maldives agreed to resettle detainees from Guantanamo Bay in return for American help with obtaining assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to the New York Times.

The paper reports that the cache of correspondence made public by Wikileaks reveals that “American diplomats went looking for countries that were not only willing to take in former prisoners but also could be trusted to keep them under close watch.

“In a global bazaar of sorts, the American officials sweet-talked and haggled with their foreign counterparts in an effort to resettle the detainees who had been cleared for release but could not be repatriated for fear of mistreatment.

It reveals that while the Bush Administration offered the South Pacific nation Kiribati an “incentive package” of US$3 million to take 17 Chinese Muslim detainees, “the Maldives tied acceptance of prisoners to American help in obtaining International Monetary Fund assistance.”

The EU observer meanwhile reported that Washington’s special envoy on Guantanamo resettlements, Daniel Fried, told ”politicians in the Maldives that other states had received US$25,000 to US$85,000 per detainee to cover temporary living expenses and other costs” and that ”the Maldives could expect something toward the upper end of the range.”

In December last year, President Mohamed Nasheed announced that the Maldives had offered to resettle two detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

“If a Muslim does not have a place to live in freedom, we will help in whatever way we can. We don’t want anyone to suffer any harm,” Nasheed then said. “We know that the Maldives, in helping just three people from Guantanamo Bay, does not mean that either the Maldives or the world would be free of inhumane treatment,” he said. “However this jail, Guantanamo jail, is very symbolic.”

Nasheed said at the time that as a result of resettling the detainees “the country will get a good name, honour and prestige. We will be noted as people who help in whatever capacity we can to help solve others’ problems.”

The decision was met with fierce opposition from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance coalition in parliament, which conducted national security committee hearings on the subject.

Foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed told Minivan News at the time that “the United States has not come with a bag full of money and said: ‘here’s your reward for doing this’, but because we work with the US on this and other issues, they will try to help us where we need help.”

He added that the decision was not made on a ”quid pro quo basis”.


MPs sacrificing core Maldivian values for personal political mileage on Gitmo issue: Dr Shaheed

Political self-interest and false assumptions are behind some MPs’ opposition to the government’s plans to resettle a Guantanamo Bay detainee in the Maldives, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has said.

Opposition to the plan, Dr Shaheed said, amounts to “a couple of MPs and their sponsored press” who “shot first and asked questions later”. Their objections to the plan, he said, do not reflect “core Maldivian values and are based on false assumptions.”

It is assumed, he said, that “everybody at Guantanamo is a lethal terrorist” and that “this government is going to break laws to accede to the United States’ request”.

Both assumptions are false, he said, and are backed by a third – again false – premise that “whatever Shaheed does, must be attacked”.

“Last year I was pilloried because I spoke to the Israelis… Last year the problem was that I did not care about Palestinians. This year the problem is that I care too much about the Palestinians,” Dr Shaheed said.

“When you remove this politicking and the madness from the surface”, he said, “you are left with a lot of people who think it is good to help people find a better life”. Helping Muslims, helping Palestinians, Dr Shaheed said, are values that Maldivians have long believed in.

Dr Shaheed was speaking to Minivan on the government’s plan to resettle a Guantanamo Bay detainee in the Maldives. The detainee is a Palestinian national who has remained in United States custody at Guantanamo Bay for the last eight years.

The detainee was taken into United States custody in Karachi, Pakistan, and transferred to the prison in Guantanamo Bay in 2002. “He was a non-political Muslim preacher, a Tablighi”, Dr Shaeed said.

“By all accounts, and from what I have seen, he is an innocent person,” Dr Shaheed said. No criminal charges were ever brought against him, nor was he tried at any of the US military tribunals that determined the “enemy combatant” status of detainees.

The Bush administration refused to grant ‘Prisoner of War’ status to any of the detainees held in United States custody as part of the War on Terror, denying them all the rights guaranteed by the Third Geneva Convention.

The decision allowed the United States government to detain prisoners indefinitely without charge and without legal representation. Despite the Obama administration’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay in 2008, close to 200 detainees still remain at the facility.

No money exchanged hands

The Maldivian government’s decision to assist the current United States administration in closing Guantanamo Bay by resettling one of the detainees, Dr Shaeed said, was not going to break any laws of the country, nor was it a decision made on a quid pro quo basis.

