The European Union is expected Monday to sanction the Maldives, following months of concern and condemnation over the worsening political and human rights situation.
Brussels and Malé have been at loggerheads over the erosion of rights and a crackdown on the opposition in the country. The EU also fears that this September’s elections will be neither free nor fair.
“A decision on restrictive measures on the Maldives is on the agenda on the Foreign Affairs Council,” an EU official told the Maldives Independent. “It is not a point for discussion, but is foreseen for adoption without debate.
“We expect this to be decided upon at the beginning of the meeting, which is foreseen to start at 9.00 am Brussels time.”
A press release would be published on the decision once adopted with all the information, the official added.
The official did not say what the restrictive measures would be.
Lawmakers in Brussels have previously urged the EU “to make full use of all instruments at its disposal to promote respect for human rights and democratic principles in the Maldives, including, possibly, the suspension of EU financial assistance to the country pending the resumption of the rule of law and abidance by democratic principles; […] to introduce targeted measures and sanctions against those in the country undermining human rights, and to freeze the assets abroad of, and impose travel bans on, certain members of the Maldivian Government and their leading supporters in the Maldivian business community.”
Restrictive measures on the Maldives are an ‘A’ item on Monday’s agenda, meaning they have already been agreed on by diplomats from member states in Brussels.
President Abdulla Yameen said he had been warned about sanctions earlier this month but said there were certain values and principles his government would not compromise on, including giving space for religious freedom and the release of political prisoners.
“But I don’t believe the EU can ask me to stop openly saying that a religion other than Islam will not be allowed in Maldives,” he said, referring to calls to remove a constitutional requirement for all Maldivian citizens to be Muslims.
“I don’t believe it’s right for the European Union to say that all these prisoners should be freed, and that ‘we’ won’t accept the election as free and fair unless they are freed and allowed to contest,” he told islanders while out on an atoll campaign tour.
The ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled since Yameen took office include two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties, several lawmakers and the country’s chief prosecutor.
The government insists there are no political prisoners in the country and it has dismissed the consensus among the international community about the “serious deterioration of human rights and the extremely limited space” for civil society in the Maldives.