Government appeals for ‘fair and objective assessment’ from Amnesty International

The government has urged an Amnesty International delegation currently visiting the Maldives to conduct a “fair and objective assessment of the situation on the ground.”

The human rights organisation had released a briefing report titled ‘Assault on civil and political rights’ after a fact-finding mission in the Maldives from April 17 to 22.

The foreign ministry at the time accused Amnesty of tarnishing the Maldives’ image in collusion with the opposition and dismissed its observations of a “rapidly deteriorating” human rights situation as “preposterous fabrications with zero truth.”

At a press conference today, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said the government was concerned with the Amnesty delegation’s decision in April to meet with only officials and supporters of the opposition party.

Dunya said the government had offered to arrange meetings with senior officials and to facilitate a visit to former President Mohamed Nasheed in prison at a latter date, “but they didn’t respect our word and came to the Maldives at a convenient time for them.”

Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher, Abbas Faiz, told Minivan News at the time the government was informed on April 2 of the visit planned for later in the month.

“The government suggested that we delay the visit until mid or end of May to better facilitate requested meetings with the authorities,” he said.

“Amnesty International informed the government in response that it will proceed with its visit in April as planned, that this visit will focus on meeting members of civil society, and that we are planning to have another meeting in May to meet government representatives as suggested by the authorities.”

The foreign ministry has since arranged meetings with high-level officials for the Amnesty International team in the Maldives from June 23 to 26.

“Constructive engagement”

Dunya said the government will cooperate with Amnesty International and address its concerns despite the organisation previously spreading “falsehoods” about the Maldives.

“The government reiterates the importance of constructive engagement to avoid one-sided reporting that would tarnish Maldives’ reputation without grounds and affect the stability, development and democratic progress made in the country,” the foreign ministry said in a statement today.

“Again, the government notes the biased and baseless allegations made by Amnesty International in the past.”

The Maldives is “still a young democracy”, it added, and stressed the government’s commitment to legislative and constitutional reforms.

“The government of Maldives expects international partners to recognise the progress made and values collaboration based on constructive engagement so long as any such work does not seek to create division within the Maldivian society,” the foreign ministry said.

Dunya said the human rights situation in the Maldives has been “improving steadily” and that the current administration has “enacted a total of 18 key human rights legislations within a period of less than 18 months, which is an unparalleled record in the history of the Maldives.”

In its briefing report, Amnesty had said that the government was cracking down on peaceful protests, stifling dissent, and “abusing the judicial system” to imprison opposition politicians.

In response, the foreign ministry accused Amnesty of seeking to “undermine and defame the Maldives judiciary and its national institutions.”

Abbas said Amnesty’s recommendations to the government were made “on the basis of solid evidence, as detailed in our press release and briefing.”

“We have highlighted the cases of individuals regardless of their party affiliation. We urge the authorities to address the violations documented in our reports, including the serious breaches of fair trial standards,” he said.

Amnesty had called the conviction of former President Nasheed on terrorism charges in March “a travesty of justice.” The 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments and the UN over its apparent lack of due process.

In recent weeks, diplomatic pressure has been mounting on the Maldives to release “political prisoners.”

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that the opposition leader was “imprisoned without due process”.

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

Earlier this month, US senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.


The Supreme Court’s ‘power grab’

The Supreme Court issued 11-point guideline dictating the human rights watchdog’s roles and responsibilities will force it to “work like a ministry or an extension of the government instead of an independent body,” a commission member who wished to remain anonymous has said.

The apex court yesterday declared a rights assessment submitted by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) as unlawful and barred the office from communicating with foreign organizations without government oversight.

The 11-point guideline also orders the HRCM to protect unity, peace and order, and uphold Maldivian norms, faith, etiquette and the rule of law.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), civil society organizations and lawyers have also said the guideline undermines the commission’s independence, and have said the Supreme Court has infringed on the parliament’s mandate by “writing laws” for the HRCM.