“The United States has not come with a bag full of money and said: ‘here’s your reward for doing this’, but because we work with the US on this and other issues, they will try to help us where we need help,” Dr Shaheed said.

He denied that the Maldives had been complicit in the Bush administration’s controversial practice of extraordinary renditions in which suspected terrorists were transported from one country to another without due process.

The Maldives, however, had acquiesced to the United States request to allow its planes to refuel at her airports during its military invasion of Afghanistan that began in October 2001.

Although the permission was granted, Dr Shaheed said, it was not utilised. It was more a pragmatic move which allowed the United States to add the Maldives to the list of countries that supported its War on Terror.

“It was also important for them to be able to say that Muslim countries were backing them also, because they were not attacking Islam, they were attacking Al-Qaeda.”

Proceeding with caution

Dr Shaeed said that until both the Maldivian parliament and the United States Congress were satisfied that the detainee did not pose a threat to the national security of either country, he would not be brought to the Maldives.

The invitation to resettle in the Maldives has been extended to the detainee on the basis that he agrees to abide by certain conditions, Dr Shaheed said. And the agreement with the United States to resettle him in the Maldives is dependent on the fulfilment of three conditions.

“We have to first satisfy ourselves that the person poses no threat to the Maldives; that our laws are compatible with the resettlement; and that the United States will meet its costs. That is the basis from which we started the negotiations, and that is what we are still maintaining,” Dr Shaheed said.

He denied any possibility that the detainee might establish links with the increasingly radical elements of Maldivian society. “There is no such danger”, he said.

Nor was there any evidence to suggest that detainees who are resettled in third countries associate with, or contribute to radicalisation of host societies, he said.

A “Mullah environment”

Dr Shaheed agreed that the Maldives lacks, and needs, an integrated and coherent anti-radicalisation policy that addresses the issue as a whole.

“It is too fragmented to say that there are nine in Pakistan doing Jihad, four in a park exploding a bomb, five in the park calling for the murder of a High Commissioner in another country – these are all fragmented – we need to see where we are in a more coherent manner,” Dr Shaheed said.

He said the Maldives needs to take stock of where it currently is, and to gauge how far the education system has become “atrophied into an instrument of radicalism”.

What is needed is to assess the extent to which democracy has “opened the floodgates of radical ideas”, he said, and how far the society itself has become a handmaiden of radicalism.

The ‘operating environment’ in the Maldives, he said, is “a Mullah environment”. Any development plans or any plans for change, unlike in other developing countries such as those in Latin America for example, he said, have to take “the Mullah environment into account”.

Grand narratives that currently dominate the Maldivian society, such as that of treating women as second class citizens, Dr Shaheed said, need to be addressed and changed.

A policy document that targets these problems in a coherent manner is needed, without which “we have not yet fathomed the scale of the problem”, he said.

“What we do know is, every day it is increasing”, Dr Shaheed said. “I believe women in this country are in great danger”.


Guantanamo Bay detainees not a threat to Maldives national security: Zuhair

Bringing two former detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility to Maldives is not a threat to the country’s national security, said President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair in a statement to Miadhu Daily.

The Maldives security forces are well equipped to manage the detainees, according to Zuhair who also said there is no date set for the arrival of the detainees.

The cost of hosting the detainees in the Maldives would be borne by the US government, Zuhair told Miadhu, and the US government would confirm the detainees are innocent and provide travel documents.

While staying in the Maldives they would obtain legal visas, he said.


Foreign Ministry accuses Nihan of “creating mistrust” over Gitmo claims

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused DRP MP Ahmed Nihan of “irresponsibly” spreading false rumours that Guantanamo Bay detainees had been secretly brought to the Maldives, calling his claims “not only false but designed to mislead the public and create mistrust.”

Nihan yesterday claimed he was “99.99 percent sure” that the detainees had already been brought to the Maldives, an assertion the government has “categorically rejected”.

“The Maldives government, last December, publicly announced its intention to contribute to the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by receiving a few innocent detainees in the Maldives,” the Ministry said today in a press statement.

“The governments of the United States and the Maldives are carrying out bilateral discussions to establish the legal framework within which the humanitarian transfer will take place, in full compliance with the laws of the two countries, and in manner that will ensure that the persons invited to the Maldives will not a pose a security threat to the Maldives,” it added.

Accepting detainees would “directly contribute to the enhancement of the national interests of the Maldives, through promotion of human rights and solidarity with fellow Muslims, and strengthening partnership with countries who cherish freedom and human dignity,” the Ministry said.

Nihan, who said he was on his way to Mecca for a pilgrimage, today claimed that “a press statement is not enough to prove I’m wrong.”

“I wonder why they are so worried about what I said?” he asked, accusing Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed of “speaking in double tongue.”

Nihan argued that the government had not been open with the public on the matter, saying “I’m sure the government can clarify that 0.01 percent. Parliament’s National Security Committee will be requesting information from immigration regarding people who had visited the Maldives with improper passports.”

He said the government, “especially President Nasheed and the Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed”, “should be more open to the public regarding the Guantanamo Bay issue if they really want to prove that the gitmos are not here already.”


“99.9 percent” sure detainees already in the Maldives: MP Nihan

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan has said that he has information that the Guantanamo Bay detainees have been brought to the Maldives secretly.

”I am 99.9 percent sure that they are here. The information I received on the issue was from senior officials of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who are very familiar with the case,” said Nihan.

Nihan said the absence of Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed from yesterday’s National Security Committee proved that there were “still hidden secrets behind the scenes.”

”If the government has not done anything unlawful and if they are so confident, why would they be so afraid to face the parliament and the people,” Nihan asked.

He claimed the government had kept the matter a secret ”but when the document was leaked the issue became heated and people became aware that this was happening.”

Nihan claimed that the Maldives was now at risk of becoming “a nest for terrorists.”

”When the country becomes a nest for terrorists, others will start hating us,” h said. ”Then we will see our little nation under attack by another country.”

He accused President Mohamed Nasheed of failing to disclose details of the case during his presidential radio address.

”He only briefly said that we should help the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, and urged the President of the United States to release the detainees and shut down the jail.”

Furthermore, Nihan claimed that the act of government could potentially disrupt the peace and sovereignty of the country, and claimed the Maldives may “turn into a terrorist hub.”

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said the foreign ministry did not want to comment on the issue.

However, Press secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair denied the suggestion made by Nihan and dismissed it as ”all lies.”

Zuhair said that Nihans aim was to hype up the population.

”The President gave information about the Maldives accepting Guantanamo detainees last year on November 9, 10 and 11 during his official speeches,” Zuhair said.


Leaked Gitmo documents spark police investigation

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has said the ministry yesterday asked police to investigate the case of leaked documents concerning Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Dr Shaheed said the documents consisted of unofficial communications to the Maldives government from the US government, and a document sent to the Attorney General’s office by the Foreign Ministry.

Dr Shaheed said the documents included an unofficial letter sent from the US to discuss how a legal framework could be established to bring in the detainees.

”The documents were sent to Parliament’s National Security Committee by an MP,” Said Dr Shaheed. ”MP Ali Waheed was the person who first spoke about these documents.”

Dr Shaheed said that the person who leaked the documents and delivered them to MPs was responsible for the act.

”The Maldivian government has not officially agreed to bring in the detainees,” he said. ”It is just at an early stage and a group of people who do not properly understand the matter are worried and concerned.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said the government’s desire to investigate the case was “stupidity and weakness”, ”as there are more concerning issues than the leaked document.”

Nasheed claimed to have seen the documents, summarising the communication in his blog and identifying it as an official diplomatic document sent by the US government to the Maldivian government.

”The government cannot take action against the person who leaked the documents,” said Nasheed. ”There is a law allowing people to inform others if an unlawful activity was going on inside the area in which he or she works, and according to that law, no action can be taken against that person.”

Nasheed said the letter to the AG from Foreign Ministry revealed that the government has already agreed to bring the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the country, but legal advice was needed on the matter.

”That was an official agreement and they are just pretending to make it an ‘early stage negotiation’,” Nasheed said.

He added that the document from the US government consisted of a list of things it believed had been been agreed by the Maldives, and was requesting confirmation.

