Maldives to resettle two Gitmo inmates

Two inmates of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention camp that houses terror suspects will be transferred to the Maldives for resettlement, President Mohamed Nasheed has announced.

Addressing growing opposition to the move in his weekly radio address, President Nasheed said the resettlement of the two former prisoners would not “change anything or cause any loss to the country.”

“On the contrary, it will be good for the country,” he said. “[The country] will get a good name, honour and prestige. We will be noted as people who help in whatever capacity we can to help solve others’ problems.”

He added that not helping when the opportunity presented itself was, in his view, was not in keeping with either the constitution, Islam or the Maldivian national character.

“There are more than 150,000 expatriates living in our country. We are benefiting from their work. There is no danger in two more people coming to the Maldives,” he said, stressing that the government would not violate any laws in the process of transferring the inmates.

The religiously conservative Adhaalath Party yesterday clarified its position on the matter, noting on its new English-language website that “if the two men in question are Muslims who have been detained unjustly, providing assistance to them from a Muslim country is not a problem on Islamic grounds.”

However, “if they are terrorists who have committed crimes against humanity, then it is not wise to give them sanctuary in Maldives,” the party said, expressing concern about the government’s “ambiguity” on the subject.

Nasheed meanwhile urged the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) not to make the issue a politically divisive one, calling on opposition parties to take up complaints with the government.

“We will clear up what the DRP wants to know,” he offered.

The president thanked the leader and deputy leader of the DRP as it was the opposition party’s responsibility to hold the government accountable and offered to hold discussions on the subject.

On Tuesday, DRP MP Ali Waheed filed a motion without notice at the parliamentary national security committee to investigate the government’s decision.

“While we don’t even have a proper jail and the society is drowning in gang violence and crime, the Maldivian government has reached the point where they are forming agreements with another country and creating a legal framework to bring in people from the jail that has the world’s most dangerous terrorists and citizens aren’t aware of what’s happening. The People’s Majlis elected by the Maldivian people aren’t aware of it,” Ali Waheed told press on Tuesday.

Not confidential

Nasheed further said the issue has not been kept confidential by the government.

The president referred to his radio address on December 11 when he signaled that Gitmo prisoners cleared off terrorism charges could be transferred to the Maldives.

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

He said most of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were innocent people caught up in the war in Afghanistan, and that offering assistance to other nations in whatever capacity was “a national duty.”

On Friday, the president said it was “very clear” to the government that the Muslims detained in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were not terrorists.

A Maldivian citizen kept in Gitmo was released by the government, said Nasheed, and Maldives police have concluded that he was not a terrorist.

Meanwhile, Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed wrote on his blog last week that official correspondence showed the government was in the final stages of “resettling” prisoners.

The former legal reform minister wrote that diplomatic correspondence has been exchanged between the Maldivian government and the American Embassy in Colombo to agree upon guidelines for the release and monitoring of the former terror suspects.

He noted that following initial discussions between the two governments, the American embassy sent a three-page diplomatic notice to the Maldives Foreign Ministry in February.

According to the diplomatic note, once the Maldivian government presents written confirmation, it will be agreed that the government shall:

  1. Agree to resettle Gitmo prisoners escorted to the country by the US military
  2. Determine a date and time for arrival after discussions between the relevant officials
  3. If the Maldivian government wishes to relocate or transfer the prisoners to another country, it will be done only after discussions with the US government.
  4. Maintain correspondence on the process of resettlement.
  5. Conduct surveillance on the prisoners while they are in the country, including monitoring their phone calls, letters and other communications.
  6. Prevent them from leaving the country.
  7. Regularly meet them and see how they are settling.

On March 28, writes Nasheed, the foreign ministry asked for legal advice from the attorney general on instituting a legal mechanism for the transfer.

Nasheed also noted possible legal complications concerning the issuance of visas as the immigration laws specify that people ‘considered to’ belong to a terrorist organization or ‘believed to’ pose a danger to national security shall not be given visas.

While the parliamentary committee has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, Nasheed wrote that ministers would likely be summoned for questioning.

“If our beloved human rights-loving president so wishes, it would be much better for the country if he could implement even one recommendation of the Human Rights Commission,” he added.

DQP anger

Imad Solih, vice-president of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), had meanwhile announced the party’s intention to take the matter to court at last week’s “Red Notice” protest.

A statement on the party’s website claims that the President was not empowered to transfer “convicts such as those in Guantanamo by either the constitution or any law or regulation in the Maldives.”

“There is no reason that a small country like the Maldives with limited resources should accept such convicts when a country like America won’t accept them,” it continues.

“While any sense of security of person and property has been lost and people are being knifed in front of police officers, there is no doubt that bringing such serious criminals to the Maldives is only going to make expatriates working in the country as well as visiting tourists more unsettled.”

It adds that President Nasheed’s decision was going to turn the country “from a tourist paradise into a terrorist paradise.”

Moreover, the decision was motivated by the president’s “greed for a prize” as the government was “not making any effort” to repatriate the many Maldivians in foreign jails.

In addition to filing a case at court, the party will be submitting a bill to the next session of parliament on prohibiting the transfer of foreign convicts to the Maldives.

DQP will also communicate with the US State Department and the American embassy to “prevent this from happening”, the party said.

“The president was elected by the Maldivian people to fulfill duties specified in the constitution and the laws of the country,” it concludes, “Under no circumstances does the president have the power to violate the law to further his self-interest.”