The MDP noted the ruling was issued under controversial suo-moto regulations that allow the Supreme Court to prosecute and pass judgment.

“While the guardian of independent institutions is the parliament, the Supreme Court created a guideline and gave the verdict on charges the court itself brought against the HRCM, we note with concern that this verdict allows an independent institution created by the constitution to lose its independence,” the MDP said in a statement today.

Charges of treason were first pressed in September 2014 after the HRCM publicized a report it had submitted to the UN human rights council for the Maldives’ Universal Periodic Review.

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed said the report was biased, encouraged terrorists and undermined judicial independence in the Maldives.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said: “This is very concerning; this whole case was based on threatening an independent institution with unconstitutional charges because the commission fulfilled its constitutional and international obligations.”

Only the parliament can formulate guidelines for the state’s offices, he said. The guideline will bar the HRCM from investigating human rights violations without state approval as it requires the commission to cooperate with government offices and orders the HRCM not to overstep its mandate or “disrupt” the work of government offices.

Mohamed Thoriq Hamid, the program manager of advocacy NGO Transparency Maldives, said the verdict is part of “a continuing trend” in which the Supreme Court is undermining the work of the state’s independent institutions.

In March last year, the apex court sacked the Election Commission’s president and vice-president when they criticised a 16-point electoral guideline issued by the Supreme Court after annulling the first round of presidential elections in September 2013.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the Anti-Corruption Commission was not authorized to suspend contracts even if they suspected corruption. The ACC president Hassan Luthfee at the time said the ruling rendered the ACC powerless to stop corruption even if it was carried out on a large scale.

Shahindha Ismail. the executive director of Maldivian Democracy Network, said the Supreme Court is “imposing more serious problems” on HRCM rather than “allying with the commission to overcome existing challenges”.

“This verdict just destroys all the work done for the promotion of democratic principles and the protection of Human Rights all over the world,” she added.

A lawyer who wished to remain anonymous said the Supreme Court’s verdict was an “unconstitutional power grab.”

“What we see in other democratic countries is judicial activism, but this case shows that what is going on here is judicial extremism,” he said.

The guideline has sparked outrage on Twitter.

The former speaker of Majlis, MP Abdulla Shahid said: “Another sad and horrifyingly wicked day for democracy and Human Rights in the Maldives.”


Global spotlight poses ‘enormous challenges’ to Maldives democracy

The global spotlight on the Maldives has exacerbated challenges to consolidating democracy following the introduction of a multi-party system of governance, the government has told the UN.

The 2008 constitution established independent state institutions and “diluted” the power of the executive branch, “posing considerable challenges to maintaining political order in the society,” states the government’s submission to the UN human rights council’s Universal Period Review (UPR).

“These challenges have been exacerbated by the realities of having to nurture and cultivate an entirely new system of governance under global spotlight,” reads the national UPR report.

“The level and depth of international scrutiny means that it has been an enormous challenge to ensure that the Maldivian state and its institutions are given the necessary space to make their own decisions, and emerge as an organic set of institutions tailored to provide local solutions to local challenges.”

The UPR process involves a periodic examination of the human rights situation of all member states based on submissions from the state, the human rights body, and NGOs.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon is currently in Geneva to attend the Maldives’ review scheduled to take place tomorrow. The country’s first review took place in 2010.

A working group comprised of the human rights council’s 47 member states will conduct the Maldives’ review. Several Western governments have submitted questions on judicial reform, former president Mohamed Nasheed’s trial, the reintroduction of the death penalty, and lack of religious freedom.

The second review comes amid a deepening political crisis and growing international and domestic pressure for the release of imprisoned opposition politicians, including Nasheed, ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and leaders of allied opposition parties arrested in a crackdown on a mass anti-government rally on Friday.

The national report went on to say that “prolonged political tensions generated by political opposition, and continuous international scrutiny of the government’s attempts in reducing such tensions meant that the government is required to spend more time in explaining its actions to international partners, instead of focusing on governance, and implementation of its political and international obligations, including those on human rights.”

