MALDIVES: Lift restrictions against Maldivian Democracy Network, protect its associates from attacks

Press release

(Geneva, Paris) Maldivian authorities must immediately lift the arbitrary restrictions imposed on the leading non-governmental organisation (NGO) Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), and protect its staff, board members, and their families from attacks and other acts of harassment and intimidation, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) urged today.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the Maldivian government’s order to MDN to stop its activities. Instead of impeding the legitimate and important work done by MDN, the government should address rampant religious extremism and protect human rights defenders."

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Vice-President

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. MOFA justified its decision in response to “widespread public condemnation” of a report published by MDN in 2016 on the rise of violent extremism in the Maldives. 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 MDN to immediately cease its activities due to a police investigation being conducted into the 2016 report.

The Observatory is concerned that in the absence of any information concerning such investigation, the “temporary cessation” of MDN’s activities is, in fact, an indefinite suspension of the organisation’s work. It must be noted that MDN has extended its full cooperation to the Maldives Police Service in its investigation.

The Observatory welcomes the government’s pledge to “use the full force of the law” against those who issue threats and call for violence against others in the name of defending religion. However, to date, the Observatory has no knowledge of any investigations initiated by law enforcement agencies against death threats and other forms of intimidation.

“It’s the ongoing use of social media to threaten and intimidate Maldivian human rights defenders that should be investigated, not a three-year old report that impeccably described instances of radicalisation among certain sectors of Maldivian society.”

Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General

The Observatory recalls that under Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Maldives is a state party, the only permissible restrictions to the right to freedom of association are those “prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

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.

MDN is set to become a member organisation of FIDH during FIDH’s 40th Congress, which will be held in Taipei from October 21 to 25, 2019.

For further information, please contact:
· FIDH: Ms. Eva Canan (English, French), +33648059157 (Paris)

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 intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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