HRCM repeats calls for clean water at special needs centre

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has asked the government to address problems in the water and sewerage system Guraidhoo’s Centre for People with Special Needs.

The directive calls upon the ministry to immediately introduce temporary facilities which will provide clean water for basic needs, and requests detailed plans for dealing with the facility’s water and sewerage problems by October 19.

The centre, in Kaafu atoll, is the only facility for Maldivians suffering from mental disabilities and currently falls under the remit of the Ministry of Law and Gender.

The commission states that the government has failed to take action despite repeated appeals from the HRCM over the past 5 years.

Today’s directive was released based on observations made by a team from the commission which visited the centre on September 16.

The HRCM revealed in a statement that tests conducted on the water used for sanitation purposes in the centre showed a high presence of e-coli bacteria, in contravention of World Health Organisation (WHO) approved standards.

Doctors who joined the observation team suggested that using the water could lead to diarrhoea, skin diseases, and urine infections among other ailments.

The statement further noted that medical records from the centre showed a large number of patients were already suffering from skin diseases.

The HRCM stated that it had been repeatedly calling on the government to solve the issues regarding the water supply of since 2009. A report released that year stated that approximately MVR9,000 (US$583) was spent each week on purchasing bottled water for drinking purposes alone.

While Tuesday’s statement calls on the government to provide clean drinking water, it does not specify whether the centre was continuing to supply mineral water to residents.

The commission also conducted tests on the water in 2011, after complaints it had a foul smell. Three of four samples taken from the centre proved to be below WHO approval standards.

Minister of State for Law and Gender Dr Hala Hameed was not responding to calls at the time of press, while an official of the Ministry of Law and Gender who requested to be unnamed declined from commenting on the matter.

The Ministry of Law and Gender has the mandate to oversee all government functions related to families, children, women, people with special needs, and human rights.

The Malé Water and Sewerage Company last year signed an agreement with Kandooma resort to provide a 30 tonne water plant to nearby Guraidhoo as part of a MVR1.5 million (US$97,600) investment.


Torture in detention increasing, says Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) 2013 annual report has revealed that incidents of torture in detention are increasing in the Maldives.

Among the issues noted during the commission’s visits to places of detention – in particular, prisons and police detention centers – and from the cases submitted to the commission were:

  • Detainees being held in cuffs for 24 hours – sometimes for 15 – 30 day – with removal only for using the toilet and for eating
  • Detainees not being provided with necessary items for cleaning themselves, or with pillows and blankets for sleeping
  • Overcrowding of cells
  • Police officers cursing and hurting detainees inside vehicles during transfer
  • Serving of rotten food
  • Not keeping proper records of detainees including medical, search, and solitary confinement records.
  • Not providing family meetings and phone calls
  • Police not providing details of arrested people to HRCM
  • Police entering homes without a court order
  • Addressing underage detainees inappropriately

According to the report, out of the a total 596 recommendations regarding state detention facilities made by the HRCM – including prisons, detention centers and homes for people with special need – only twenty percent have been fully implemented.

The report also noted that the commission faced “huge obstacles” in conducting investigations, resulting in delays the completion of research.

These obstacles included the failure of relevant institutions to provide documents, delays of state institutions in implementing commission recommendations, and the refusal of some government ministries to meet with the commission.


With forty cases initiated by the commission, a total of 719 cases were received in the year 2013 – of which 218 were completed. With pending cases from 2000 -2012, the commission completed investigations for total 352 cases within the year.

The rising incidence of torture was reflected in the number of cases submitted,and a total of 72 cases of degrading treatment and torture were submitted within the year.

Among them were cases submitted by victims and their families stating that they were tortured during the police custodial department detention during investigations. Detainees also submitted cases of being denied parole, the detention of persons released under the ‘second chance’ program, and the implementation of sentences which contravened court verdicts.

The highest number of cases – 134 – were submitted regarding the right to a good standard of health care; 77 case related to the right to fair administrative action; 86 cases concerned children, the elderly, and persons with special needs; and 90 cases submitted regarding labour rights violations.


“Citizens had many concerns about the condition of the judiciary in 2013 as well,” read the report, which reported the slow speed at which cases are attended to by the courts and the failure to take action against judges accused of misconduct.

In the report, the HRCM called on the Judicial Services Commission to increase and strengthen it’s role in reforming the judiciary, and for the People’s Majlis to pass important laws such as the penal code, and the criminal procedure and evidence bill.

The HRCM is currently working on an assessment of the Maldives human rights obligations in the judicial sector – with the financial assistance from UNDP – to ensure the judicial system in the Maldives is independent, just, and accessible.

The report mentioned, however, that courts had refused cooperate with the commission’s monitoring programme as the commission “did not get the cooperation of the Supreme Court”.

Freedom of assembly and MP’s behaviour

Notable achievements listed in the report were the passing of a number of bills such as the prisons and parole bill, the anti human trafficking bill, anti-torture bill, access to information bill, the sexual offences bill, the political parties bill, and the freedom of assembly bill.

