UN panel rejected government’s appeal of Nasheed ruling

UN panel rejected government’s appeal of Nasheed ruling
January 26 18:03 2016

A UN human rights panel has rejected the government’s appeal of its judgment declaring former President Mohamed Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal, the opposition leader’s lawyer Jared Genser told the press in London yesterday.

Genser, founder of US-based NGO Freedom Now, a renowned campaign group for political prisoners, said the former president’s international legal team has recently learned that the government’s appeal was “rejected without comment.”

“It is clear and unequivocal that it is a final decision of the working group,” he said.

In its ruling last September, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – a specialised agency comprised of five independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council – had said that Nasheed’s conviction in March was politically motivated and in violation of the Maldives’ obligations under international law.

Along with his co-counsel Amal Clooney and Ben Emmerson, Genser accompanied Nasheed in his first media appearance since his jailing at a press conference in London yesterday. In the face of mounting diplomatic pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government last week authorised a 30-day medical leave for Nasheed to undergo surgery in the UK.

Genser went on to say that the UNWGAD opinion in Nasheed’s case was “bar none, the most comprehensive, total, and devastating loss suffered by a government across the working group’s 25-year history.”

The government had hired Omnia Strategy – a London-based firm chaired by Cherie Blair, the wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair – for an undisclosed fee to respond to the UNWGAD.

Genser said the government had submitted a 111-page response with 40 annexes, “but did not prevail on a single point.”

The foreign ministry and the attorney general’s office were unavailable for comment at the time of publication. The president’s office declined to comment.

The WGAD said that the criminal court’s refusal to allow Nasheed to call defence witnesses and the absence of legal representation during key points of the rushed trial constituted violations of due process.

The rights panel also said the Maldivian government was unable to demonstrate the legal basis for the terrorism charge. Nasheed was found guilty over the military’s detention of a judge in January 2012 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

The government had initially rejected the non-binding opinion as “flawed and premature,” but now says the Supreme Court will consider the judgment when it hears an appeal of Nasheed’s conviction.

In the wake of the UN ruling, Nasheed’s heavyweight lawyers launched a campaign seeking targeted sanctions against top Maldivian officials to secure his release from prison.

Declaring his intention to return to the Maldives, Nasheed told the UK press yesterday that his temporary release does not signal an end to the “repression” of President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

Despite mass protests, intense international criticism, and diplomatic pressure on the government last year, Nasheed said Yameen only felt “compelled to act” when faced with the threat of sanctions.

Other opposition leaders and hundreds of opposition supporters are either in jail or facing criminal charges and intimidation, he said, whilst the government continues to undermine the country’s nascent democratic institutions.

“Sanctions imposed can easily be rolled back. But unless they are imposed, President Yameen will have no incentive to take further action,” Nasheed said.

Sanctions should target individuals “directly responsible for gross human rights abuses,” he added.

He said that Yameen had reneged on a “comprehensive understanding” negotiated in July last year.

“Until the government takes permanent and irreversible steps to end the repression, the international community should not relent. Instead, it must increase the pressure on President Yameen,” he said.