End mass arrests of peaceful protestors, lift state of emergency

Press release

(Malé, Paris) Maldivian authorities must end the arbitrary arrest of peaceful anti-government protestors and launch a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into acts of torture allegedly committed against those detained since the declaration of the State of Emergency on 5 February 2018, FIDH and the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) said today.

In the latest wave of arrests on 16 and 17 March 2018, police in Malé arbitrarily detained at least 141 persons, including 26 women, without informing them of the reason for their arrest. All, except five, had been released by 18 March 2018.

“The ongoing crackdown on government critics is unjustified and in total disregard of both national and international human rights frameworks. Dissenting voices must be heard and differences must be settled through dialogue and respect for democratic principles.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Vice-President

Since 5 February 2018, nearly 200 people have been detained for the mere exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression and their right to freedom of peaceful assembly in connection with a wave of anti-government protests. Among those were one lawyer, three journalists, and scores of opposition members and supporters.

FIDH and MDN remain concerned over ongoing reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, which include the denial of adequate medical treatment. Such acts are in breach of the Maldives’ 2013 Anti-Torture Act as well as the country’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the Maldives is a state party. FIDH and MDN deplore the extremely alarming actions by the police, who have engaged in acts of harassment and rough treatment of women protestors and bystanders.

“The President has completely derailed the Constitution and the rule of law. The Parliament is complicit in approving the arbitrary enforcement of laws to crush any form of political dissent and resistance. The government must stop its relentless attacks on peaceful demonstrators and implement, without delay, measures to foster an appropriate atmosphere for peaceful dialogue.”

Shahindha Ismail, MDN Executive Director

On 5 February 2018, President Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day State of Emergency. On 20 February 2018, the ruling party-controlled Parliament approved the extension of the State of Emergency by another 30 days. FIDH and MDN urge the President and Parliament not to seek further extensions of this draconian measure, which under international law can only be declared in extreme and exceptionally serious circumstances.

Under Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Maldives is a state party, the declaration of a State of Emergency can be made only in time of “public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.” The declaration of the State of Emergency was made in response to a ruling by the Supreme Court, which on 1 February 2018 overturned the convictions of nine opposition politicians, including some of whom had been charged with acts of ‘terrorism’, and ordered their release. The Supreme Court also ordered the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers who had been removed from office after defecting to the opposition in 2017.

Press contacts
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (English, French), +33648059157 (Paris)
MDN: Ms. Shahindha Ismail (English, Dhivehi) +9603343609 (Malé)
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