Is it too late to save the Maldives from climate change and Islamic extremism?: UK Independent

“Three years ago, thanks to its enterprising president, the Maldives was leading a global climate change response,” writes Simon Usborne for the UK’s Independent newspaper.

“Now, that president is out of office, living under armed guard, and watching his country wilt under the threat of extremism and rising sea levels.”

“What went wrong? How did a fêted president once compared to Nelson Mandela go from Cameron’s guestlist to a safehouse in Malé, and what does it mean for his country’s perilous position in the race to slow down climate change?

To answer these questions, I came to meet the former president as well as journalists and activists who warn that politics and religious extremism are not only threatening democracy and lives here but, as one editor puts it, ‘forcing the environmental issue on to the fossil-fuelled back burner’.”

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US “deeply concerned” about legal actions potentially delaying Maldives’ October 19 election

New voters and voters who wish to vote from a location other than their home island must submit the NEW fingerprint re-registration form by 4:30pm Saturday October 12, in line with Thursday night’s Supreme Court ruling. People who re-registered prior to the Sept 7 election will need to complete the process again, or may be unable to vote. Fingerprint forms submitted on Oct 9-10 will still be valid.

Forms are available at all island council offices, Addu City Council departments, party offices, diplomatic missions and at In Malé forms will be accepted at the Elections Commission’s registration center on Handhuvaree Hingun.

Check your registration by SMSing 1414 ‘VIS ID#’, call the hotline on the same number, or visit

The US has said it is “deeply concerned” about continued legal actions “that could further delay the Maldivian presidential election”.

The Supreme Court opened at midnight on Thursday in response to a petition from the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), and ordered the Elections Commission to redo the entire voter re-registration process, despite previously ordering polls to be held before October 20.

Earlier in same day the PPM had sought to file another petition to bar former President Mohamed Nasheed from the polls on the grounds of him being “irreligious” and critical of the judiciary, although this appeared to stall following dissent within the party.

“It is important that the [election] go forward unimpeded in a fair, inclusive and transparent way,” said Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, Marie Harf, in a statement.

“The basis of any democracy is for citizens to choose their government, for political differences to be decided at the ballot box in an environment free of violence and for election results to be respected,” the statement read.

“We continue to urge a peaceful political process that is inclusive of all candidates in order to ensure the Maldivian election that will meet international standards of an elected, legitimate democracy,” it concluded.

The statement followed UK Foreign Secretary William Hague’s urging of presidential candidates “to act in line with the interests of the people of Maldives”.

“It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections be free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited,” the Foreign Secretary said.

“Cynical attempt to delay election”: MDP

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile begun the task of re-registering tens of thousands of voters, in line with the Supreme Court order. Re-registration is required for new voters or people wishing to vote at a location other than their home island, with almost 65,000 people re-registering in the annulled first round – almost 30 percent of the voter turnout.

At the same time the MDP condemned Thursday’s ruling, warning that it risked further delaying the elections.

“The MDP is extremely concerned that the Supreme Court is interfering in the electoral process for political reasons, issuing unconstitutional rulings and acting with impunity,” said the MDP in a statement.

“The MDP fears that the PPM is seeking to delay the elections and also disenfranchise overseas and resort-based voters, who will now likely have to re-register and who tend to vote overwhelmingly in favour of President Nasheed,” the party stated.

“This is a cynical attempt by the PPM and the Supreme Court to prevent elections from taking place next week,” said the party’s spokesperson, MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“The PPM is running scared of the voters because they know they will lose a free and fair election., and the Supreme Court is facilitating the subversion of the democratic process.”

The party reaffirmed its confidence in the embattled Elections Commission, and called on security forces and the international community to ensure the Commission’s protection.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan meanwhile told Minivan News last night that he believed the Supreme Court’s latest order would mean additional delays to the voting, currently scheduled for October 19.


President obtains 1,500 signatures for independent candidacy, coalition claims “things going to plan”

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has obtained the 1,500 signatures required to register himself as an independent candidate in the upcoming election, his ‘forward with the nation’ coalition has said.