Regarding the controversial Freedom of Assembly Act, the commission stated that “citizens were relieved” when it was passed and enforced, and that the legislation aimed to minimise restriction of the rights guaranteed by the constitution.

The bill had been criticised prior to its ratification, with local NGOs stating that it impinged upon a number of fundamental constitutional rights and “significantly challenges the entire democratic system of governance”.

The bill was also criticised by the the Maldives Journalists’ AssociationForum Asia – a regional human rights organisation -and the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives. The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) argued that it was a reactive measure against the MDP-led anti-government protests calling for an early presidential election.

The “irresponsible acts” of parliament members throughout the year – including violence within the Majlis premises and demonstrations during 2013 presidential address, were mentioned as an issue of concern. Another issue raised regarding MPs was the proposal of amendments to laws in order to “protect personal interests”.

Other prominent issues concerned the large number of child abuse cases,  including sexual abuse and use of children in crimes, along with an increased incidence of rape and other crimes against women.

Violation of the rights of migrant worker, including non-payment of wages, the withholding of their personal documents, and reports of inhumane abuse by their employers and the public was also noted.

The HRCM Annual Report 2013 can be downloaded here.


Juvenile Court postpones order to summon HRCM members

The Juvenile Court has postponed an order summoning all members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) to discuss their alleged misleading of the public over the court’s work.

An official from the Juvenile Court has today confirmed to local media that it has now asked all members to produce themselves to the court next Monday (March 17) at 9:30am.

The official told local newspapers that the decision was made in compliance with the commission’s request made due to three members being out of town and the other two also unable to attend.

The Juvenile Court has previously sent letters to the commission on two occasions asking them to discuss a report made regarding a 15 year old minor charged for fornication in 2012.

The court has claimed the report contained misleading information that gave a “negative impression” of the court’s conduct. The report was also said to contain statements that could be considered as attempts to influence the court’s work.

In a matter relating to criticism of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has this week said that the maintenance of the respect and the positive reputation of the courts was a constitutional responsibility of all state authorities.

Following the HRCM members’ failure to comply with the court requests last Sunday (March 9), the court issued the summons for today.

The report in question came during the trial of a 15 year-old girl who had given birth to a baby which was later discovered buried in the outdoor bathroom at her residence. Her stepfather was subsequently charged with sexual abuse of a child and committing premeditated murder.

The 15 year-old was convicted of premarital sex at the Juvenile Court on February 26 and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest  after confessing to fornication with another man.

The Attorney General’s Office appealed the case on March 27 last year following appeals from international human rights advocacy organisations and, which launched an online petition that gained over two million signatures.

On August 21, 2013, the High Court decided to overturn the minor’s sentence after she denied having confessed to consensual sex with an unknown partner during the Juvenile Court trial.  Authorities have previously said the minor had confessed to having consensual sex during a separate investigation into her abuse.

According to Islamic Fiqh scholars, a confession of fornication can be retracted before the resulting sentence is carried out in full, the High Court statement added.

It was further noted by the court that there were discrepancies in the statement given by the girl to the Juvenile Court. The High Court concluded that the minor – found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – was unable to correctly define pre-marital sex according to the law.

The High Court argued that its verdict had been based on evidence that the girl was “unfit for trial” during investigations into her alleged abuse and the subsequent Juvenile Court hearings.

The court said that the minor had provided her original statement in the capacity of a victim and not a suspect, and that authorities had therefore not given her the fundamental rights legally required of a suspect in a crime.


Government and civil society highlight work needed to safeguard human rights

State institutions have both celebrated the current progress in the protection of human rights in the Maldives, as well as expressing concern about certain violations and restrictions in the field.

A series have statements accompanied the 63rd International Human Rights Day – December 10.

With this year’s Human Rights Day aligning with the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM)’s 10th Anniversary, the independent commission held an event on Tuesday night, attended by several cabinet ministers, alongside political and civil society actors.

“It is crucial to overcome obstacles in the protection of rights guaranteed to Maldivians through the constitution and the international treaties, and for all institutions to work justly and equitably to reach this goal,” said HRCM President Mariyam Azra at the event.

Furthermore, in a statement released on Tuesday, the HRCM president stated that while the commission is pleased that human rights has become a topic openly and often discussed over the past decade, there still remains much work that needs to be done in the country to adequately protect human rights.

“What leads to the violation of rights is the lack of respect for rights. The abuse of rights committed by those in high positions oftentimes as a show of power most often affects the most vulnerable persons who are already in need of special protection. That is to say, people who are sidelined by society itself,” the statement read.

While there are state institutions mandated to protect citizens from harm and to bring perpetrators to justice, Azra commented, “as it is humans working in these institutions, a culture of treating others in a manner you would wish yourselves to be treated needs to be better established”.