”One of the leaked document gives information that the former inmate’s communication will be under surveillance and they cannot leave the Maldives,” Nasheed said.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the document was not leaked but was “deliberately stolen”.

Zuhair said anybody who stole the documents has causes “a lot of trouble” for the Maldives, by disrupting diplomatic relationships between countries.

”Now the US government may think that we deliberately leaked the document,” Zuhair said. ”The recipient should be aware that it is unlawful to have a leaked document of the government and should have clarified whether the document was the original before distributing it to everyone.”

Zuhair said the US government had approached the Maldives to handle two detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison.

”One of them was a man born in the West Bank,” he said. ”We do not have the information on the other person yet,”

He said the Maldives would be receiving “numerous benefits” for accepting the two detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison.


Claims of citizenship for Guantánamo detainees are “total lies”, says Attorney General

Attorney General Husnu Suood has described a claim by the Opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) that Guantánamo Bay detainees will get Maldivian citizenship as  “a total lie.”

After a meeting with the US Ambassador in Colombo last week, DQP has said the agreement between the US and Maldivian government involves granting citizenship to any detainees resettled in the country.

AG Suood said negotiations were still at a very “early stage” and added that claims of the government giving citizenship to foreign detainees were fabricated.

“We are not obliged to give citizenship to foreigners,” he said, noting the same guidelines would apply to a foreign detainee as to any other foreign national wishing to acquire Maldivian citizenship.

He said “we are still in the preliminary stages of negotiation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the US Embassy and the governments,” and currently there is only “a basic text, a draft proposal” of the regulations and procedures for resettling Gitmo detainees in the country.

The AG’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then make comments on the draft. “Based on that,” Suood said, “the ministry will negotiate.”

One of the conditions proposed by the US states that the Maldivian government shall “conduct surveillance on the prisoners while they are in the country, including monitoring their phone calls, letters and other communications.”

Additionally, they must “prevent them from leaving the country.”

Suood said “that’s what we’re seeking to clarify, how we deal with [the former inmates]”, and added that their comments and concerns would all be sent to the US Embassy before the transfer was formally accepted.

“There is no concrete agreement between the two countries as of yet,” he noted.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said “the government of Maldives supports President Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo,” adding that “a Palestinian gentleman is due to be transferred from Guantanamo to the Maldives.”

He said “the United States has cleared this Palestinian man of any association with terrorism or any violent activities,” and have also confirmed “he has no criminal charges pending against him.”

He noted the man could not return to the Middle East due to his association with Guantánamo, and it is feared his life will be in danger if he is sent back.

“We should support innocent Palestinians. As a people, they have suffered so much injustice,” Zuhair said. “I hope when he arrives in the Maldives, we will treat him as he should be treated: as a victim who has been jailed for many years even though he has committed no crime.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, said the identity of the prisoner “has not been confirmed yet,” and added it will only be confirmed once the National Security Committee has concluded its meetings and have cleared the detainee of any charges.

He said “it will take some time” until the committee concludes its inquiries, as they have to “look at files and go through the process they require.” Dr Shaheed said after the legal framework is looked at, they can start assessing individual detainees.

Dr Shaheed did not attend a committee meeting held today.

He said although the Palestinian man Zuhair referred to was “one of the candidates” to be transferred to the Maldives, “it is not confirmed.”

Citizenship for detainees was not something the government was discussing yet, he said.

“I’m not saying we will do it or not,” he said, adding it would only be raised after the legalities of the transfer were cleared.

He added the transfer of detainees to the country was being looked at as “temporary,” like a “half-way stop” for the detainees, and not something permanent.

MPs meet US High Commissioner

A number of MPs met with the US High Commissioner today, said Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan.

Besides Nihan, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdul Gafoor, Jumhoory Party MP Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim, DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed and Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed participated in the meeting.

Nihan said “very important doubts about the Gitmo issue were clarified by the American High Commissioner.”

“We exchanged information between the High Commissioner and MPs,” he said, noting “the High Commissioner gathered us to see our opinion on the issue.”

Nihan said in the meeting he highlighted how poor the communication is between people and the government, adding “the administrative decision was made inside the ‘smoking room’ of the president and not in the Cabinet.”

He said President Mohamed Nasheed never discussed the detainee issue with either Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed or the Cabinet.

