South Asians for Human Rights, a regional network of human rights defenders is deeply concerned by the political crisis that has engulfed the Maldives following President Abdulla Yameen’s increasingly authoritarian and undemocratic actions.
On 1 February, the Supreme Court of Maldives overturned terrorism charges against nine dissidents including exiled former President Mohammed Nasheed, while also reinstating 12 opposition MPs who were stripped of their positions last year. But President Yameen ignored these rulings.
On 5 February, President Yameen declared a 15-day State of Emergency as a last ditch attempt to quell dissent and cling to power. In the hours that followed, the Maldives Army surrounded and sealed Parliament, while also storming the Supreme Court premises. The Yameen regime has thus far arrested former President Maumoon Gayoom, at least two opposition lawmakers, as well as Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed.
On 6 February, the three remaining Supreme Court Justices withdrew their ruling to release nine dissidents, amidst pressure and intimidation from President Yameen’s regime and security forces.
SAHR observes that President Yameen stands accused of multiple charges of corruption and human rights violations. He has been politically isolated, with public sentiment rapidly turning against him. Yameen’s actions have attacked two key pillars of liberal democracy; the parliament and the judiciary. These acts show blatant disregard for rule of law and have justly drawn both international criticism and local protests in Male.
SAHR calls on President Yameen to immediately establish rule of law according to the Maldives constitution. The President must release political prisoners and restore the independence of the judiciary. SAHR also asks that President Yameen lift the unwarranted State of Emergency, so as to guarantee the Maldivian people’s fundamental rights, including right to assembly and freedom of association.
SAHR also calls on the international community in general and SAARC governments in particular, to closely observe the situation in the Maldives. Governments must diplomatically intervene where necessary to ensure respect for human rights, and facilitate a peaceful and democratic resolution to the current political crisis.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights