MDP Condemns Government’s Unlawful Obstruction of Peaceful Anniversary Parade

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemns the Government’s unlawful obstruction of the parade organised to celebrate the Party’s 11th Anniversary. The MDP condemns the Police’s unnecessary harassment and intimidation of the participants.

The participants were obstructed at the starting point of the parade, and the Police barricaded off before the parade could begin. Just minutes before the scheduled start of the parade, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz was also taken in a police vehicle from outside his home, and kept for “questioning” until after the event. The Police used shields, barricades and passers-by were stopped and questioned.

Prior to the parade, the Government had taken to social media, with its MPs tweeting that “unlawful and violent political activity could not be allowed,” clearly indicating the Government’s intentions well ahead of the planned event.

The Maldivian Constitution, unequivocally states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly without prior permission of the State,” and the law on Freedom of Assembly states that everyone has the right to assembly on areas not marked as “green zones.”

The Maldivian Government uses several justifications for forcibly dispersing people at opposition gatherings; mainly citing public order. However, the law envisaged that the public would face difficulties and may temporarily suspend other rights when the right to assembly is exercised. However, as freedom of assembly is a fundamental right it cannot be withheld by State. The Law also states that it is the responsibility of the State to protect and facilitate all freedom of assembly events, within the ambit of the law. The MDP had also duly fulfilled all legal requirements for the event, such as giving notice, and informing the Police of the route/venue.

Meanwhile, the Government and the Government Party are permitted to hold public gatherings on the streets and at public venues.

Maldivian Government’s response to opposition gatherings has been a source of serious human rights violations over the last year. Opposition rallies and meetings have been met with police pepper-spray and arrests numerous times and last night’s events are only the latest example.

All attempts at conducting peaceful political activity by the opposition have been systematically impeded by the Government. Police are employed to obstruct demonstrations regardless of when and where, sound systems are confiscated before the rallies, local government authorities are employed to obstruct political activity in the islands, and the MDP have been systematically denied any public space in which to hold political rallies or meetings. In some instances, the Party has been told on the day of the event that the site is no longer available. The party’s attempts to advertise and announce its rallies and meetings are also obstructed, with the Police arresting whoever makes the announcements on the streets.

“Under international law, our own laws and democratic best practices, freedom of assembly is utmost. The Government’s clampdown on freedom of assembly, along with its muzzling of freedom of expression and censoring of all media, has ensured that basic freedoms and rights are more at peril, than ever before. We appeal to the international community to impress upon the Yameen regime that stifling of the people’s wills and voices would lead to an unsustainable and uncontrollable situation,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.