“He always presents decisions in the cabinet meetings,” Nihan said, “but he did not discuss it with anyone before deciding.”

National security committee meeting

Parliament’s National Security Committee held their first meeting on the resettlement of Guantánamo Bay prisoners in the Maldives on Sunday, after it was postponed last week by Speaker of Parliament, Abdulla Shahid.

There are still more meetings to be held on the issue, as they need to hear from more government officials and police.

AG Suood said he was meant to attend a meeting tomorrow, but it has now been cancelled. He said he was asking the Majlis to look at Article 5 of their rules of procedure, which says “any summons should be in writing and signed by the Speaker.”

The AG said he and the foreign minister received letters of summons from Parliament, but “they were signed by a legal council” and not the Speaker. “We are seeking clarification,” he said.

The US Embassy in Colombo said they could not confirm or deny whether DQP members met with the ambassador last week, and could not say whether they spoke about the transfer of detainees or the issue of citizenship.

Leader of the DQP, Hassan Saeed, did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


National Security Committee meeting on Gitmo detainees postponed

Today’s National Security Committee meeting regarding the transfer of Guantánamo Bay inmates to the Maldives has been rescheduled, after Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid requested to cancel it.

The meeting has been postponed for next week, after a call from Shahid to the Chairman of the committee and leader of the People’s Alliance (PA), Abdulla Yameen.

He wanted to postpone the meeting until Parliament reconvenes in June and all committee members are back from leave.

Yameen said the meeting “was cancelled by the speaker,” and has been rescheduled for next Sunday. He said although he was not sure if all members of the committee would be present at the meeting, “we will have quorum.”

He did not want to comment on the issue of the detainees “as of yet.”

Independent MP for Kulhudhuffushi-South, Mohamed Nasheed, said “when the chair wants to hold a meeting, the speaker has no right to postpone it.”

He said the decision to hold a committee meeting, whether during recess or session, was completely up to the chair of the committee, “and there’s nothing the administration or the speaker’s office can do.”

Nasheed said the Majlis committees were all “very democratic institutions,” and all the powers vested in the chair were provided for in the codes.

“The only people who can object is a majority from the committee itself,” he added.

Nasheed said “the meeting will not be cancelled” and there will be “lots of hearings” with the Foreign Ministry, Police, and the Attorney General, among others.

He said the situation will be verified, details asked for and documents submitted on the matter.

“The committee will then make an assessment and then report to the Majlis.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said Yameen had decided “all the party should be present,” and added “the Parliament should be involved” in deciding upon the issue of the detainees.

He said it was important the meeting was held with “the inclusiveness of all [11] members,” and should be postponed until all members returned from leave.

“If anything happens to Maldives, we should all be concerned about this.”

Price per head

MP Nasheed said he was “not in favour of the meeting going in a particular way,” but he believes it is “a serious issue” where law and policy must be looked at carefully.

He said the government was trying to paint the detainees as “innocent and helpless Muslims,” but, he asked, “if they don’t want them in the jurisdiction of the US, why keep them in a third country?”

Nasheed argued that the detainees’ fundamental freedoms were still being encroached on. “Their movements are still controlled. Why do all these things?”

He said although the “government’s spin” was that they were innocent, he noted that Bermuda’s government was paid US$9 million per head for each Guantánamo detainee they settled in their country.

“They ought not get into this deal just for the money,” Nasheed said, adding that there were children in Vilingili orphanage who needed families, money and staff to look after them. “Why take in Chinese or Palestinians?”

“If they’re innocent, free them,” he said. “But the government is saying they are not even capable of committing a crime. This is absurd.”

He noted the government had initially tried to transfer two Chinese nationals who had been detained at Guantánamo, until a Chinese delegation came to the Maldives protesting that the two men were terrorists.

He said the government withdrew its intention to resettle the two men “only after China issued a press release.”


The small South Pacific island nation of Palau, a former US territory until 1994, agreed to take in 17 Muslims from China last June, according to The Times (UK).

The men, from the Xinjiang area in China’s north-west, belong to the Uighur ethnicity.

They claim to have been persecuted for decades under Beijing’s rule, and fled to neighbouring Pakistan.