She also noted that, when intervening in the case of a 15 year old rape victim being charged with fornication and sentenced to 100 lashes by flogging, the commission realised the importance of interventions even at the court proceedings stage.

“When after we intervened, the High Court overruled the Juvenile Court’s sentence on the child, we realised the importance of intervention even at the stages of court hearings. Therefore, we have now planned to conduct further work in the field after seeking cooperation from the judiciary,” she revealed.

“President Yameen has an unwavering commitment to establish a consolidated democracy”

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon stated that the Maldives has given “greater impetus and focus to strengthening our systems and institutions to better safeguard human rights and fundamental liberties” since former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom began the introduction of democratic governance in the country in 2004.

While acknowledging that much work needs to be done to safeguard human rights in the country, Dunya stated, “I am pleased to reiterate the unwavering commitment of His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to continue the country’s journey, with greater vigour and determination, to its destination of a consolidated democracy.

She asserted that the government will focus on completing its human rights treaty reporting obligations and reducing the gaps that exist within the framework, among other related work.

She further spoke on the Maldives’ role in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), emphasising among other points that the country had “always pledged to defend the Constitution, to strengthen our judiciary and independent institutions and to uphold the rule of law”.

“We have not minced our words in our calls to protect the rights of all Muslims around the world. We have stood up against Islamaphobia and risen to build the fallen bridges of tolerance and respect,” the statement read.

The minister pledged to continue the work through the country’s membership in the UNHRC and at the local level.

State must take initiative to provide justice to those who suffered HR violations: MDN

Local Human Rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) commended the current stability in the country, maintaining that it is the result of having an elected government in place after a politically turbulent period.

Thanking the Elections Commission for its work to defend the right to vote and the losing candidate Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Mohamed Nasheed and his supporters for their ready acceptance of electoral defeat, the NGO called on security forces and the general public to ensure that the stability in the country is maintained as a peaceful one by refraining from committing acts of violence or injustice against any persons.

“This organisation believes that it is a responsibility of the government to take the initiative to ensure justice for all those who have suffered different manners of abuse and HR violations in these past days,” the statement read.

“It is crucial that state institutions act in accordance with the recommendations put forth by the Commission of National Inquiry,the HRCM and the Police Integrity Commission after concluding investigations into the events of February 7 and 8, 2012. This will be the most important and initial step towards establishing justice,” it continued.

“It is also important to learn of the injustices against separate persons being committed by the judicial, political and social sectors currently, and to ascertain that they proceed in a just manner. We call on the government and concerned state authorities to ensure this.”


Leaked HRCM report questions Supreme Court’s election annulment

A leaked Human Rights Commission (HRCM) report obtained by Minivan News has questioned the credibility of the evidence used by the Supreme Court to annul the first round of presidential polls held on September 7.

It also says that the apex court does not have the authority to delineate guidelines for a re-vote.

The document suggests that the 16 guidelines compromise the independence of the Elections Commission (EC) by involving various state institutions and candidates in the conducting, managing, and facilitating of the elections.

A member of the HRCM has confirmed that the organization carried out an analysis of the Supreme Court verdict, but declined to comment on the report’s authenticity.

The court annulled the September 7 polls, claiming 5641 cases of fraudulent votes – a number that could have altered the election result due to the 2677 vote margin between the second and third placed candidates.

However, the HRCM’s analysis of the 5641 cases show only 1033 votes could be considered irregular.

“The commission does not believe this is a number than can affect the elections results,” the report stated.

The document also noted the Supreme Court is tasked with administration of justice and the People’s Majlis with law making powers, and as such the Supreme Court did not have the authority to compile guidelines on electoral conduct.

“We note that the Supreme Court’s guidelines include obligations that are not present in General Elections Act (No 11/2008) and Presidential Elections Act (No 12/2008) and we believe the Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction [to issue new obligations],” the report said.

The police halted the Supreme Court ordered re-vote on October 19, saying they would not support the election after the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) had refused to approve the voter registry.

Irregular votes

The four judges making the majority decision contended that 5641 irregular votes were cast. According to the verdict, these included:

  • 773 people with discrepancies in their national identification numbers
  • 18 dead people
  • 7 minors
  • 225 people without national identification numbers
  • Three people who voted twice
  • 2830 people with discrepancies in their addresses
  • 952 people with discrepancies in their names
  • 7 people who were not registered in the Department of National Registration’s (DNR) database
  • 819 people whose national identification numbers had been written down incorrectly by elections officials at the time of voting

In the HRCM’s analysis, only 1033 of the 5641 votes could be considered irregular – a figure which addressed:

  • The seven people whose names were added to the voter registry by pen may have been to ensure an eligible voter was given the right to vote despite not being on the voter registry
  • 3 repeated votes for which the report said it was unclear how many times these people voted and hence, incomplete information should not be used in a verdict
  • 2830 address mismatches: “We do not believe address mismatches can influence the result of this election as this is not constituency specific,” the report said and noted that such information should be used in a verdict only if the individual has used this mismatch to violate another’s right to vote or used the information for undue benefit
  • 952 name mismatches which may have been used to ensure that an eligible voter is not disenfranchised, especially if the voter is given the right to vote when all other information and picture on the identity card matches the person who comes to vote
  • 819 people whose national identification numbers had been written down wrong by elections officials at the time of voting: this may be a human errors and can be crosschecked at the time of voting

The report states that the remaining 1033 cases of irregular votes does not change the outcome of the election.

