Maldives: Open letter to President Solih: Take action to stop the ongoing threats against HRDs

Open Letter

Paris-Geneva, August 8, 2019

RE: Ongoing threats against human rights defenders in the Maldives

Dear Mr. President,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), is writing to you to express its deepest concern over the ongoing threats and harassment against human rights defenders in the Maldives.

The Observatory has received information that at least 15 human rights defenders, including journalists, lawyers, and non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers, have been subjected to repeated acts of harassment and intimidation online since you took office in November 2018. In many cases, such acts have amounted to hate speech and death threats, which foster a dangerous environment for human rights defenders and impede them from doing their work.

Human rights defenders who have advocated for the respect of human rights, gender equality, and accountability for violations, as well as those who have expressed their support for religious tolerance, have been especially targeted. Online news outlet Vaguthu Online, Facebook page Siru Arts, and the now defunct Telegram channel Murtad Watch [‘Apostate Watch’] Mv have been the preferred platforms for religious extremists to attacks human rights defenders and label them as “un-Islamic”, “anti-religious” or “apostates.” Such platforms have also encouraged users to directly threaten human rights defenders with violence, often hiding behind anonymous Twitter or Facebook accounts.

We are particularly troubled by the lack of action by law enforcement agencies to investigate and respond to threats and death threats against human rights defenders. Coupled with a lack of condemnation by your administration, this impunity emboldens extremists who have little hesitation to turn their words into action. This was the case of blogger Yameen Rasheed, who was murdered in April 2017 after receiving multiple death threats that were not adequately investigated.

Today, on the five-year anniversary of the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, we wish to remind you that during your election campaign you promised to investigate his disappearance, as well as the murder of Yameen Rasheed. While we welcome some concrete steps that your administration has taken to investigate these two cases, we urge you to ensure that full and transparent investigations are undertaken into all cases of threats, harassment, and violence against human rights defenders and other members of civil society. We also urge you to publicly condemn all acts of hate speech and other harassment of human rights defenders, publicly recognise the legitimate work of human rights defenders, and send the message that violence against them will not be tolerated in the Maldives. We believe that by undertaking these important actions you will significantly contribute to the prevention of further harm to other individuals.

Lastly, the Observatory urges you to ensure that authorities conform to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to all other international human rights instruments to which the country is a state party.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Dimitris Christopoulos
FIDH President

Gerald Staberock
OMCT Secretary General

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, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
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

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