They were taken to Guantánamo on the basis that they had received a small-arms training, which they claim was to defend themselves from China.

China has repeatedly asked the US government to send the men back to China, claiming they are terrorists, but their plea has met with harsh opposition. The US fears they will be killed or tortured if sent home.

China has also asked many other countries not to take the men in, leaving Palau as the sole country on the list of volunteers to resettle the Uighurs.

They were found innocent in 2004, but remained in Guantánamo until Palau’s government agreed to take them in. Palau is one of the few countries that does not recognise China, but maintains diplomatic relations with Tibet.

Additionally, the US gave Palau US$200 million in “development and budget” aid, but the White House has denied the money is tied to the transfer of the detainees. The Pentagon, on the other hand, has called it a “pay-off.”

Correction: When stating that US$9 million was paid per detainee, MP Nasheed was referring to the case in Palau, although the government of Bermuda also accepted four Uighurs from Guantánamo Bay. Whether Bermuda’s government accepted money from the US was not made public.


US thanks Maldives while DRP continues opposition to Gitmo decision

The US State Department has thanked the Maldivian government for agreeing to accept detainees from Guantánamo Bay, but opposition parties are still saying they were not informed of the government’s decision.

Spokesman for the US State Department, Philip Crowley, said yesterday: “The United States welcomes the Government of Maldives reaffirmation that it intends to accept detainees from Guantánamo Bay. The United States is grateful to all countries that have accepted detainees [and] for their willingness to support US efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.”

Jeffery Anderson at the US Embassy to the Maldives in Colombo said they embassy could provide no further information on the detainees being transferred to the Maldives.

President Mohamed Nasheed said yesterday: “It was very clear back then that people were arrested [and put] in Guantánamo without proper checks. People were just taken from all over and incarcerated. Today, when the jail is being dismantled, and the Maldives is among the few 100 percent Muslim countries in the world, if we can’t care about them, where is the example we are showing to the international community and other people of the book [Jews and Christians]?”

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said he believed the detainee being transferred was a Palestinian man from the West Bank.

“According to the US Department of State, he is not capable of planning or executing a crime,” Zuhair noted.

He said the man belongs to the Tabligh sect of Islam, and added, “that is not criminal behaviour.”

Zuhair said the man was chosen because he was “the least controversial” prisoner and had not been charged with a crime. “This man will have complete records with him,” he said, adding all consultations about his past were held by the US government.

“He did not have a fair trail,” Zuhair noted. “Actually, he did not have a trial.”

He said the Maldives had chosen to take a former prisoner of the detention centre because the Maldives is “one of many interested in closing Guantánamo Bay and the repatriation of the remaining prisoners.”

Zuhair said bringing a Guantánamo detainee to the Maldives would give the country “prestige” and “honour.”

“The [Maldivian] population is devoutly Muslim and this will translate to more prestige and honour and better sentiment towards the Maldives,” he said. “It will have a positive effect all the way.”

Humanitarian action

State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, said it was still premature to talk about how many detainees will be sent from the controversial prison, who they are or when they will be brought to the Maldives.

“It has not come to that stage yet,” he said, “but we have certain ideas of who [will be brought].”

He added that the prisoners still have to be interviewed and many legalities are still being examined.

“We also need to know why these people were arrested,” Naseem noted, emphasising that “we are not bringing any terrorists to the Maldives.”

“Not everyone who was arrested is a terrorist or a criminal,” he said, referring to the Maldivian national Ibrahim Fauzee, who was taken to Guantánamo in 2002 and brought back to the Maldives in 2005.

“His apartment happened to be formerly occupied by Palestinian terrorists and he was taken by police,” Naseem said, noting that Fauzee was later released with no charges.

Fauzee, who is president of the Maldivian religious NGO the Islamic Foundation, said he did not wish to comment on the issue.

Naseem noted that “everybody knows” there were many wrongful detentions made by the USA after the 9/11 attacks, “similar to arrests during Gayoom’s regime.”

He said the nationality of the detainees did not matter, since this is “a humanitarian issue.”

“A lot of Muslims have been affected by this,” he said, adding that as long as the resettlement was within the Constitution and laws of the country, there should be no problem in resettling former Guantánamo Bay prisoners.

Naseem said the US State Department had carefully chosen several countries around the world and had asked them to take in prisoners who were cleared of charges in their bid to close down the detention centre.

“They [USA] has confidence in the Maldives, in our human rights record, and know the [detainees] will have their rights [here].”

He noted the US “will have an obligation” to take into consideration the living expenses for any detainees sent to the Maldives.

“But those details still have to be worked out,” he added.

Naseem said this is “purely based on human rights” and the only reason it was becoming such a big issue locally was because the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) had obtained official papers “and are having a field day with this.”

He added that the decision to resettle the detainees been public knowledge since December last year when President Nasheed announced his intention to bring in detainees during his radio address.


The Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP) has been especially vocal in its opposition to the resettlement of Guantánamo prisoners.

They wrote in their website: “There is no reason that a small country like the Maldives with limited resources should accept such convicts when a country like America won’t accept them.”

DQP believes the president does not have the Constitutional authority to “transfer convicts” into the country, adding that such an actions would “make expatriates working in the country as well as visiting tourists more unsettled.”

They are planning on filing a case at court and a bill at the next session of Parliament prohibiting the transfer of foreign prisoners to the Maldives.

The party added the government was “not making any effort” to repatriate Maldivians in foreign jails.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said he thought the move would be dangerous to the country, claiming, “I do not believe this will make any betterment to the country. It is putting our country in danger.”

He said DRP MP Ali Waheed had sent a letter to the Majlis’ National Security Committee on the issue, but the sitting has been postponed. He said it would hopefully take place in the “coming weeks.”

“We are asking to get more details. No one knows what the government is trying to do,” Nihan said. “We’re totally in a dark place.”

He said his party had an issue with the lack of transparency, noting that they knew nothing about it until “some papers between the President’s Office and some ministries were leaked.”

“The government has already made a binding agreement. Members of the Majlis hope to know about serious matters like this.”

He said resettling Guantánamo convicts in the country is “a serious issue” and could have “serious consequences. If anything happens in the wrong direction, we’re in a serious situation,” he said, referring to the geographic location of the Maldives and the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“If the government is genuine about this,” he said, “we would already have had negotiations between the government and the Majlis.”

Nihan added that President Nasheed’s remarks to the media yesterday, particularly his dismissal of the opposition’s outcry, was “total rudeness. It was like a comment from George Bush.”

He said he could not speak for his entire party, but said that regardless of whether the government was careful about who they were bringing into the country, “I cannot agree on this.”

History of Guantánamo

Land in Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay in the Oriente Province, the south-east of the island, was rented out by the United States in 1903 to set up a naval base. It was originally used for monitoring illegal migrants trying to enter the United States through Florida and other ports in the Caribbean.

Starting in 2002, prisoners accused of terrorism were sent to a detention centre in the base, after George W. Bush’s administration began capturing “enemy combatants” from around the world following the September 11 2001 attacks.

From its inception the detention centre has been surrounded by accusations of torture and of withholding the rights of prisoners under the Geneva Convention, which would guarantee them a fair trial.

Since 2002, many detainees have been released without charge after years of imprisonment, like Britain’s “Tipton Three,” who were repatriated to England in 2004 after two years of wrongful imprisonment.

In 2009 the White House reported that since 2002, approximately 800 individuals were imprisoned as ‘enemy combatants’ and detained at Guantánamo. Around 500 of those prisoners were either transferred or released, whether to their home countries or to a third country.

Additionally, they note “the Department of Defense has determined that a number of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo are eligible for such transfer or release.”

In January 2009, US President Barack Obama ordered the closing of the Guantánamo detention centre within a year, and assigned a special task force to “consider policy options for apprehension, detention, trial, transfer or release of detainees.” He also banned the use of “harsh interrogations”.

The order states that all prisoners not eligible for transfer must be prosecuted, or the state must “select lawful means…for the disposition of such individuals.”

On the transfer of prisoners, the president’s order reads: “[The Special Task Force] will also look at rendition and other policies for transferring individuals to third countries to be sure that our policies and practices comply with all obligations and are sufficient to ensure that individuals do not face torture and cruel treatment if transferred.”

Crowley added yesterday that “since 2009, the United States has transferred 59 detainees to 24 different destinations; 35 of these have been transfers to third countries.”