In contrast to majority four judges, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Judge Abdulla Areef found only 473 instances of irregular votes. The two judges said the amount was not enough to invalidate entire election. In case of fraudulent votes, only the result in a specific geographic location can be annulled, not the entire election, the judges said.

The two judges also argued jurisdiction in the matter lies with the High Court, not the Supreme Court.


The HRCM report noted that the Supreme Court guidelines included obligations that are not included in the election laws.

These include obtaining candidate’s signatures on the voter registry, obtaining candidate’s approval for all elections officials active in the polling booths on polling day, and the prohibition on the use of files, phones, handbags or any item that may infringe upon a candidate’s rights.

The EC may find it difficult to implement the guidelines, as they do not state what the commission must do in the event candidates refuse to vet elections officials or sign the registry, the report said.

“Further, the prohibition on the use of phones and files inside the polling booth obstructs the duties of observers, candidate’s representatives and monitors as per article 41, 42 and 43 of the General Elections Act,” the report said.

The Supreme Court also ordered the EC to ensure, along with “relevant authorities” that acts which violate this guideline do not take place. However, the HRCM report notes that the relevant authorities are not defined and hence, “it is not clear what various state institution’s roles are in elections and may create additional issues.”

The HRCM report appears to foreshadow the difficulties the EC was to face in conducting the poll on October 19. On the eve of elections, the PPM and JP refused to sign the voter registry demanding that the EC verify a sample of fingerprinted re-registration forms.

The EC said it did not have the capacity or time to crosscheck fingerprints.

With the PPM and JP refusing to approve the voter registry, the police – mandated by the court to oversee security of ballot papers and boxes – refused to transport materials to polling stations. An hour before polls opened, the police stopped EC officials from leaving the commission’s headquarters with any documents relating to the vote.

The commission yesterday released a statement arguing that the police’s blocking of the vote contravened the constitution, the Police Act, and the Elections Act.

The EC also accused the police of obstructing vote, questioning their mandate to do so. The guidelines only ask police to oversee security of ballot boxes in transit, the EC said.

“The Supreme Court 16 guidelines delineated in the verdict are restrictions. These are locks, blocks. With those locks, it will be very difficult for us to hold elections,” EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has said in an interview to Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC).

“But if we could hold an election according to the constitution, elections laws and presidential elections laws, we will be able to hold a free election.”

After cancellation of polls on Saturday, the government, following international pressure appealed again for an early election date. The EC set a new presidential poll date for November 9, and if necessary a second round on November 16.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Thowfeek has said he hopes the government finds a solution to the Supreme Court’s restrictions in the future.

“Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy,” Thowfeek said. Further, failure of candidates or any other state institution to do what they must to should not affect the citizenry’s right to vote, he added.


Death threats force Elections Commission to seek police assistance

Ongoing death threats received by the Elections Commission (EC)’s permanent staff and polling station officials have prompted the commission to file a report with the Maldives Police Service (MPS) today.

A lack of state cooperation prevented the commission from holding a “free and fair [presidential election] vote without intimidation, aggression, undue influence or corruption” on September 28 as constitutionally-mandated, the (EC) announced on Friday night, shortly before it was surrounded by a police barricade.

Lack of police support, “some political parties” threatening to set ballot boxes on fire, and death threats made against Elections Commission members, staff, and officials involved in the voting process were highlighted as reasons for postponing the second round run-off, which would otherwise have taken place yesterday.

Special Operations police surrounded the EC secretariat on Friday, with orders from Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to take over the building and ballot papers should it proceed with holding the election.

In addition to the MPS stating it would not cooperate with the EC and ceasing to providing security requested by the commission for the second round, police prevented EC staff and visitors from entering the secretariat on Friday. However, staff were later allowed to return after a series of phone calls between Riyaz and EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek.

As of Thursday, the EC insisted that it was constitutionally mandated to hold the runoff within 21 days of the first round, in spite of an order from the Supreme Court to suspend the election indefinitely. This prompted Assistant Commissioner of Police Hassan Habeeb to call the Elections Commission Chair on Thursday night (September 26) and warn that police would not allow the election to take place.

Death threats continue

“It’s not just myself and my family, but Elections Commission staff, including most directors and even some heads of ballot boxes and other polling station staff who have received threatening messages that they and their families will be killed,” Elections Commission Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News today.