Amidst the possibility of his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) facing dissolution for not having the 10,000 members required to officially register a political entity in the Maldives, President Waheed this week announced his intention to stand for election as an independent candidate.

The incumbent will stand as an independent alongside his running mate, MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – leader of the government aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).

Candidates unaffiliated with a political party are required to submit signatures of at least 1,500 supporters with their official application to stand in the upcoming presidential election, according to local media.

In order to meet this total, President Waheed held a signing ceremony at the presidential residence of Hilaaleege in Male’ on Wednesday (July 17) evening.

Minivan News observed an estimated 200 people present at the ceremony by around 10:00pm, where the president’s family members and news reporters were seen mingling with supporters.  The signing event concluded at midnight.

In a statement released Thursday ( July 18 ), the ‘Forward with the nation coalition’ claimed it had seen an “overwhelming response” from the public to sign the petition backing President Waheed’s candidacy, with over 500 people attending the ceremony during the course of Wednesday evening.

“While we have already exceeded the legal minimum we will continue to sign up supporters in the coming days,” the statement said.

Minivan News understands that President Waheed also conducted a door to door campaign to obtain signatures for his candidacy, with the coalition anticipating similar event will continue into next week.  An exact number of signatories was not received at time of press.

President’s Waheed’s coalition until last week consisted of several government-aligned parties; including the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), the DRP and his own GIP.

However, the DQP yesterday announced it would be following the AP in leaving the president’s coalition to back the campaign of resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim instead.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom has said the defection of both the AP and the DQP from the ‘Forward with the nation coalition’ “did not change the game at all” in terms of its strategy to secure the election during a second round of voting.

A second round will be held between the top two candidates during polls scheduled for September 7 should either fail to secure at least 51 percent of the vote.

“We know that the 2013 election will require a second round of voting and that all candidates wish to be in the grand final. We are optimistic that we will be in this final,” he said.

Mausoom has previously claimed that the DRP – both as an individual party, and later as members of President Waheed’s coalition – remained the main alternative viewpoint for voters disenfranchised by the “polarised views” of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) or the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Dr Mausoom added that even with the defection of the Adhaalath and the DQP, President Waheed still presented a coalition of people rather than individual parties, with more “political figures” expected to come out and back him before voting commences later this year.

He therefore said the coalition was confident it would still appeal to voters as alternative to MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nashhed and the PPM, led by former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The MDP and PPM presently represent the country’s two largest parties in terms of parliamentary representation.

While anticipating “moments” in the run up to the presidential election where political figures – either out of financial or ideological reasons – would switch to rival candidates and parties, Mausoom said it would ultimately be the general public who decided on the next president. He argued that Dr Waheed’s record as president following last year’s controversial transfer of power would therefore be recognised by voters during polling.

“President Waheed has done a wonderful job of keeping the government together and shown what a great leader he is,” Dr Mausoom said. “Things are going to plan and we are confident during the second round [of voting] that the people will opt for [the coalition].”

However, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today rejected claims that the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition would receive sufficient support to see President Waheed elected to office.

MDP MP and Spokesperson claimed that the majority of voters would opt to reject President Waheed as a candidate owing to the controversial transfer of power that brought him to power and the conduct of his coalition government since.  The MDP has continued to allege that former President Nasheed’s government was ended prematurely by a “coup d’eat” on February 7, 2012 following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

“The bottom line is people will vote overwhelmingly against the coup. It is regrettable [President Waheed] is still hanging on,” he said. “Pretender Waheed has already cost the state upwards of a billion US dollars since the coup.”

Meanwhile, the PPM announced this week that no formal decision had yet been taken on whether to retract its support for the coalition government, despite growing “complaints” from its members over the conduct of President Waheed.

MP Ahmed Nihan today told Minivan News that both the PPM’s senior leadership and ordinary members held significant “concerns” over the conduct of President Waheed in the build up to this year’s presidential election, with the party accusing the incumbent and his supporters of unfair campaigning.