The scrutiny has also led to “disillusionment in some quarters of the population about the true spirit and gains of democracy, and for others to believe that the ultimate remedy for any local political grievance is to be found at the international level, instead of through local institutions established by an ardours [sic], yet democratic, process.”

The conviction of ex-president Nasheed on terrorism charges after a 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, the UN, and Amnesty International over the apparent lack of due process. However, the government has remained defiant in the face of international criticism and “meddling” in internal affairs.

In contrast, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party yesterday welcomed statements from the US, UN and Canada as well as a resolution by the European parliament calling for Nasheed’s release.

The government meanwhile stated that despite numerous challenges, the country’s “democratic growth trajectory is continuing in a steady upward momentum”.

The country has made progress with free education, universal health care, and 2,630 social housing units built to date, the report continued, while the Maldives has achieved three millenium development goals with infant and maternal mortality rates on par with developed countries and eradication of polio, malaria, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

The report also noted the enactment of legislation on anti-torture, prisons and parole, anti-money laundering and terrorism financing, extradition, and the passage of a new penal code.

Legislation on anti-domestic violence, sexual offences, sexual harassment, and disabilities represented “significant gains in protecting the rights of vulnerable groups.”

The persisting challenges include geographic dispersion of the small population, climate change, lack of capacity and technical expertise.

“Emerging challenges such as religious issues posed by differing interpretations of religious teachings, the high prevalence of drug abuse, and closely related issue of gang violence will bring up new issues in realising human rights in the country,” the report stated.


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.


MDP MP appeals for Indian pressure to release Nasheed

An opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP has appealed for Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s help to secure the release of imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

The disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, death threats against journalists and human rights defenders, and an arson attack against opposition-aligned Raajje TV are “symptomatic of the Maldives’ slide into tyranny,” MP Eva Abdulla wrote in a letter to the Indian prime minister.

“I hope you can use your good offices to pressure the Maldivian government to release President Nasheed and other political prisoners, return to rule of law, uphold the constitution and protect the basic human rights of all Maldivians,” reads the letter sent on April 22.

Eva’s appeal was echoed by Amnesty International last week, which warned that the human rights situation in the Maldives is “rapidly deteriorating” with the government cracking down on peaceful protests, stifling dissent, and imprisoning opposition politicians.

Raghu Menon, Amnesty International India’s advocacy coordinator, said India as a regional power “has a responsibility to work towards a human rights-friendly environment in the Maldives.”

The ruling coalition has previously condemned calls for Indian intervention as “irresponsible”.

“Urging India to intervene in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs is a betrayal of our constitution. Its results will be bitter, especially on the Maldivian public,” majority leader of parliament Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News after Nasheed urged India before his arrest in February to ensure the security of opposition politicians.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has also expressed confidence that India “will not intervene in domestic politics of Maldives.”

Following Nasheed’s arrest and prosecution on controversial terrorism charges, Modi dropped the Maldives from a tour of Indian Ocean neighbours in early March.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison last month on terrorism charges related to the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure. The 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, the UN, and Amnesty International for its apparent lack of due process.

“Slide towards dictatorship”

Rilwan’s disappearance on August 8 in a suspected abduction “highlights the nature of today’s Maldives, where the rule by fear has taken the place of rule of law,” Eva wrote.

The government’s commitment to finding Rilwan was “questionable” as president Abdulla Yameen refused to comment on the disappearance.

“Of the many human rights abuses that have taken place in the Maldives, Rilwan’s has resonated across the country for its encapsulation of every fear within our society,” she said, adding that the disappearance came after “months of intimidation against journalists, civil society, and independent institutions.”

The public was still awaiting answers, she continued, as police have not “credibly” investigated the murder of former MP Afrasheem Ali, the attempted murder of Raajje TV journalist Ibrahim Waheed ‘Asward’, and the torching of Raajje TV’s studios.

