Maldives: EU delegation arrives on Monday to observe country’s political situation

A European Union (EU) delegation, including some members of the European Parliament, is set to arrive in the Maldives on Monday for a two-day visit to observe the country’s political situation.

The delegation will meet with the leaders of the ruling coalition as well as the opposition alliance to discuss the current political situation and the upcoming presidential election slated for 2018.

This will be the first visit from an EU delegation since the European Parliament adopted the Resolution No.RC-B8-0549/2017 on the Maldives on 5 October.

The resolution submitted by the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The European Parliament noted that the human rights situation in the Maldives had deteriorated dramatically since the country’s first democratic elections in 2008 and since its first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, was ousted in 2012.

It further noted that political and civil freedoms had been eroded, opposition leaders have been arbitrarily arrested, the media have been attacked, and growing religious conservatism is blamed for a decline in religious freedom and tolerance as President Abdulla Yameen, former leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives, and his government seeks to tighten their grip on power.

The resolution expressed “deep regret at the deteriorating political and human rights situation in the Maldives and the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Abdulla Yameen and his government, which has created a climate of fear and jeopardised the gains made in the country in recent years in the areas of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, particularly in the light of the elections to be held in 2018.”

The resolution condemned the passing of the Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act, in 2016 which seeks to clamp down on freedom of expression, and restrict the right of assembly and the European Parliament called on the Government of the Maldives to bring all national laws into line with international human rights law, and to repeal or reform the aforementioned acts.

It deplored the crackdown on political opponents and called on the government “to drop all charges against former president Mohamed Nasheed and to release, immediately and unconditionally, all those being held for political reasons, including Jumhoory Party leader Qasim Ibrahim.” The resolution reminded the government of “its international obligations to respect fundamental freedoms and rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which include minimum fair trial guarantees.”

Calling on the government to ensure the full independence and impartiality of the judiciary and to guarantee all citizens the right to fair and transparent justice free of political influence, the resolution called on the Supreme Court of the Maldives to “immediately revoke the suspension of those of the 56 lawyers suspended in September 2017 to whom the measure still applies.”
The resolution called on the Government of the Maldives “to respect and fully support the right to protest, freedom of expression, association and assembly, and freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and belief, irrespective of the majority religion.”

The European Parliament also called on the Government of the Maldives to end impunity for vigilantes who have used violence against people promoting religious tolerance, peaceful protesters, critical media and civil society.

It also deplored the forcible closure of the Maldivian Majlis to its members and the harassment, intimidation and arrest of elected members of parliament. It also condemned what it calls the continued intimidation of and threats against journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders in the Maldives, the arrests of reporters, and the raids on and forced closures of news organizations.

President Abdulla Yameen led Maldives government was quick to reject the resolution, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a statement accusing the EU of basing its motion on “false information.” However, the government had maintained that it would engage with the EU in a “collaborative and constructive manner in the consolidation of democracy in the Maldives.”

Shyamal Bikash Chakma

Shyamal Bikash Chakma is Public Editor of The aPolitical and a PhD candidate in Development Studies at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and recipient of the Felix Scholarship 2017.
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