The PPM is the largest party in terms of MP numbers presently serving within the coalition government backing President Waheed.


President Waheed and running mate Thasmeen to contest elections as “independent pair”

President Dr Mohamed Waheed and his running mate Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali will be competing in the September’s presidential election as independent candidates.

Waheed announced today (July 16) his intention to officially register with the Elections Commission (EC) as an independent candidate, despite heading the Gaumee Ithihad Party (GIP) and leading the ‘Forward with the Nation’ coalition.

The coalition backing Waheed’s and Thasmeen’s bid for election in September currently includes the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), in addition to the GIP. However, several key members of DQP have since defected to the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), while DRP leader Thasmeen was recently taken to court by a series of creditors.

Waheed told local media during a press conference held in the President’s Office today that he would be contesting the election as an independent candidate, since “certain parties” have questioned GIP’s legitimacy and the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the dissolution of political parties with less than 10,000 members.

“If I decide to compete as a party candidate before the matter is decided [by the Supreme Court], it will be questioned. There are people trying to bar me from competing. I will not be the one to get caught in that trap,” said Waheed.

Candidates unaffiliated with a political party are required to submit signatures of at least 1,500 supporters with their official candidacy application, according to local media.

“So I intend to take the form and go on the streets. I will visit houses, carrying the form, during the next two days and ask those who wish to see me remain in this post for another term to sign,” Waheed explained.

Investigations are currently underway into 46 cases of fraudulent political party enlistment filed by the EC, as well as another case individually lodged, Police Chief Inspector Abdulla Shatheeh told local media. Some of the people signed up to the party were alleged to already by deceased at the time of their registration.

The fraudulent political party forms are said to include 15 people signed to President Waheed’s GIP, five from his DRP running mate Thasmeen, and 27 from prominent businessman and MP Ahmed Siyam’s Maldives Democratic Alliance (MDA).

The Maldives Police Service has recently said it is experiencing “difficulties” investigating the 47 cases of fraudulent enlistment, with “no way” to hold the respective political parties accountable.

“No other legal way”

“Now Waheed is working as a coalition president, however the Constitution doesn’t allow a coalition president to be nominated or contest as a presidential candidate,” ‘Forward with the Nation’ Coalition Spokesperson Abdul Rasheed Nafiz told Minivan News today.

“There are two options; President Waheed has to apply through a political party or as an independent candidate,” said Nafiz. “There is no other legal way to become a presidential candidate.”

“Now because he is in a coalition with other parties – which work as one under the brand name ‘Forward with the Nation’ – he doesn’t want to say he’s president of GIP only,” he continued.

“In that case, he would have to use the GIP logo on campaign materials, etc, so this was the only solution,” he added.

Nafiz noted that Waheed had mentioned his intention to run as an independent candidate “a long time ago” and that his coalition partnerships would not be negatively affected by the decision.

“The strongest part of the coalition is Dr Waheed, and the coalition partners remain with us and public support is also the same as before,” said Nafiz.

“There is no problem even though Adhaalath has left the coalition, as they [are still] part of the government. They have said that although their leader has decided to leave [the coalition] they will support President Waheed as a candidate,” he added.

Earlier this week the Adhaalath Party (AP) withdrew from ‘Forward with the Nation’, a day after the party slammed Waheed for telling the AFP newswire that the party had “extremist” individuals. The party left the coalition citing “mysterious events” as well as the coalition’s prospective inability to succeed in “saving the nation” from former President Mohamed Nasheed’s “sacrilegious actions”, AP President Sheikh Imran Abdullah told local media at the time.

Waheed will be conducting his social policy launch on Thulusdhoo Island in Kaafu Atoll tonight, noted Nafiz. He has also announced the coalition’s health, education, and youth policies.

“As the ruling coalition, they have shown they have the capacity to rule the country with opposition parties,” said Nafiz. “Waheed has proved that he has brought peace, order and done good work to improve the economy.”

Meanwhile, DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that Waheed’s running mate will also be registering as an independent candidate.