Eva accused the current administration of using its parliamentary majority to “crush dissent, eliminate political opposition and make laws to facilitate executive and judicial tyranny” and offering immunity from prosecution to violent gangs that operate with impunity.

“An impunity and patronage the government makes no attempt to hide,” she added.

She further contended that “confessions through torture, show trials, and state sponsored violence” of the autocratic past have returned under president Yameen.

However, Eva said “Maldivians refuse to be cowed by president Yameen’s authoritarian tactics” and have taken to the streets to protest against “the slide towards dictatorship.”

“In tightening its grip, the regime appears to be losing it,” she suggested.

“More political parties, politicians and activists are leaving the regime and joining the opposition coalition.”

The Indian government has “the power to make a difference in the Maldives” and had been crucial to the success of the democratic reform movement that culminated in the adoption of a rights-based constitution and multi-party elections in 2008.

“The movement cannot end yet, we have come too far to leave this conflict to our children,” she wrote.

“So we ask India’s help again. I believe it is in India’s interest to see the Maldives return to the democratic path. We cannot afford another failed Muslim democracy, nor a front of instability in the Indian Ocean.”


Maldives human rights situation ‘rapidly deteriorating’

The human rights situation in the Maldives is “rapidly deteriorating” with the government cracking down on peaceful protests, stifling dissent, and imprisoning opposition politicians, Amnesty International has said.

A delegation from the international human rights organisation conducted a fact-finding mission in the Maldives from April 17 to 22 and released a briefing report titled ‘Assault on civil and political rights’ today.

“There’s a climate of fear spreading in the Maldives, as safeguards on human rights are increasingly eroded. The authorities have a growing track record of silencing critical voices by any means necessary – be it through the police, the judicial system, or outright threats and harassment. This must end immediately,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher, after launching the briefing at a press conference in New Delhi, India.

“The international community must wake up and realise that behind the façade of a tourist paradise, there is a dark trend in the Maldives where the human rights situation is rapidly deteriorating.”

Raghu Menon, Amnesty International India’s advocacy coordinator, who was part of the fact-finding mission, said India as a regional power “has a responsibility to work towards a human rights-friendly environment in the Maldives.”

The delegation also sought meetings with government officials this week, but were offered meetings in May.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News today that he did not wish to comment on the report.

“The government has invited various international organisations. So they will come and reveal [information about] their work. The government does not have to respond to each report. The government will take the initiative and respond in cases where it believes it has to,” he said.

The delegation also requested a visit to the Dhoonidhoo detention centre to meet former president Mohamed Nasheed and other detainees, but the foreign ministry offered to facilitate a visit in May.

Faiz meanwhile called on the government to “immediately end its disturbing crackdown on human rights.”

“Political tensions are already at a boiling point, and further harassment and attacks on those opposing the authorities will only make the situation spiral out of control,” he warned.

“The international community cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening in the Maldives. The upcoming UN [Universal Period Review] session in Geneva in May is a key moment to push the Maldives authorities to immediately take concrete action to improve the country’s human rights situation.”


Amnesty said the government was “abusing the judicial system” to imprison political opponents, including opposition leader Nasheed, ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim.

“Mohamed Nasheed’s imprisonment came after a sham trial, but he is far from the only one locked up on trumped-up charges and after unfair trials. It is disturbing how far the Maldives government has co-opted the judiciary as a tool to cement its own hold on power,” said Faiz.

Amnesty also noted that at least 140 people have been arrested from opposition protests since February, with the court releasing several protesters on the condition that they do not attend protests for 30 to 60 days.

The opposition, human rights NGOS, and the prosecutor general have said the condition is unconstitutional as freedom of assembly is a fundamental right.

“Additionally, police have imposed far-ranging restrictions on where and when protests in the Maldives capital Male can take place,” Amnesty said.

“Demonstrations are only allowed in certain areas far away from official buildings, contrary to international law and standards.”

The briefing also noted increasing threats and attacks against journalists, civil society organisations, and human rights defenders, adding that police have not “meaningfully” investigated threatening text messages or phone calls.