“They are very much scared about the situation. Some are even afraid to come out of their homes. It’s very sad,” Thowfeek lamented.

“I hope we will be safe, we have been trying to follow the constitution,” he said.

Thowfeek said the EC had sent a report to the MPS detailing the threats, phone numbers the messages were sent from, and other relevant information.

He noted that the EC was still considering whether to send an official letter to the Telecommunications Authority regarding the death threats “because we are waiting for action to be taken through the MPS, since they have the authority to investigate.”

The following SMS was sent to EC and polling station officials yesterday:

“What you did to rig the vote near ballot boxes will be exposed. YOU resign. Or else even your family will be killed. Allah Akbar we are with the religion.”

On Thursday senior Election’s Commission staff received the following message around 6:00pm:

“We will kill anyone who allies with Fuwad Thowfeek against the Supreme Court order and the Maldivian constitution and continues with voting activities. Allah Akbar.”

Additionally, during an interview Minivan News conducted with Thowfeek last week, he noted that “some of us are getting threats from unknown people. I have received SMS messages saying ‘be careful when you come out on the street, you’ll be stabbed in the stomach’.”

Only the EC’s human resource section and other section heads of the commission have a list of all election officials and temporary staff, explained Thowfeek.

The commission had provided the four political party presidential candidate representatives with a list of all elections officials, including polling station staff, but that list did not include their phone or ID card numbers, he noted.

Police integrity

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) called for the police to provide any assistance the EC requires to go ahead with the second round.

Earlier this month the PIC determined Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz violated the Police Act by posting a letter on Twitter urging police officers not to vote for former President Mohamed Nasheed and recommended administrative action be taken against the police chief.

Minivan News enquired with the PIC whether Commissioner Riyaz would be able to impartially issue orders to prevent the EC from conducting election preparations and holding the second round runoff, or whether the MPS – under his leadership – would be able to impartially investigate the death threats EC staff have been receiving.

PIC Director General Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef told Minivan News today that she needed to consult with their legal department and would reply as soon as possible. She had not responded at time of press.

Elections Commission secure

Police meanwhile remained outside the Elections Commission until yesterday (Saturday) evening, guarding the secretariat and patrolling the road, noted Thowfeek.

“It was our request to have the police in front of the security room, on the ground floor [of the secretariat], and surrounding the building so nobody could enter from behind. They are keeping full security of the building for the protection of the commission and our own safety,” said Thowfeek.

The Elections Commission confirmed there was “no danger” its data could be tampered with because it remained “fully protected” and is being “closely monitored”.

The commission’s server was intentionally shut down on Friday night to prevent anyone from accessing data through a “remote medium”, explained Thowfeek.

Additionally, beginning Friday night, the EC established a rotational schedule to ensure staff are present in the EC’s secretariat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, “so there is no chance an outsider can get in” and tamper with any materials or data, he continued.

“Our own staff are present in the IT, security, and records section rooms – the most important places are constantly monitored,” said Thowfeek.

Police “misunderstanding”

Thowfeek also explained the “misunderstanding” between the MPS and the EC that led Special Operations police to surround the secretariat and prevent staff or visitors from entering, with orders from Police Commissioner Riyaz to take over the commission and arrest staff who disobeyed the Supreme Court order to halt presidential election preparations.

After a Raajje TV journalist called to enquire about the situation, Thowfeek explained to the reporter that “even staff and visitors were not allowed” to enter the EC.

This led Police Commissioner Riyaz to contact Thowfeek and explain that police were sent to protect the commission against any “angry people” trying to enter the EC and harm its staff, according to the EC Chair.

Riyaz also instructed Thowfeek “not to listen to stories from different people about the situation”.

Thowfeek then sent the EC’s Secretary General and Director General downstairs to confirm what was occurring. The commission’s IT and coordination section directors had been prevented from entering the building and police informed the Secretary General that visitors would not be allowed to enter on Saturday either.

The EC Chair again contacted Riyaz and explained that the action being taken by the special operations police differed from what the Police Commissioner had said the MPS officers would do.

Fifteen minutes later, Elections Commission staff with proper identification were allowed into the building and the commission was informed that invited visitors would be permitted to enter as well.

Minivan News had journalists present inside and outside the EC secretariat building throughout the events and did not observe protesters present at the time Special Operations police surrounded the building.

International observer visits

EC officials had previously planned to meet the British High Commissioner in the commission’s secretariat on Saturday, however after the EC’s Secretary General was informed by police Friday night they would not be able to hold the meeting in the commission, it was relocated to the High Commissioner’s hotel, explained Thowfeek.

“The British High Commissioner was here during the first round and commended our work,” said Thowfeek. “He came to see the second round and was disappointed when he found out it had been stopped.”

“He hoped for a quick solution and wished us [the EC] well,” he added.

A team of Nigerian election observers also arrived on Friday and were “very much disappointed” polling did not take place, explained Thowfeek. However, because they “made such a long trip” the EC has still been working with the West African observers and providing information about the electoral process.