“Of course Thasmeen is the leader of DRP, but in the presidential campaign he will be running as an independent,” said Mausoom.

“There is no slot to represent DRP because he is Waheed’s running mate. They are an independent pair,” he continued.

Mausoom noted that although Waheed made the announcement today, the decision was made previously and that there is “no change at all” between DRP’s relationship with the coalition.

“It not a surprise at all, this was discussed,” said Mausoom. “The coalition leaders have an agreement.”

“This is how the coalition wanted to go, it’s the way it is and it’s the right way forward,” he continued.

“It is a coalition of political parties and individual people,” he added.

“The DRP coalition with Dr Waheed will give people an alternative vote, an opportunity other than [former President Maumoon Gayoom’s] 30 years or [former President Mohamed Nasheed’s] three years,” he declared.

Eailer this week EC announced it will open the opportunity for presidential candidates to formally file their candidacy at the commission to contest in the presidential elections, from July 22 until July 24.

The Adhaalath Party President Sheik Imran was not responding to calls at time of press.


“Appalling state of women’s rights” threatens Maldives’ reputation as honeymoon destination: Independent

[UK Prime Minister] David Cameron faces calls to intervene in the case of a 15-year-old female rape victim sentenced to 100 lashes in the Maldives as new figures showed the appalling state of women’s rights in the Commonwealth country, writes Jane Merrick for the UK’s Independent newspaper.

British couples are being asked to avoid the Maldives as a honeymoon destination to force the country’s government to overturn the conviction of the girl, who was given the draconian sentence after being raped by her stepfather.

Many of the 500,000 tourists who holiday on the “paradise” islands every year are unaware of the country’s appalling record on women’s rights, with not one single conviction for rape in the past three years.

The Maldivian government’s own figures show that 90 per cent of people sentenced to flogging are female, while one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 have suffered physical or sexual abuse over the past five years.

A new poll of Maldivians for the global campaign group Avaaz reveals that 92 per cent of people think laws to protect girls and women from sexual assault should be reformed, while 79 per cent think current systems are not adequate or fair. The Asia Research partners poll also reveals that 73 per cent think punishments for sexual crimes are unfair to women, while 62 per cent want a reintroduction of the moratorium on flogging.

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“People should be free to determine their own destiny”: Foreign Minister

People should be free to determine their own destiny, new Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla said in a statement to mark Commonwealth Day.

“2012 marks the Maldives’ 30th year as a member of the Commonwealth, a landmark that represents our continued desire to share our own unique culture, and to work with the Commonwealth to promote its values: democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law and opportunity for all,” Dr Samad said.

“By recognising that culture is important, we place a value on freedom. That is, people should be free to determine their own destiny. While culture is valuable in itself, the meeting of cultures
is equally important. Connecting cultures fosters education and respect for difference, while at the same time encouraging recognition of the bonds and similarities that exist between our

Dr Samad said that despite its geographic isolation, “the Maldives continues to accelerate its engagement with the Commonwealth and the international community. Last year it successfully hosted the SAARC summit and continues to punch above its weight in the international arena.”

“Connecting cultures embodies all that the Commonwealth holds important. Politically, the Maldives is evolving and striving to achieve the values and principles of the Commonwealth,” he added.

The Commonwealth recently suspended the Maldives from its human rights and democracy arm, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), calling for both an independent, internationally-assisted inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the change of government on February 7, and a commitment to early elections before the end of the year.


“Mandela of the Maldives” forced out by police mutiny: Independent

President Mohamed Nasheed was been forced to step down after weeks of opposition protests culminated in a mutiny by police, reports Andrew Buncombe for the UK’s Independent newspaper.

“Supporters of the President said he was the victim of what amounted to a coup.

The former political prisoner who some nicknamed the “Mandela of the Maldives” announced his resignation during a live television broadcast yesterday, saying he would rather stand down than use force against his own citizens. Foreign tourists who flock to the nation’s luxury resorts were not believed to be in any danger.

“I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power. I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens,” he said. “I resign because I believe that if the government continues to stay in power, it is very likely that we may face foreign influences.”

