The Maldives has lashed out at the UK foreign office’s alleged refusal to allow Cherie Blair to accompany Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to a meeting in London.
Blair’s presence at the meeting is “vital to give both a full and comprehensive briefing on the current case facing former President [Mohamed] Nasheed, as well as on other key reforms that are being undertaken with their assistance,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
Blair is the chair of Omnia Strategy, a legal firm employed by the Maldivian government for an undisclosed fee, to respond to a petition filed at the UN over Nasheed’s imprisonment and to instigate legal reforms.
The foreign ministry went on to accuse Hugo Swire, the minister of state for the foreign and Commonwealth office, of taking a biased position over Nasheed’s jailing on a terrorism charge.
The UK Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly urged the Maldives to release Nasheed and other political prisoners.
President Abdulla Yameen, however, has said he will not bow down to foreign pressure and insists that Nasheed was tried by an independent judiciary.
The government’s defiance has strained diplomatic ties with a number of countries. It now appears increasingly rattled ahead of the UN working group on arbitrary detention’s ruling on Nasheed’s trial, expected in mid-October.
The opposition leader’s lawyers have said they will use the ruling to lobby for targeted sanctions on government officials responsible for human rights violations. Blair has said the call for sanctions is inappropriate and unjustified.
The foreign ministry also complained of Swire having met with Nasheed’s international lawyer Amal Clooney and his wife Laila Ali in June, “a meeting which he decided to publicize on social media posting a picture of them together in his office accompanied by a welcoming message.”
Swire’s approach is damaging and counter-productive to the ties between the Maldives and the UK, it said.
“Indeed, it is to be noted that this is not an isolated fact. Last week, former President Nasheed’s legal team was also hosted by the UK High Commissioner to the Maldives in Colombo. The Government viewed this flagrant display of prejudice, but chose not to raise it with the British Government. After today’s events, it is becoming evident that, with regards to the Maldives, the British Government is acting contrary to the fundamental principles of international diplomacy,” the statement went on.
Dunya is currently in London to settle her son into university. She was expected to attend an Amnesty International event in Geneva on judicial independence on Thursday, but cancelled at the last minute.
The event took place on the sidelines of the ongoing meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.
Dunya contended that the panel, consisting of Amnesty officials, the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Nasheed’s lawyer Amal Clooney and NGO Maldivian Democracy Network, would not allow for open discussion.
“Side events at the Human Rights Council serve a useful purpose and the Government of Maldives supports such events without question. It would, however, not be appropriate to take part in such event when there is little chance for issues to be discussed openly and objectively,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“It would be inappropriate for a member of the Government to take part in such an event when there is a clear pre-conceived agenda to be advanced by other panel members who would see such an event as opportunity for political posturing rather than engagement.”