Cherie Blair has spoken out against the call for targeted sanctions on the Maldives by jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers.
In a joint statement with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon today, Blair said: “Sanctions are imposed in exceptional circumstances to force compliance with international law, where there is a threat to peace, or where they are imposed in response to a specific policy. They ought not be used when dealing with a single individual. Further, the use of such sanctions threatens the economic stability of the Maldives.”
Blair is the chair of Omnia Strategy, a London-based firm, employed by the Maldivian government for an undisclosed fee to respond to a petition filed by Nasheed at the UN working group on arbitrary detention requesting a ruling on his imprisonment.
Nasheed’s international lawyers Amal Clooney and Jared Genser said last week that they would pursue sanctions such as travel bans on government officials if the opposition leader is not released following the UN’s ruling.
Clooney and Genser expect the judgment to come out in Nasheed’s favor.
The Maldivian government has repeatedly slammed “foreign interference” in recent weeks, with President Abdulla Yameen declaring yesterday that the government will not bow to foreign pressure to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians.
In today’s statement, Blair contended that the Maldives is a young democracy undergoing a period of transition. “It is imperative that all current systems and institutions are subjected to a detailed period of review and reform where appropriate to enable the State to progress. The call for sanctions is inappropriate and unjustified. The Maldives should not be penalized for bringing a person to face justice.”
Genser, speaking to The Maldives Independent, said: “To be absolutely clear, the sanctions that we proposed are not and should not be about one man – and they are not.
“President Nasheed is merely one man, as he has told us, no more or less important than any other Maldivian citizen. We believe these targeted sanctions against individual abusers are warranted because of the numerous political prisoners in the country and because some 1,700 people are facing politically-motivated charges for exercising their rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of political association.”
Two former defence ministers, one former ruling party MP and the leader of a minor opposition party have been sentenced or jailed in the political crisis following Nasheed’s imprisonment. Several others have fled the country after the state lifted terrorism charges against them. On May 1 alone, nearly 200 people were arrested during a single opposition protest, and are facing a variety of charges.
“The abuses of one man, in this case Mohamed Nasheed, provide a window into understanding the much more widespread abuses in the Maldives just as the detentions of Vaclav Havel, Liu Xiaobo, and Aung San Suu Kyi, all of whom were pro bono clients of mine, brought to life the abuses in their respective countries,” Genser said.
“Mrs Blair is welcome to take the position that she doesn’t believe any of these people’s detentions were relevant or symbolic of broader abuses in their respective countries. But that is an argument against the weight of history.”
The government insists there are no political prisoners in the Maldives and maintains that it has no influence over the judiciary.
“It is deeply regrettable that when the judicial institutions of the Maldives demonstrate a clear commitment to upholding the rule of law, that the threat of sanctions is advanced. The international community is entitled to raise legitimate criticisms. However, the appropriate forum is the courts where the matter at issue concerns a legal process,” said Dunya today.
Meanwhile, ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s appeal on weapons smuggling charges remain stalled, while Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the president of the Adhaalath Party, has been in state custody for more than a 100 days without trial.
The High Court last week refused to hear an appeal of Nasheed’s terrorism conviction. The appeal was filed by the state. Yameen now insists the opposition leader must now appeal at the Supreme Court.