The End of the Road for Democracy in the Maldives

Reference No: 108/10/2012
8 October 2012

The End of the Road for Democracy in the Maldives

“8th October 2012 will be remembered as the day that democracy died in the Maldives” stated MDP’s international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today. “The reality is it has been on life-support since February, but today the plug was pulled and the lights turned off”.

This morning, at 9.45am, 50 heavily armed masked police in full riot gear and wearing gas masks smashed down the door of a house where President Nasheed and his campaign team were staying and took him into custody. Although the police have confirmed that President Nasheed and his colleagues offered no resistance, the police still smashed the door, pepper sprayed the Nasheed’s cabinet ministers and the rest of the people present, and acted with extreme aggression.

President Nasheed was arrested while participating in an MDP campaign tour of the atolls. MDP has repeatedly made clear that the Government’s objective is to prevent President Nasheed from competing in upcoming presidential elections. They have already banned him from traveling outside of Male’ – a ban he rejected as politically-motivated before continuing with the pre-arranged campaign tour. These actions are in defiance of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which last week made clear that the leaders of all political parties must be allowed to travel and campaign freely in order for free and fair elections to be held.

He has now been arrested and will be returned to Male’ where he will stand trial at Hulhumale Magistrate Court, a small local court, and before a panel of judges hand-picked by the authorities. Neither the use of such a local court for a criminal trial nor the arbitrary selection of a panel of hand-picked judges is allowed under the 2008 Constitution.

Speaking after the arrest, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza stated that following the murder last week of MP Dr. Afrasheem and the arrest today of President Nasheed, as of now “either you are with us or with the enemy. There is no negotiation or middle ground”. The Government has repeatedly tried to tie last week’s murder to the MDP in order to provide a pretext for further political repression.

In a statement yesterday, the MDP said yesterday that the party was “deeply disturbed and worried” about the decision to arrest the party’s presidential candidate, “and produce him to a widely disputed court.”

“The MDP notes with grave concern the state proceeds to prosecute President Nasheed while the UNHRC, ICJ, CoNI report, the UN Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International, FIDH, other leading human rights groups and our bilateral partners have expressed deep concerns over the independence and competence of the Maldivian judiciary”.

“We are currently on presidential campaign trail by boats in the Southern atolls. This trip has been organized for months and immediately after the dates of the trip were announced, the courts decided to summon our candidate to a court that is unlawfully established. Leading experts and lawyers have questioned the legitimacy of this court”.

“This is not about justice. This is a politically motivated trial to invalidate our candidate’s candidacy and to deliberately disrupt the MDP’s presidential campaign. We are in the largest voting centers and it is very clear who will win the elections. They can only win the elections by invalidating his candidacy. We are deeply disturbed by the developing situation. We do not believe he will have a fair trial.”