FIDH: The Maldives – the international community must immediately send observers to prevent further human rights violations

Press release:

The Maldives: the international community must immediately send observers to prevent further human rights violations

Paris/Bangkok, 27 August 2012. FIDH is extremely concerned about the risk of violence in the Maldives following the expected release on 30 August of a report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI). That Commission was established in May to determine the nature of the transition of power in February, which led to the so-called resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed. These events were followed by continuous unrest in the streets of Male’ and severe repression of demonstrations by State security forces. FIDH calls on the international community to immediately send observers to Male’ to prevent further deterioration of the human rights situation in the country.

The constitutional reform process that began in June 2004 led to the first democratic presidential elections in 2008, ending the 30-year-old rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Mohamed Nasheed (aka ‘Anni’) became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives.

On 7 February 2012, President Nasheed resigned following a police mutiny, and was replaced by a coalition government of opposition parties led by his former vice-President Mohamed Waheed. Following the so-called constitutional transfer of power described by some, including the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of Mohamed Nasheed, as a coup or involuntary transfer of power, reforms have stalled and are now in danger of deteriorating. At the same time, streets protests in favour of democracy have been severely repressed. President Waheed’s coalition ally, former President Gayoom, has publicly announced on 31st July his intention to disregard CoNI’s conclusions if the findings are “unfavourable”.

FIDH visited Male’ earlier this month, and was also able to witness the deterioration of media freedom in the Maldives in recent months. The influence of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the extreme polarisation of the media have been a cause of concern throughout the reform process, and since last February, the authorities have been accused of harassing pro-opposition media.

Last June, prominent blogger Hilath Rasheed was attacked by religious extremists for openly advocating freedom of religion. He narrowly survived after being stabbed in the neck and had to flee the Maldives. “FIDH found that the general public has little trust in public institutions, and that these institutions are seen as ineffective in breaking impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations. Authorities also have failed to investigate police violence impartially. Moreover, despite all the evidence available, the investigation of the attempted murder of human rights defender Hilath Rasheed has not progressed”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH president.

“Since last February, we have witnessed fast-increasing political violence in the Maldives, as well as the multiplication of arbitrary arrests, sexual harassment of female protestors and legal and physical harassment of opposition leaders, including murder attempts. In such a context, the wait-and-see approach adopted by the international community has become unsustainable and irresponsible”, she added.

“FIDH calls on the international community to send observers to Male’ at the occasion of the release of CoNI’s report. In addition, the Government of Maldives, in order to prove its readiness to promote and protect freedom of assembly, must immediately provide dates for a mission in the Maldives by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly”, concluded Souhayr Belhassen.