Human Rights Ambassador of the President’s Office “Sandhaanu” Ahmed Ibrahim Didi has accused Amnesty International of “fabricating stories about the human rights situation in the Maldives” and of releasing reports about the Maldives without conducting any studies or research.
The Human Rights Ambassador has previously held a press conference declaring that there “should be no opposition parties”, and that “I cannot believe, in fact, I do not at all want to believe, that there can be anyone with views opposing that of the government.
He has also labelled the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) an “unlawful organisation which commits terrorist activities and attempts to undermine the powers of the state”, and called for the Elections Commission to dissolve it, on the grounds that “they shouldn’t be allowed to exist.”
In a number of letters to the NGO obtained by Minivan News, the Human Rights Ambassador initially spoke highly of the international human rights NGO, crediting it for the freedoms of assembly and expression currently constitutionally guaranteed to the country’s citizens.
“All Maldivians, especially me, should be very thankful to Amnesty. They helped me immensely back when I was jailed. I must say that, if not for Amnesty, we might still be stuck in an extension of that long 30 year regime [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration]. Back then, we did not even have the rights guaranteed to a German frog. That’s right, even the German frog has won a court case which gave him the right to scream as loudly as he likes,” Ibrahim Didi said at a press briefing held on Wednesday.
“It was an initiative and pressure of Amnesty International that led to Maldives signing the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). When vocal youngsters on the street yell ‘baaghee’ [traitor] and vulgarities at me, I don’t say anything and instead smile at them because they are using a right that I guaranteed for them,” Ibrahim Didi said.
“But when these youthful protesters claim that the freedom of expression they use is a right they ensured for themselves, then they are simply wrong. I did it. I got those rights for us. It is I, who achieved the guarantee of these rights, who is now here is the Human Rights Ambassador,” Ibrahim Didi stated.
“Now, going back to the issue, although Amnesty was of great help, now they are being the exact opposite. Now they are acting wrongfully,” he said.
“Amnesty’s Abbas Faiz claims to have conducted studies, but actually they are righting these reports without having conducted any formal research or studies. They are causing so much trouble in the country,” the ambassador alleged.
“I am deeply saddened to utter such words against Amnesty, words which will doubtless upset them. However, this is my responsibility as the Human Rights Ambassador placed in the President’s Office. I have also twice written directly to Amnesty about these concerns,” he stated.
Ibrahim Didi did not clarify whether or not he had received responses to the letters sent to the international human rights civil society. He shared copies of the letters with the media, the first sent on October 30, 2012 titled “Ref: Police violence as ex-president is arrested on 8th October in Fares Mathoda” and the second sent on March 7, 2013 titled “Ref: Former President’s arrest ‘selective justice’ – Amnesty International.”
“Amnesty report extremely biased”
In a letter sent to the NGO regarding the first arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed to present him to court in October 2012, Ibrahim Didi called Amnesty’s statements regarding the issue “incorrect and extremely biased”, stating they were issued “blindly without any research.”
The letter then aims to explain why the detention of Nasheed was necessary, stating that it was in relation to the former President having “violated the country’s constitution several times”. The letter, however, only offered as example the contentious case of Nasheed’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, calling the detention “the most ruthless action ever conducted by the military against a citizen of the country in the known history”.
Ibrahim Didi also dismissed any allegations of executive involvement in the arrest of Nasheed, insisting that “the judiciary of the state operates independently.”
He then denied the allegations made in the Amnesty report, repeatedly stating that the NGO had “failed to conduct sufficient research”.
“When [Nasheed] was arrested and there was no confrontation between Nasheed’s supporters and the police. The ex-foreign Minister did not attack the police, for him to be kicked and pepper sprayed on his face as Amnesty’s report says. There was clearly no resistance displayed to use pepper spray in the whole operation. The whole operation was recorded on video and televised on local media,” he claimed in the letter.
“The source of Amnesty’s report was based on an eyewitness and without further investigation it was broadcast, tarnishing the Maldivian police integrity. Hence, we strongly urge Amnesty International to refrain from such exploitations without fully probing into facts as it leads to destruction of peace and harmony in the country.”