The Danish Ambassador and the Commonwealth [observation group] Chair met with EC officials Friday, noted Thowfeek.

“We have had no news from any other [international election] observers,” he added.

Election not possible before November 11, says EC

Holding the second round – or another first round – of the presidential election will now “not be possible before November 11 within existing elections laws”, Thowfeek told Minivan News.

While the EC usually requires 60 days of preparation time for the whole process, “even if we don’t waste a single minute” 45 days will still be required before another presidential election can take place, he continued.

“We have to update the voter list, gazette it, receive complaints and input from the public regarding the list, see who will be present where on that date and allow them to re-register accordingly, add just-turned 18 year-olds and remove anyone who has died during the [voter registry updating] process, etc,” he noted.

Thowfeek explained that general and presidential elections law mandates specific periods of time are given for each step of the election preparation process, for example the voter registry must be published in the government gazette 45 days before polling, 10 days are given to submit complaints, and five days are provided to file cases of unaddressed complaints with the High Court.

“If special laws are made, then maybe it will be possible,” said Thowfeek.

“[Timetables within] the existing laws have to be rescheduled and another set of laws passed [before the November 11 constitutional election deadline],” he elaborated. “The other difficulty is that the Majlis is currently in recess. They may reconvene next week, but any law [passed] has to be ratified by the president.”

“We have just 42 days left before [the end of the presidential term on] November 11, so time is limited,” he added.

The date for the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Jumhooree Party’s case against the Elections Commission remained unscheduled at time of press.

HRCM and civil society support for elections

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has called on the Supreme Court and state institutions to ensure that Maldivians not be stripped of the right to vote, guaranteed by constitutional article 26 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to ensure that there would be an elections within the duration stated in the constitution.

HRCM also called on everyone not to pave way for unrest and to hasten all work that had to be done to uphold the constitution.

The commission also called on the EC to solve all the issues with the voters’ registration.

HRCM further called on the authorities to take legal action against those to pose death threats and threats of violence and also called on everyone to give high priority to national interest.

Yesterday Transparency Maldives appealed to all actors “especially the Supreme Court, to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and electoral deadlines and respect people’s electoral choice.”

The NGO expressed its “concern over the delay of the second round of elections and rising tensions as Transparency Maldives did not receive any reports that suggest systematic fraud in its nationwide observation and no credible evidence that supports such allegations has been made public.”

Transparency Maldives, the HRCM and the Maldivian Democracy Network observed the first round and praised the EC’s free and fair electoral process.

Global election support

Global condemnation followed the Supreme Court’s issuing of the injunction, with the UK, EU, and the Commonwealth specifically calling for the run-off to go ahead as scheduled.

International election observers unanimously commended the first round of polling, calling for losing parties to accept defeat and allow the second round to proceed as scheduled.

The Commonwealth’s human rights and democracy arm has since “expressed concern at developments” in the Maldives following the first round of elections.

Business as usual

The Election’s Commission is meanwhile “going ahead” with preparations for the upcoming local council and parliamentary elections.

“We are doing the work for local council elections to take place in December [2013], said Thowfeek.

“[Additionally] last night we issued one draft document for constituencies. According to the law, eight months before the existing term of Parliament expires, we have to check the population figures from various localities and [based on the data] create a report on how constituencies should be formed for the next election,” explained Thowfeek.

Currently there are 77 seats in the People’s Majlis, however 85 seats will be needed, he added.

The Parliamentary election is scheduled to take place on March 2014.


Women’s rights group protest against impunity of Civil Service Commission President following sexual harassment allegations

Local NGO Voice of Women (VoW) held a protest outside the Maldivian Civil Service Commission (CSC) on Friday (March 28) to oppose the return CSC President Mohamed Fahmy, after the Supreme Court dismissed parliamentary findings in a sexual harassment matter and permitted him to return to work.

Fahmy returned to work on March 17 following a Supreme Court ruling three days earlier, stating that Fahmy’s removal from his position by parliament was unconstitutional. According to the judgment, Fahmy was to be reinstated and compensated for lost wages since December 2012.

The 6-1 majority opinion of the Supreme Court bench held that Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee violated due process and criminal justice procedures in its sexual harassment inquiry, and that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament – double jeopardy).

The group of a dozen vocal protesters marched in the rain from parliament to the CSC, where they waited with placards for Fahmy to emerge. Some of these messages read: “sos save the csc from Fahmy,” “zero tolerance for sexual harassment,” “supreme court wake up,” “no more excuses, no more abuses,” “my body my rights,” “the workplace should be safe and free from oppression.”

VoW President Haifa Naeem explained to Minivan News that sexual harassment in the workplace is an endemic issue and that “victims are being re-victimised by the state”. VoW is urging parliament to fast track the sexual harassment bill.

