Maldives: Government announces the Maldivian Democracy Network’s official dissolution

20/12/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
MDV 001 / 1219 / OBS 111
NGO closure /
Obstacle to freedom of association
Maldives
December 20, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Maldives.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) of the government’s announcement of MDN’s official dissolution.

According to the information received, on December 19, 2019, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment announced that MDN had been officially dissolved, after a period of 45 days, which had been given to MDN to settle all its assets and bank accounts.

MDN’s dissolution was initially announced on November 5, 2019, by the Registrar of Associations under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment based on Articles 19 (a) and (b), and Article 32 of the 2003 Associations Act.

The government’s decision to ban MDN purportedly stemmed from the publication of MDN’s report, ‘Preliminary Assessment on Radicalization in the Maldives’, which the organisation published in 2016. According to the November 5 announcement about the dissolution of MDN, a police investigation found that parts of the 2016 report were “contrary to tenets of Islam”, which amounted to blasphemy in the Maldives.

The police investigation lacked fairness and transparency, and did not abide by a due process. The finding of blasphemy was based on the Maldives Police Service’s review of the report’s content in cooperation with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which filed the initial complaint against MDN. No details concerning the investigation – nor its findings – have been made available to MDN and the general public (see background information).

The Observatory recalls that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Maldives is a state party, the Government has an obligation to respect and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association. These rights are guaranteed by Articles 19 and 22 of the ICCPR, and can only be subjected to certain restrictions that are ‘necessary’ for the respect of the rights or freedoms of others, and for the protection of national security, of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals. The Maldivian government’s decision to dissolve MDN is inconsistent with the strict test of necessity and proportionality required by Article 19 and 22 of the ICCPR.

The Observatory strongly condemns the government’s dissolution of MDN, which seems to be only aimed at sanctioning MDN for its legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The Observatory urges the Maldivian authorities to immediately reverse their decision to dissolve MDN and to guarantee under all circumstances the right to freedom of expression and association in accordance with Articles 19 and 22 of ICCPR.

Background information:

On October 3, 2019, the Islamic Ministry filed a complaint against MDN after religious conservative groups began instigating a smear campaign on social media against the NGO and its staff in early September 2019. The Islamic Ministry’s decision to request an investigation resulted in protests, calling for harsh punishment and killings of MDN staff and members.

On October 9, 2019, MDN issued a press release in which it offered an apology for “the unfortunate use of language” in some sections of its 2016 report. MDN also retracted the report for further review.

On October 10, 2019, the Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement to announce that it had “imposed a temporary cessation” on MDN’s activities [1]. MOFA justified its decision in response to “widespread public condemnation” of MDN 2016 report. MOFA said the measure would be effective for the duration of the authorities’ “investigation into the matter.” On the same day, the Registrar of Associations, under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, ordered the “temporary” suspension of MDN’s activities due to a police investigation being conducted into the 2016 report.

On November 5, 2019, MDN’s dissolution was announced by the Registrar of Associations under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, pursuant to Articles 19 (a) and (b), and Article 32 of the 2003 Associations Act [2].

On November 6, 2019, MDN requested the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment to provide clarifications concerning its decision. A reminder was sent by MDN to the Ministry on November 18, 2019.

On December 8, 2019, MDN lodged an official request with the Maldives Police Service to obtain a copy of the investigative report that the police submitted to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, which led to the Ministry’s decision to ban MDN. The police failure to inform MDN of the allegations against it, and to enquire from MDN at any stage of the investigation prevented MDN from challenging the allegations made against it.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in the Maldives, urging them to:
 
i. Immediately reverse the decision to dissolve MDN;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against MDN, its members, and all human rights defenders in the Maldives, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee under any circumstances the right to freedom of expression and association as enshrined in Articles 19 and 22 of ICCPR;

iv. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Maldives.

Addresses:

• Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Republic of Maldives, Fax: (960) 332 5500 Twitter: @presidencymv
• Mr. Imran Abdulla, Minister of Home Affairs of the Republic of Maldives, Phone: +960 3313325; Twitter: @homeministrymv Email: info@homeaffairs.gov.mv
• Ms. Aminath Eenas, President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, Fax: +960 3338658, +960 3304725, Email: aminath.eenas@hrcm.org.mv / info@hrcm.org.mv
• H.E. Hala Hameed, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 732 63 39, Email: info@MaldivesMission.ch
• H.E. Hassan Sobir, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Maldives to Belgium, Fax: +32 (0)2 256 7569, Email: info@maldivesembassy.be / info@maldivesmission.eu

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Maldives located in your country.

***
Paris-Geneva, December 20, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] See the Observatory Press Release published on October 11, 2019.
[2] See the Observatory Press Release published on November 6, 2019.

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