Maldives: Ex-UN chief urges world to act to restore rule of law and independence of state institutions

Former United Nations (UN) chief Kofi Annan on Friday urged the international community to take all measures necessary to ensure that the present crisis in the Maldives does not undermine free and fair elections tabled for later this year.

The Maldives has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on 1st February ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had declared a 15-day state of emergency after his last-ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed as the apex court rejected the government’s ‘legal and judicial’ concerns over the order.

The former UN secretary general in a statement expressed grave concern about the “undemocratic assault” on the institutions of the Maldives by president Yameen and his government.

“I condemn the disrespect of the Supreme Court’s rulings, as well as the intimidation that has been visited on individual judges. These acts undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” Annan said.

“The authority and independence of Parliament and the police force have also been subverted.” Annan also accused president Yameen of “abusing his power” to declare a “politically motivated” state of emergency.

Annan urged the Government of the Maldives to restore the rule of law by complying with the Supreme Court’s initial unanimous rulings, to release all political prisoners and lift the state of emergency.

Emphasis the independence of the state institutions, Annan noted that the international community must not stand idle but intervene to take all measures to reassure the population of the Maldives that the elections tabled later this year will be free and fair, for which strong independent institutions are essential.

He noted that the Maldives’ democracy, security and prosperity are at stake.

Since the emergency state was declared police have made a series of high profile arrests including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, two lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before the state of emergency was declared.

Following president Yameen’s accusations, police on Wednesday implicated Gayoom in a plot to overthrow the government by bribing the detained judges to issue the order to release political prisoners.

President Yameen meanwhile on Friday admitted it would be difficult for the rest of the world to understand his decision to reject the Supreme Court ruling.

Speaking during a ruling party rally on Friday, president Yameen reiterated that everyone including himself must obey Supreme Court rulings but insisted that if he had, the nation would have been plunged into further chaos.

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