“Once Fahmy’s integrity was lost, he should not be at the CSC. We are standing here with enough evidence that he has been sexually harassing people,” stated Naeem.

“Most women are afraid to come out because they are not protect by law or the state, but we are behind them,” she said.

VoW founding member Dr Abdul Malik echoed these sentiments.

“Systems are not in place to give necessary protection if women come out and voice these kinds of incidents,” Malik stated.

“We will back the victims to the extent civil society can, but its the responsibility of the state, judiciary and law makers who can do something, do more,” he added.

It is important to recognize what’s happening “all around” the government and throughout the nation, VoW Treasurer Aminath Saeed told Minivan News.


The CSC employee who filed the complaint against Fahmy, Shahuma ‘Shahu’ Haleem, spoke with Minivan News about her experience.

“He’s been doing this for quite some time now. This was the first thing I heard when I came to office, but I never thought he was ever going to touch me.

She explained that whenever she hears her friends talking about being sexually harassed she urges them to “speak up”.

“They are afraid of being fired, because he’s the ultimate boss [of the civil service]. Anyone cannot come out here today and do this. I can be fired and still survive, but not many people have that option,” Haleem stated.

Haleem explained that she filed complaints with parliament, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights. She claims the Gender Ministry did not even call her back.

The HRCM claimed that they had not received enough evidence to prove whether or not Fahmy had harassed the employee. In late November 2012, parliament dismissed Fahmy in a 38-32 vote after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated the complaint.

“Women are getting the wrong message, that some people are in fact untouchable,” stated Haleem.

“It’s been proven over again that he has lied and has in fact done it, but then the [Supreme] court rules in favor of him,” she added.

Government employee reactions

An long-term government employee in the crowd who asked not to be identified said workplace sexual harassment was a systemic problem throughout every government institution.

“That kind of harassment is totally accepted throughout our society. It has been tolerated for a long time and has become part of the Maldivian culture. People think that it is bound to happen when men and women are together,” she said.

“It’s because of the way women are perceived in society. We are see more as sexual objects, our productive role is less prominent, but our reproductive role is more [valued].

“Today’s protest is an important milestone because it has sparked debate. Even if you only see a few people here it speaks a lot for a country that has been suppressed for a long time. It is very brave for Shahu to bring this issue out into the open,” she added.

Other employees, both from the CSC and various government ministries, also spoke to Minivan News as they passed through the protest while leaving work.

Many said they do not know much about the issue, Fahmy or the allegations against him.

Others claimed sexual harassment “is a pretty big issue, but no one talks about it”.

A Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture employee said he was aware of rumors that a lot of women faced sexual harassment and said he supported their cause.

“I also want women’s rights, but by protesting like this nothing will happen,” one woman declared.

A CSC employee told Minivan News that sexual harassment is a “problem” but said that “women are weak”.

“People don’t believe it is happening. They need to be more aware. Even in Shahu’s case most people didn’t find it a big deal,” another woman stated.

“People have to go to extreme lengths to show it’s actually sexual harassment,” she added.


Finance Ministry causes “crisis situation” for Care Society NGO

Lack of government support has caused a “crisis situation” for Care Society, the only institution providing schooling for a diversity of special needs individuals of any age and type of disability.

The Care Society was given a government-owned building in Male’s Heniveru neighborhood with a five-year lease agreement under former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government. The NGO has said it has been seeking a 20-year lease extension from President Waheed Hassan Manik’s government, to no avail.

The lease extension is necessary to secure private funds to rebuild the structure and expand services, but the Care Society has not received a definitive response from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, despite the Ministry of Housing and Environment granting their approval, Care Society Director Shidhatha Shareef told Minivan News.

“Currently the Care Society works from a private residence donated by a Saudi Prince, but our lease is up at the end of May and we might have to shut down because we have no place to go. It will be a real loss for the children,” stated Shidhatha.

“We have not received any response from the government. The Housing Ministry approved the 20-year lease extension for the new building in writing, but the Finance Ministry has final approval and they still have not provided a definite response. We just want a yes or no answer.”

Shidhatha explained the Care Society has been seeking a “sustainable long term premises” since 2006 and has spent the last four years continually talking to and meeting with government officials. In addition to the Housing and Finance Ministries, they have been in contact with the President’s Office, Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), and the National Disability Council.

“When we spoke to Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad about approving the lease extension he said he would ‘work on it’. Additionally, the Vice President Waheed Deen visited the premises and ‘expressed concern’ because the building is so old.

“Meanwhile, the engineers we’ve spoken to said the structure will have to be rebuilt, even the walls are not worth reusing. Care Society has a number of private investors interested in developing the building, however they are not willing to invest if the lease term expires in 2015.

“Ultimately, the government has an obligation to facilitate the process. They are mandated by the constitution and Disability Act to provide educational services to the disabled,” said Shidhatha.

Care Society has been working for the rights of the disabled for 14 years and established the Care Development Centre in 2001, a ‘special school’ for special needs individuals with all sorts of disabilities, including down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, physical disabilities, as well as the hearing and vision impaired.

This school provides services for any age, ranging from early intervention programs for one year-olds all the way to elderly individuals.

“Care Society runs the only school that caters to a diversity of special needs disorders and any age group,” Shidhatha explained.

“We work with 600 children and people with disabilities regularly, our school currently has 43 students and another 20 children on the waiting list, however we lack the space to accommodate them at this time,” she added.

Currently there are two government schools, Jamaluddin which only caters to the hearing impaired and Imaduddin which offers classes for the intellectually impaired. The problem is their age limitations, as once students exceed age 18 they are sent out of the school, Shidhatha said.

Additionally, the handful of other NGOs working with the disabled persons in the Maldives only address one type of disability or limit their target group age, Shidhatha added.

Care Society’s objectives include promoting rights of disabled people, rights of children and women, capacity building of CBOs and NGOs and assisting victims of natural disasters.

“Responsibility for ensuring disabled rights first falls on government”: Waheed

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) began a “National Inquiry on Access to Education for Children with Disabilities” in January 2013.

The study was launched in November 2012 to “look into the practices, policies and laws related to the education for children with disabilities. HRCM will also inquire into the States role in providing for people with disabilities in a non-discriminatory manner, with a special focus on the educational needs of children with disabilities”.

According to the most recent study on the disabled conducted by the HRCM in 2010, there are 2250 children with disabilities in the Maldives that are registered with the government, while only 230 of these children attend school. Overall, 14,100 persons, about 4.7 percent of the population, were found to have permanent disabilities.

In July 2012, the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights and the national Disability Council conferred the Disability Award 2012 to “individuals and organizations working for the rights of the disabled”.

Care Society received an award, which was presented by President Waheed.

Waheed “noted that the responsibility of ensuring the rights of the disabled first falls on the government, and assured that the government was always carrying out that responsibility as best as possible.”

Recent studies by the HRCM – primarily a women’s rights study and children’s participation study – found that lack of access to services were the primary issues discussed by the disabled.

Inadequate special needs schools for children and facilities within existing schools for them, as well as education and mental health service opportunities are of particular concern.

The Finance Ministry, President’s Office, and Housing Ministry were not responding to calls at the time of press.


PPM leaks details of HRCM investigation into February 7

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which is headed former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has leaked the report composed by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) into the police mutiny and controversial transfer of power that led to ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Details from the report were leaked by PPM interim Deputy Leader Umar Naseer at a press conference yesterday. The report itself has not been released to the public.

However, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has raised concerns that, contrary to claims in local media, it had not yet received a copy of the findings from the HRCM that were detailed by the PPM. The now opposition party has claimed it is presently awaiting a copy of the report to be sent by the People’s Majlis following a written request.

HRCM’s report claimed that Nasheed gave “unlawful orders” to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and police officers at the Artificial Beach area on the evening of February 6, during a confrontation between then-opposition protesters and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstrators.

According to Umar Naseer,  the HRCM report stated that the MNDF and police officers at the Artificial Beach area were “unlawfully” ordered to leave the area, which led to a breakdown in command and control of the security forces.

Consequently, citizens were injured and huge damage was caused to the state, Naseer stated, citing the report.

The HRCM report said the order of Nasheed to leave the area violated article 245 of the constitution, by obstructing security forces from fulfilling their lawful duties.

The report also stated that there was no chain of command inside Republican Square that night, but that some individual officers obeyed Nasheed’s orders and a group of MNDF officers attempted to arrest police gathered in the square.

“A confrontation occurred between security forces and citizens, and officers of the security forces were severely injured,” HRCM reportedly claimed.

The report concluded saying that the investigation did not find that Nasheed’s life was in danger that day while he was inside MNDF headquarters, or that anyone tried to kill Nasheed, Naseer claimed.

Umar Naseer told the press that the HRCM’s report was “very true” and thanked the commission for “revealing the truth”.

On February 7, Former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned after several elements within police and MNDF officers joined a then-opposition protest and demanded his resignation.

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today told Minivan News that despite having received a report from the HRCM “late last night” regarding an investigation into the events occurring on February 8, it had not been given findings concerning the events leading up to the power transfer.

“We have a situation where the MDP, as a stakeholder in this process, has not received a copy of this report,” he said. “We have been made aware that a copy has been sent to the Majlis and we also have the PPM talking about this.”

Ghafoor claimed that it was “very important” for the party to be updated on the HRCM’s findings to address what he alleged were “blatant lies” spoken by Umar Naseer.

“We also have concern about the legal implications here. Independent institutions and their findings are playing a key part in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) investigation,” he said.

Ghafoor added that parliament had since responded to a request by the MDP that was made late yesterday for a copy of the HRCM report leaked by Naseer.

HRCM President Mariyam Azra was not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.