European parliament calls for sanctions on top Maldives officials

European parliament calls for sanctions on top Maldives officials
December 17 19:14 2015

The European parliament has adopted a resolution today calling for targeted sanctions against senior government officials and pro-government businessmen “in the face of continuing democratic backsliding and deterioration of the human rights situation in the Maldives.”

The non-binding resolution calls for the EU and member states “to introduce restrictive measures in the form of targeted sanctions to freeze the assets abroad of certain members of the Maldivian government and their leading supporters in the Maldivian business community, and to impose travel bans on them.”

The resolution also calls on the EU Commission and member states “to issue comprehensive warnings about the Maldives’ human rights record to tourists planning to go to the country” and asks the European External Action Service to monitor closely the human rights and political situation in the Maldives.

Europeans accounted for 42 percent of tourist arrivals this year. The Maldivian economy is largely dependent on the lucrative tourism industry.

The resolution calls on the government to “immediately and unconditionally” release imprisoned politicians, including former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb as well as former Defence Ministers Mohamed Nazim and Tholhath Ibrahim.

The resolution was passed overwhelmingly with 563 votes in favour, 31 against, and 32 abstentions.

Shortly after the motion passed, MP Abdulla Shahid, former speaker of parliament and the chairman of the Maldivian Democratic Party’s foreign relations committee, expressed gratitude to the parties who submitted a joint motion for the resolution.

MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “Yameen should free President Nasheed and other political prisoners in order to prevent sanctions being imposed on the Maldives. Yameen’s disrespect for democracy is turning the Maldives into a pariah state.

“Yameen has brought this upon himself, and his ministers and officials risk having their assets seized and bank accounts frozen, and being banned from traveling to Europe.”

The Maldives foreign ministry had expressed concern over the resolution in a statement last night, noting that it would not be legally binding upon member states.

“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.

The ministry characterised the resolution as “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,” adding that its only purpose is “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.

The European parliament had adopted a resolution in April calling for Nasheed’s immediate release and urging member states to issue warnings on the Maldives’ human rights record on their travel advice websites.

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.”

During today’s debate at the European parliament, MEPs expressed concern with the politicisation of the judiciary, the “crackdown on political opponents,” growing Islamic radicalisation, and the reintroduction of the death penalty.

Several MEPS called for Nasheed’s “unconditional release” and criticised the imprisonment of other politicians.

MEP Pavel Telicka said Yameen is trying to build “one party authoritarian state based on the model of his half-brother [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom].”

Targeted sanctions should be imposed as “anything short of this will fail to secure the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed.”

MEP Richard Howitt highlighted the disappearance of The Maldives Independent (formerly Minivan News) journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August 2014, who is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint.

MEP Javier Nart said: “You must find it tiresome to hear the same thing all the time. All political groups in the European Parliament agree on this. No one is opposing this.”

He added: “If we don’t move from words to deeds, from declarations to real deeds, all we are doing is engaging in empty rhetoric.”

MEP Stanislav Polčák suggested that the EU should also suspend trade agreements with the Maldives.

“In the last eight months this government is increasingly pursuing policies that will isolate it from the international community, policies that are reversing the hard-won advances in freedom and democracy,  for which so many Maldivians have dedicated their lives,” said MEP Christos Stylianides.

“The European Union wants to make it absolutely clear that there will be a serious setback in relations with the EU if Maldives restarts executions after more than 60 years of moratorium.”

The resolution adopted today also called for “the establishment of a genuine dialogue among all political parties on the future of this fragile island state.”

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih. 

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