The British-educated, former journalist was the first democratically elected leader of the Muslim Indian Ocean nation of more than 1,200 islands. But his opponents had recently been holding daily demonstrations and seized on the President’s decision to arrest and detain a judge – accusing him of acting undemocratically.

Among the protesters were members of the police force and yesterday they gathered outside the military headquarters where Mr Nasheed was seeking refuge, in the capital, Male. The mutinying police set fire to an office of Mr Nasheed’s party and seized control of the state broadcaster.

Soldiers fired tear gas at the police and demonstrators who besieged the military facilities, many of then chanting the name of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the former President who served for 30 years and whom Mr Nasheed beat in a 2008 election. A number of reports have suggested the military persuaded Mr Nasheed to step down.

Last night, the country’s Vice-President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, was sworn into office. It is expected he will oversee a coalition administration until elections are held.

Mr Nasheed was apparently in protective custody, something disputed by his brother, who told the BBC he was being held against his will.

Mr Nasheed could not be contacted. But a source close to the former President told The Independent that police had taken control of all television and radio stations and that officials who worked for Mr Nasheed were not being allowed to leave. “It’s a coup. Elements of the former regime brought down the country’s first democratically elected President,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.

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Nasheed vows “independent and fair judiciary” before end of first term, in leaked audio

An audio clip of President Mohamed Nasheed vowing to ensure a fair judiciary before the 2013 presidential election has been leaked to local media.

The audio was reportedly one of several recorded during a meeting with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

“Freedom of expression and an independent and fair judiciary in this country – I will not go for the election after these five years without doing these two things,” Nasheed is heard to say.

He added that according to Home Minister Hassan Afeef, “the entire criminal justice system of this country is being destroyed because of a single judge.”

Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, who was detained on January 16 by the MNDF after he sought a High Court injunction to prevent a police summons, “will not retain his place on the bench under this government even if he is released [from Girifushi].”

“I will tell the army very clearly that [Abdulla Mohamed] will not get closer than 100 meters to the courthouse,” Nasheed said.

In another leaked clip, Nasheed argues that judges were not appointed lawfully and their verdicts and judgments were therefore suspect.

Several local media outlets reported Nasheed’s comments as a threat from the President not to hold elections unless the judiciary was reformed.

President Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair was not responding to calls at time of press.

“The opposition is twisting what the President said,” responded a source in the President’s Office. “He was promising to reform the judiciary before the conclusion of his first term in office – he has no intention of calling off any elections.”

The Maldives is currently in the throes of a judicial crisis, after Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed scuttled an investigation by the judicial watchdog into his alleged misconduct by applying for a Civil Court injunction to halt the process. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) yesterday argued in parliament that it had no option but to obey the ruling of a body it was tasked with overseeing.

That investigation concerned politically bias comments made on DhiTV, which an unreleased JSC report states violated the judge’s Code of Conduct.

The government has presented a bevy of allegations against the judge, listing 14 cases of obstruction of police duty including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts, “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, barring media from corruption trials, ordering the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintaining “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.

The judge also released a murder suspect “in the name of holding ministers accountable”, who went on to kill another victim.

Earlier allegations, forwarded to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2005 by then Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, included allegations of misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused.

In one instance, Dr Saeed told Gayoom, the Chief Judge made two underage victims of sexual assault act out the assault “in the presence of the perpetrator and the rest of the court.”

The judge remains in detention and the government is appealing to the international community for independent and authoritative legal assistance to resolve the impasse and reform the judiciary. Meanwhile, opposition supporters have held two weeks of nightly protests calling for the judge’s release.

No organisation has yet stepped forward, however a UN spokesperson from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights over the weekend encouraged the government to “release the judge from custody or charge him with a crime.”

The matter has also been raised in the UK Parliament’s House of Commons by Conservative Party MP for Salisbury, John Glen.

“Although the judiciary is constitutionally independent, sitting judges are underqualified, often corrupt and hostile to the democratically elected regime,” Glen stated.

