Maldivian authorities refused entry to members of an international law association, detained them at the airport, kept them at a closed detention facility under guard and surveillance, and subsequently deported them.
LAWASIA confirmed Tuesday that its fact-finding delegation was denied entry to the Maldives, despite the government’s insistence that international stakeholders are welcome to assess the country’s situation for themselves.
The regional law body wanted to visit the Maldives to assess the independence of the judiciary, due process in the administration of justice, the rule of law and rights-related issues, and the independence of the legal profession.
LAWASIA wrote to lawyers, present and former members of parliament, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, members of the judiciary, government representatives including the attorney general and members of civil society organisations.
Meetings were to take place between February 24 and February 28, with confirmation of meetings from several of those contacted.
LAWASIA described how it emailed government departments on several occasions to tell them about the visit, its purpose and seek guidance on visa matters, only to receive little or no response.
Four members of the fact-finding team arrived at Velana International Airport last Sunday, with each person declaring the intention of their visit.
“Instead of providing guidance and facilitating the mission with a visa as would have been consistent with the open invitation issued by the Government of Maldives to international organisations, the Maldivian authorities had instead refused entry to the members of the team, detained and kept them at a closed detention facility under guard and surveillance, and subsequently deported them,” it said in a statement seen by the Maldives Independent.
“Although the actions taken by the authorities were inconsistent with their public statements of invitation, and unnecessary, the immediate officials who attended to us were courteous.”
Two top judges are behind bars and around 20 constitutional rights have been suspended.
The LAWASIA statement cited the government, which had said it was inviting development partners and representatives from international organisations and associations to visit to assess the situation “and witness the safety and security of Malé, for their own citizens as well as to engage with the government and key stakeholders in the country.”