Human rights advocacy group Amnesty International has called on the Maldives to release former President Mohamed Nasheed or give him a fair trial, in the wake of the government’s rejection of a UN rights panel’s finding that his continuing imprisonment on a terrorism charge is arbitrary.
“The Maldives government’s rejection of an as yet unpublished UN decision criticizing the imprisonment of former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed underscores the insidious disregard for judicial independence in the country,” said Amnesty International on Thursday.
The government on Wednesday revealed that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) had ruled in Nasheed’s favor, but said that it “does not accept the decision” and “will not be made to act on the basis of a non-binding opinion.”
The opinion of the five-member panel was delivered to the government on September 17. It will be communicated with Nasheed’s lawyers on October 5.
The government has not revealed details of the UNWGAD’s findings yet.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also urged the Maldives to grant clemency to Nasheed and restart political dialogue with the opposition.
Nasheed’s imprisonment triggered mass protests and drew international criticism over lack of due process.
“Nasheed’s trial was a politically-motivated sham and a travesty of justice from start to finish. The erosion of judicial independence is taking the Maldives down a slippery slope to political repression with no check on the government’s opposition crackdown,” said David Griffiths, South Asia Research Director.
“Mohamed Nasheed is not the only person in the Maldives imprisoned after unfair trials. This report should spur the international community to press the Maldives government to cease its wider crackdown on opposition. The government must abide by the UN’s decisions and reverse the outcome of Mohamed Nasheed’s grossly unfair trial,” he added.
Nasheed’s heavyweight international lawyers have threatened to lobby for targeted sanctions if the government does not abide by the UN’s decision.
Amnesty International also urged the Maldives government to release other political opponents sentenced after unfair trials or ensure an appeals process for them that guarantees a fair hearing.
These include former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, sentenced to 11 years on a weapons smuggling charge, and Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, held without trial for more than 150 days now.
The government insists Nasheed must see redress through the domestic courts.
Nasheed’s appeal is now with the Supreme Court.
The Prosecutor General had appealed his sentence on his behalf at the High Court, but the appeallate court dismissed it saying Nasheed should appeal directly.
In a bizarre twist, the ruling, issued after a single preliminary hearing, also went on to declare the lower court’s verdict valid, despite judges never having heard oral arguments.
As it stands, the appeal process could take months or even years.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party have resumed protests now.