Leader of the House of Commons, George Young, responded that Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alistair Burt, was “in touch with the Maldives President to see whether we can resolve the impasse. The high commission in Colombo is also engaged. We want to help the Maldives to make progress towards democratic reform in the direction that John Glen outlines.”


Vice President meets Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa during UN General Assembly

Vice President Dr Mohammed Waheed Hassan has paid a courtesy call on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Vice President’s Office later refuted reports that Dr Waheed discussed the Sri Lankan human rights situation with Rajapaksa during the meeting, following media reports quoting Sri Lankan officials to the contrary.

Haveeru on Tuesday quoted a senior Sri Lankan official as saying that during a meeting between Rajapaksa and the Vice President, Dr Waheed “assured that he will be supporting Sri Lanka’s stance on the human rights issue.”

The Vice President’s office later claimed the meeting was a courtesy call during which Dr Waheed said it was refreshing to  hear the Sri Lankan President talk about trade unions and north-south cooperation in his speech [to the UN], and that there was “no mention of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka is currently conducting an internal investigation of these allegations, which refer to acts of violence committed by both government and rebel forces in the final phases of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have rejected Sri Lanka’s investigation on the grounds that its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) does not meet international standards.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has reported that human rights groups found the commission flawed because “its members were appointed by the government, it has no real mandate to investigate war crimes in the last stages of the conflict, lacks any mechanism to protect witnesses and falls short of minimum international standards of a commission of inquiry.”

The Sri Lankan government has denied committing any offenses. The Maldivian government said it supports Sri Lanka’s wish to solve internal issues without external involvement.

Today, the Maldives President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair issued a statement expressing support for the Tamil people.

“The President of the Maldives would like to express his good wishes to all Tamil people. The Tamil people have always been like brothers to Maldivians. The President would like to see peace and harmony in our region and has expressed his desire for all people to live peacefully together.”

Human Rights Watch recently applauded the Maldives as one of the seven most important countries on the UN Human Rights Council. It expressed puzzled concern, however, over the Maldives’ “regrettable” support of Sri Lanka at this time.

“The Maldives should revisit its approach on Sri Lanka in order to bring it in line with its otherwise principled approach to human rights at the Council,” said the report.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said he did not wish to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has appointed a panel to advise him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka, reports the BBC. The Sri Lankan government rejected the panel, however, and said it would not issue visas to UN panel members visiting Sri Lanka.

The UN Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) today said they are urging Sri Lanka “to ensure there is a genuine accountability process to address the serious violations believed to have been committed during the last months of the  war in Sri Lanka.”  The OHCHR is waiting to see how member states take action on the issue, “but, of course, the United Nations hopes Maldives – like other UN members – will encourage Sri Lanka to address this important issue.”

Late last week, President Mohamed Nasheed met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Disanayaka Mudiyanselage Jayaratne regarding the upcoming South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, due to be held in Addu City in November. The heads of state also discussed ways to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The SAARC summit could afford the Maldives an opportunity to promote human rights in south asia, a region that is reportedly slower than others to adopt international human rights standards.

The Maldives recently became the 118th member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a close partner of the UN.

“As a chair of the SAARC summit, Maldives will have quite an influence on South Asian countries attending this year’s event,” she said previously. “It will certainly be constructive in reviewing human rights, a key point we plan to address at the summit.”

Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Asia-Pacific Coordinator for the ICC’s advocacy NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), called the Maldives’ accession to the Rome Statute a significant step for human rights in south asia.

She noted that Sri Lanka is “a long way” from membership at the ICC.

ICC membership requires the Maldives to uphold ICC standards and rulings. “The Maldives cannot do anything if the ICC decides to investigate and put into trial the perpetrators of crimes in Sri Lanka,” said Balais-Serrano. “If suspected criminals from Sri Lanka seek refuge in the territory of the Maldives, as a state party to the ICC, the government is obliged to cooperate with the Court by arresting  the criminals.”

Sri Lanka’s findings are due for release on November 15.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect a clarification from the Vice President’s Office that human rights were not discussed at the meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.