Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2023, 15:20 GMT

Human Rights and Democracy Report 2017 - Republic of Maldives

Publisher United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Publication Date 16 July 2018
Cite as United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and Democracy Report 2017 - Republic of Maldives, 16 July 2018, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/5b9109b2a.html [accessed 17 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The human rights situation in Maldives continued to deteriorate throughout 2017, with the ongoing erosion of political and civic freedoms and an increase in the intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists.

There was an increase in violent threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and NGOs, in particular against those advocating for freedom of religion or belief. Human rights activist and blogger, Yameen Rasheed, was murdered in April, after receiving numerous online threats. The UK, EU and the UN OHCHR made statements condemning the murder and calling on the Government of Maldives to take action to defend the right of all people to express their views freely. In November, the police launched an investigation into another prominent human rights defender, Shahindha Ismail, after accusations that she was advocating for freedom of religion.

State authorities put independent media and civil society under sustained pressure. In the first actions taken under the 2016 Defamation and Freedom of Speech Act, an independent television station, Raajje TV, was repeatedly fined for allegedly defaming the president by broadcasting live coverage of speeches made at opposition rallies. Among other cases, the police summoned several Maldivian bloggers resident overseas and threatened them with trials in absentia if they failed to return to Maldives.

There was further evidence of a lack of judicial independence with cases brought against the opposition. In March, a vote of no-confidence in the Speaker of the Majlis was marked by irregularities and manipulation of due process. In July, the authorities shut down the Majlis and removed several opposition MPs attempting to vote on a further impeachment motion against the Speaker. The authorities subsequently stripped twelve parliamentarians of their seats. By-elections for those seats have yet to be held, in contravention of the constitution. The opposition subsequently boycotted the Majlis, but major pieces of legislation were nevertheless passed by the Majlis.

The police arrested leading opposition parliamentarians Gasim Ibrahim and Faris Maumoon on numerous charges, in April and July respectively. In August, a court sentenced Gasim Ibrahim to three years' imprisonment for bribery, despite procedural irregularities, while Faris Maumoon remained in prison on remand, awaiting trial. Other opposition parliamentarians also faced harassment, arrest and detention. The police raided opposition party offices. In May, the Supreme Court gave itself the authority to restrict parliament's powers to dismiss ministers, judges and other members of independent institutions, with all votes of no-confidence and impeachment proceedings subject to Supreme Court review.

Concerns over the politicisation of independent public bodies continued. In September, the Department of Judicial Administration suspended 56 lawyers for signing a letter to the Supreme Court calling for judicial reform. Some of the suspensions were subsequently lifted. In November, President Abdulla Yameen sacked the chair of the National Integrity Commission (NIC), which oversees law enforcement bodies, after he threatened to take action against the police for obstructing the NIC's investigations. In December, the Government of Maldives banned locally elected representatives from meeting representatives of international organisations and diplomats without central government permission.

In a positive development, significant efforts by the Government of Maldives to tackle modern slavery led the US State Department to remove Maldives from its Trafficking in Persons watch list. Traffickers were convicted under the Maldives' anti-trafficking law for the first time since Maldivian ratification (in September 2016) of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children.

The Government of Maldives has continued to state its intention to reintroduce the death penalty after a moratorium of more than 60 years, and it was reported that work on an execution facility has been completed. The then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, wrote to President Yameen in August to raise concerns and to encourage a continued moratorium. The UK opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle, and will continue to urge the Maldivian government to reverse its decision to reintroduce the death penalty.

The UK continued to fund civil society projects focusing on gender equality, human rights, and building civil society's election monitoring capacity. In February, the then Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Alok Sharma, met Maldivian Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, and reiterated the UK's concerns over a range of governance and human rights concerns in Maldives. In March, the UK expressed concern and called for transparent parliamentary procedures following the vote of no-confidence in the Speaker of the Majlis.

The Government of Maldives has announced a 'no child left behind' policy, and that the country is the first nation in the region to provide 12 years of compulsory education and 14 years of free schooling for all students. In 2017 the UNFPA's Thematic Analysis on Youth in the Maldives noted that there is gender parity in enrolment and completion of primary and secondary education. At tertiary level fewer than one percent of women who achieved an educational certificate go on to attain a bachelor's degree or above, and only 32% of women are in formal employment, compared with 68% of men.

In June, 35 countries signed a UK-sponsored Joint Statement on Maldives [41]at the UN HRC. The Statement drew attention to the increasing curtailment of freedom of expression and the growing intimidation and violence towards human rights defenders, including by those promoting violent extremism. It also stressed the importance of allowing legitimate political opposition and ensuring judicial independence. In October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution which criticised violations of human rights and actions contrary to democracy and the rule of law in Maldives.

In 2018, the UK government will continue to support human rights defenders, and will work with our international partners to press the Government of Maldives to restore democratic freedoms including free and fair presidential elections scheduled for 2018. The UK will continue through public and private messaging to make clear to the Government of Maldives our concerns over the erosion of democracy and human rights.


[41] UNHRC Joint Statement, 35 Session: Item 2 on June 7th 2017: To ensure independence of the Judiciary.

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