Amnesty said that “vigilante religious groups allegedly in cahoots with the police have in recent years stepped up kidnappings and attacks on social gatherings, in particular against those accused of promoting ‘atheism.'”

“This year, such gangs have in connivance with police attacked peaceful demonstrators, yet no one has been brought to justice for these attacks.”

The briefing also noted that the Supreme Court last year charged the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) with “high treason and undermining the constitution” following the state watchdog’s submission on the state of human rights in the Maldives to the UPR.

Meanwhile, in an op-ed published on The New York Times this week, Mariyam Shiuna, executive director of local NGO Transparency Maldives, observed that “political persecution has intensified, civil society is silenced and media intimidation has become the norm.”

“The international community needs to put pressure on the government to halt its crackdown on opponents and dissidents from all parts of the political sphere. Without basic freedoms and space for dissent the Maldives is slipping back to the dark days of dictatorship,” she wrote.


Maldives’ human rights worsening, Amnesty tells UN

The human rights situation has deteriorated in the Maldives over the past four years, says Amnesty International in its report to the UN Human Rights Council.

In its submission for the country’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) titled ‘Republic of Maldives – Ignoring Human Rights Obligations’, the NGO accuses the government of having failed to implement recommendations made in 2011.

“Furthermore, it has effectively been undermining human rights protection by failing to strengthen the independent institutions of the state including the judiciary, which needs urgent reform.”

The report – made public for the first time last week – notes the “emergence of vigilante religious groups”, “fundamental flaws” within the judicial system, and the “feared abduction” of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

It also accuses the government of not defending the independence of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), which is currently being prosecuted by the Supreme Court as a result of its own submission to the UPR.

The UPR is a state-driven process that reviews the human rights records of all 193 UN member states every four years, based on submissions by the government, the UN, NGOs, and national human rights commissions.

mid-term assessment of the Maldives’ conformity with the 2011 recommendations found that it had “fully implemented” only three of the 145 recommendations – with 12 recommendations “partially implemented”, and 33 “not implemented”, 96 recommendations receiving “no response”.

Abductions and impunity

The report also observes the lack of prosecutions for the perpetrators of a series of abductions reported last year, as well as a failure to bring the investigation into Rilwan’s disappearance to a conclusion.

“Impunity for human rights violations, especially for torture and other ill-treatment and for unnecessary or excessive use of force by police against demonstrators has been a persistent failure of the government,” reads the report.

Amnesty highlights the non-disclosure of information regarding alleged excessive force during the raid on the Anbaraa music festival in April last year, as well as the lack of prosecutions for acts of police brutality carried out on February 8, 2012.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil told the Majlis last August that the cases of five officers were ongoing. The Commonwealth-led Commission of National Inquiry described an “urgent need” for accountability and sanctions more than two years ago.

The report accuses the government of failing to protect the rights of freedom of expression and conscience with regards to the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, the brutal attacks on blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed and journalist Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed.

“These attacks took a new form in June 2014 when a vigilante religious group kidnapped several young men, held them for hours, ill-treated them and warned them not to promote ‘atheism’.”

“None of the kidnappers have been brought to justice, even though the identities of some of them are allegedly known to the victims.”

Victims of the attacks have identified four individuals familiar with police in two abduction incidents last June, and another in November. The victims were accosted in order to obtain log-in details for online groups in which religion and gang activity were being openly discussed.

The report went on to recommend a moratorium on flogging – which Amnesty regards as “inhumane” and discriminatory in practice, and the death penalty, which the current government has pledged to reintroduce.

“Amnesty International is disappointed that the Maldives did not accept recommendations to remove restrictions in law and practice on freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” it continued.


The report reserves significant space to highlight deficiencies within the judicial system, arguing that a lack of judicial independence and impartiality continued to “undermine fair trials”.

“Since the last UPR, the government has taken no visible action to ensure that standards of judicial independence and impartiality are upheld and monitored,” said Amnesty.

