EU parliament debates targeted sanctions against Maldives

EU parliament debates targeted sanctions against Maldives
December 17 14:35 2015

The European parliament is debating imposing targeted sanctions against senior officials of the Maldivian state and pro-government business tycoons over “increasing authoritarian tendencies” and a “crackdown on political opponents.”

Five different blocks within the parliament have submitted seven separate motions.

The strongest resolution from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) calls on the EU and its member states to “freeze the assets abroad of members of the Maldives government and their leading supporters in the Maldivian business community and to impose a travel ban on them, in view of the continuous deterioration of the human rights situation in the country.”

But the proposed measures in the resolution could be watered down before it is put to a vote around 5:30pm local time.

The EU parliament had adopted a resolution in April calling for the immediate release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose imprisonment in March triggered a prolonged political crisis.

The resolution urged member states to issue warnings on the Maldives’ human rights record on their travel advice websites, but did not include provisions for sanctions.

The Maldives foreign ministry said in a statement last night that similar to previous resolution, the new resolution would not be mandatory or legally binding upon member states.

The main proponents of the resolution are the European Conservatives, the Reformist Party, and the Christian Democrats, the foreign ministry said.

“It is disappointing that an institution such as the European Parliament, which is regarded highly for the professionalism of its members, tables a motion that is based on factually inaccurate, incomplete, and baseless information,” the foreign ministry said.

“For the government of Maldives, it appears to be the latest in a series of efforts by a select group of MEPs to push for the adoption of baseless resolutions to undermine Maldivian economy and our democracy. Such a resolution has just a single objective; putting pressure on the government to release an individual from prison who is convicted of ordering the abduction of a judge of the country’s criminal court.”

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March and sentenced to 13 years in prison over the military’s detention of a judge in January 2012. The 19-day trial at the criminal court drew widespread condemnation over its apparent lack of due process.

In October, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that the opposition leader’s jailing was illegal and politically motivated. But the government rejected the judgment as “flawed and premature” and said it “will not be made to act on the basis of a non-binding opinion.”

President Abdulla Yameen has previously declared that the government would not bow to foreign pressure to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians.

The ALDE resolution follows lobbying efforts by Nasheed’s high-profile international lawyers Amal Clooney, Jared Genser and Ben Emmerson. The human rights lawyers submitted a list of officials accused of human rights abuses to the British government last month.

The resolution  expresses concern with the “gradual deterioration of democratic standards and the increasing authoritarian tendencies in the Maldives, which are creating a climate of fear and political tension that could jeopardise any gains made in recent years in establishing human rights, democracy and rule of law in the country.”

It also calls on the European Commission and EU members to “issue comprehensive warnings about the Maldives’ human rights record to tourists planning to go to the Maldives.”

More than 40 percent of tourists visiting the Maldives comes from European countries.

The resolution also flagged the current administration decision to end a six-decade-old moratorium of the death penalty, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, and restrictions on press freedom.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon meanwhile told the press this morning that the adoption of the resolution could “weaken” relations between the Maldives and the EU.

In its statement, the foreign ministry had expressed concern over”the apparent lack of awareness of the close collaboration between the Government of Maldives and the European Union’s European External Action Service (EEAS).”

The Maldives has invited a senior EEAS team to visit the country for discussions on sending technical experts “to assist in strengthening its independent institutions, including the judiciary.”

“It is equally worrying that such a resolution has come out just after the success of the Paris Climate Summit, where Maldives and the EU worked in close partnership to enable consensus on the text of the Paris Agreement,” the statement added.

The government, however, “remains committed to upholding democratic values and the rule of law, and will continue working with the European Union, and other international stakeholders, to strengthen the young democratic institutions of the country.”

“However, the government hopes that its European partners will respect that the Maldives requires space and time to further consolidate the considerable democratic gains that we have achieved, in such short period of time.”

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