The Human Rights Ambassador, while dismissing allegations of police brutality, also offered justification for the police actions of February 8, 2012:
“We vehemently deny any accusation of police brutality during President Mohamed Waheed’s period (since February 2012) but on 8th February the police had to use force to disperse an aggressive Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters who were armed with long sticks and bricks in their hands to batter the police force. And we would also like to note that the police personnel and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel were extremely exhausted on that day while there was no proper command and control formed after Nasheed’s resignation on 7th February sparking chaos in the whole country.”
In conclusion, Ibrahim Didi wrote that Amnesty International seemed to be highly concerned of human rights violations during Gayyoom’s regime, adding “it appears Amnesty International is indirectly rejecting any process of legality as those allegations against Maumoon not being investigated yet.”
Amnesty International had at the time released a report titled “The Other Side of Paradise: A Human Rights Crisis in the Maldives”, chronicling human rights abuses in the country since the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.
Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed had responded to the report at the time, saying the NGO had failed to seek any comments from the government. He did not, however, appear to dispute the contents of the report.
“Sometimes excessive force is absolutely necessary”
In a more recent letter, Ibrahim Didi once again accuses Amnesty of bias, stating:
“We strongly deny that the filing a court case against Nasheed is a ‘selective justice’ being served here as Amnesty International suspects,” the letter read.
“Former President Gayyoom’s rule has been also investigated for three long years during Nasheed’s 3 year term,” Ibrahim Didi wrote. “Apart from the wages and office expenses a Singapore law firm was hired for 25 million US dollars.”
“So we regret to say that Amnesty’s comments come without any research as usual and the statements are biased, favouring MDP. It looks as it a MDP statement. If one is a little bit fair of the comments of the situation, they would blame on the burning properties, attacking of the peaceful pedestrians in their so-called peaceful demonstrations,” Ibrahim Didi alleged.
“Moreover MDP militant parliamentarians behaved inside the parliament house like thugs, destroying government properties and attacking security forces. They have played hooliganism before foreign dignitaries inside the chambers. In this civilized world no one could see such violent scenarios even in African subcontinent,” he continued.
Ibrahim Didi further stated that contrary to what MDP might say, their protests were not peaceful and hence “to stop this kind of violent protests, sometimes excessive force is absolutely necessary to minimize damages.”
He further labels MDP’s demonstrations as “illegal”, adding “If these demonstrations are legal and peaceful, we the whole Maldivians can come out and demonstrate at any time. Some can come out to demonstrate to hang Nasheed and his power clique for robbing the state wealth, shrinking our economy.”
Ibrahim Didi states that the trial against Nasheed is not the only charge against him, but rather “the beginning of a series”.
Stating that “we always believe Nasheed is a mentally ill person”, Ibrahim Didi lists out a number of accusations against the former President. Among these, he states that “Nasheed used state TV and Radio to propagate his party’s agenda” and that “MDP activists along with chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Nasheed’s right hand lady, Mariya Ahmed Didi had formed Kangaroo Court and conducted rulings on other citizens.”
Ibrahim Didi then refers to the controversial transfer of power of February 7, 2012, saying Nasheed was either “mentally ill” or “intoxicated and his brain was not functioning properly” on the day.
Ibrahim Didi stated that the Commission of National Inquiry’s findings and the HRCM report proves that Nasheed had resigned voluntarily and that “this is not a disputed resignation at all as Amnesty says.”
The Ambassador said that he “wonders why [Nasheed]’s foreign friends love him so much”, and stated he knew why the local ones did.
“They have altogether robbed the state wealth and sold government assets at cut rates and treasured them for future and now looking forward for some more. Now all these criminal are on the street, the drug addicts and the drunkards. Together they are trying to evade from the courts verdict. This has nothing to do with political instability in the country,” he accused.
“The country is not in a red alert situation here because of some paid street hooligans who shout on the roads and attack innocent civilians.”
Following the arrest of Nasheed earlier this month, Amnesty International stated the arrest an example of “selective justice”, which “highlights the failure of the Maldives authorities to investigate other serious human rights abuses in the country.”