Most importantly, states the report, there has been no action to strengthen the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

“There is a perception in the Maldives, frequently voiced by judicial and government authorities to Amnesty International, that the principle of judicial independence would not be upheld if the government were to scrutinize the conduct of the judiciary.”

After repeated investigations into the alleged appearance of Justice Ali Hameed in a series of sex tapes in 2013 failed to find adequate evidence for disciplinary proceedings, Hameed was himself appointed president of the commission earlier this month.

“While Amnesty International would oppose interference by the executive in the affairs of the judiciary, it considers that statutory state organs entrusted with maintaining judicial accountability, such as the JSC, should monitor and take action against any breaches of impartiality,” read the UPR submission.

The JSC came in for particular criticism for its role in the dismissal of two Supreme Court judges last month. In a decision slammed for its lack of transparency, the commission found Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasin Adnan unfit to sit on the bench.

After Majlis members voted through the JSC’s recommendations, local and international groups expressed concern over the decision’s impact on judicial independence.

After the HRCM’s UPR report – criticising the centralisation of judicial power in the Supreme Court – ‘suo moto’ proceedings were initiated against it last September, prompting Amnesty to call for the commission’s independence to be guaranteed.

Related to this story

Maldives “fully implements” three of UN’s 145 human rights recommendations: UPR mid-term assessment

Women’s rights and treatment of migrant workers needs improvement: UN review

Supreme Court initiates suo moto proceedings against Human Rights Commission


35 percent of Asian MPs’ human rights cases from Maldives, says IPU

The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) has revealed that the Maldives accounts for 35 percent of all its human rights cases concerning Asian MPs.

“Maldives has a very high number of MPs (27) with cases before the Committee. Arbitrary detentions and violations of freedom of expression are the most common complaints reported, followed by torture, ill-treatment and other acts of violence,” said the IPU.

The union’s ‘Human Rights Abuses of MPs – 2014′ report – released to mark Human Rights Day (December 10) – shows that Africa and Asia are the most dangerous regions for parliamentarians.

Earlier this year, the union had suggested that the authorities’ response  to the growing number of threats against MPs would represent a test of the Maldives’ democracy.

The union emphasised the “high price parliamentarians are paying to defend fundamental human rights and exercise their right to freedom of expression”.

Despite being the smallest country in Asia, the Maldives made up 27 of 78 parliamentarians from 12 countries in Asia who have cases lodged with the IPU’s human rights committee.

Previous statistics from the IPU show that the global average number of inhabitants per parliamentarian is 146,000. With 85 MPs, the Maldives’ 2014 census shows the country has 1 MP for every 4,014 inhabitants.

In October, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla – the first Maldivian member of the IPU – met with the committee to raise concerns over the personal safety of parliamentarians and journalists in the Maldives.

At the time, Eva highlighted the lack of thorough investigations in cases of threats and assault, perpetrators not facing trial, the failure of law enforcement, the failure of the parliament to look into cases, and the creation of a culture of intimidation in the Maldives.

In a year in which MDP MP Alhan Fahmy narrowly avoided paralysis following a stabbing, threats against MPs and their families have become commonplace.

In October, the Maldives National Defence Force temporarily offered MPs additional personal security as well as urging Majlis members not to go out at night time unless absolutely necessary.

The IPU’s list of Maldivian cases also included the late Progressive Party of Maldives MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, brutally murdered outside of his home in October 2012.

MDP MP Ali Azim was controversially removed from the Majlis over an issued of decreed debt last year

Cases from around the world

The IPU explained that 311 parliamentarians from 41 countries had cases referred to the IPU Committee in 2014 – a 13 per cent increase from 2013, which saw 270 parliamentarians lodge cases, from 40 countries.

The most common human rights complaints are arbitrary detention, lack of fair trial, violation of freedom of expression and unlawful suspension and loss of parliamentary mandate.

Other dangers faced by parliamentarians include death, torture, threats and arbitrary arrests, explained the IPU

As per the 2014 statistics, the highest number of parliamentarians who have lodged cases at the committee are from Africa with 38 per cent, followed by Asia with 25 per cent.

Middle East and North Africa have 18 percent, while the Americas have 14 percent, and Europe 5 percent.

71 percent of these parliamentarians are from opposition parties, and 89 percent are male.

“These figures are extremely worrying as they show that all over the world MPs face serious harassment and sometimes even death, in a clear attempt to intimidate and silence critical voices and dissent,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong.

“The figures we are presenting today are cases reported to IPU, but there are other abuses that remain beyond our scope, as the Committee can only intervene at the request of the MP concerned, family members, legal representatives, fellow MPs or human rights organisations,” he continued.

The statement reads that the majority of cases have been under the committee’s consideration for less than five years, while 10 percent of the cases are from more than 10 years ago, and another 5 percent date back to the 1990s.

It also notes that 101 new decisions were adopted by the IPU this year, calling on authorities of the relevant countries to “take effective steps towards a satisfactory settlement of the cases”.

Of the 314 cases, 71 are new cases involving parliamentarians from the Maldives, Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Iraq, Israel, Oman, Palestine, Venezuela and Zambia.

The Committee also closed cases involving 12 parliamentarians in 2014.

Related to this story

Government’s reaction to death threats is a test of democracy: IPU

Inter-Parliamentary Union requests urgent visit to Maldives

Opposition MP Alhan Fahmy stabbed

MPs urged to stay in at night as MNDF offers personal security


“President Yameen, the world is watching you”, warns Australian senator

Australian Senator James McGrath has warned President Abdulla Yameen that the eyes of the world are on the Maldives’ deteriorating human rights situation.

“Do not lead your country into the shadows of fear and hate and violence. Stamp on ISIS and the other agents of hate. Let the Maldives be free – President Yameen, the world is watching you,” McGrath told the Australian Senate yesterday (October 28).

The Queensland senator told the house of judicial corruption, political violence, media suppression, and religious extremism in the Indian Ocean nation.

He gave special attention the the ongoing Supreme Court case against the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan 82 days ago.

McGrath informed the assembly that he had worked with former President Mohamed Nasheed during his successful 2008 presidential election campaign, describing the transition to democracy as a “political fairy tale”.

The governing Progressive Party of Maldives last week accused Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of attempting to use the international community to influence the case against the HRCM, to “discredit Maldives reputation”, and to “impoverish the Maldivian people”.

Recent events in the Maldives, including consistent attacks and threats against opposition MPs and property, have prompted concern from the EU, Amnesty International, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the Canadian government.

McGrath – who described the suo moto proceedings used against both the HRCM and the Elections Commission earlier this year as “unusual” – said “a worrying trend has been for the supreme court to violate the separation of powers outlined in the 2008 constitution”.

Noting the likely abduction of 28-year-old journalist Rilwan had come after a series of attacks on the media in recent years, McGrath observed a “slide into authoritarianism and religious extremism” in the aftermath Nasheed’s departure from office in February 2012.

The senator’s comments regarding ISIS followed one week after UK Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Tobias Ellwood responded to a written question from Karen Lumley MP on the group’s potential activities in the Maldives.

“We are aware of the activity of ISIL sympathisers in the Maldives, and we will continue to engage with the Maldives government about the promotion of religious freedom and moderation,” Ellwood informed Lumley.

While up to four Maldivians are reported to have been killed fighting in the Syrian civil war this year, a family of four were reported to have migrated to ISIS held territory last week.

Up to 200 demonstrators marched through the capital Malé last month, brandishing the flag made famous by ISIS, calling for the full implementation of Shariah in the Indian-ocean archipalego.

McGrath yesterday expressed alarm at recent moves to subject the publication of poems and prose to government approval – a move he called “blatant censorship” – before concluding his speech.

“The world is watching you president Yameen. Be a true leader and let your people be free. Let them speak freely, let them be without fear of violence, let them have rights of association, let them talk right and join together as free peoples.”