The Maldives Friday accused the US of intimidation and coercion, following Washington’s threat of sanctions against people responsible for human rights abuses in the troubled honeymoon destination.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the State Department’s intervention as unhelpful, an act of intimidation and “imposing undue influence” ahead of a presidential election due to be held on September 23.
“The Government recognizes the keen interest of some of its international partners, including the United States of America, in the political developments in the country and their efforts to help consolidate democracy in the Maldives,” it said.
“However, such interests, if pursued through intimidation and unnecessary threats of coercive actions, in such a highly contested election, especially just few weeks before the election date, would not be in the best interest of the Maldivian people.”
There are concerns, in the Maldives and abroad, that the election will not be free or fair.
President Abdulla Yameen has imprisoned his political enemies, while the ruling party has altered laws to guarantee that exiled opposition leaders cannot contest presidential elections. Free speech remains under threat, and there remain doubts over the electoral body’s independence and competence.
“On 23 September, the people of the Maldives should be allowed to cast their votes without any form of interference or intimidation,” added the ministry. “Similarly, the election officials should be allowed to manage the election process and hold the election as per the Constitution of the Maldives and the relevant laws and regulations of the country. Let the people of the Maldives decide on their democratic journey.”
A Human Rights Watch report says rights abuses have flourished under Yameen’s government and, in July, the European Union said it would impose sanctions on people, entities and institutions over rights abuses.
The State Department said it, too, would consider “appropriate measures against those individuals who undermine democracy, the rule of law, and a free and fair electoral process.”
The EU said its sanctions were a “political signal” to authorities and measures – asset freezes and travel bans – could be stepped up if there is no improvement in the situation.
An annex – due to list the individuals or entities targeted by the sanctions – remains blank.
“We continue to follow the situation and preparation of the presidential election closely,” an EU spokesman told the Maldives Independent last week. “Any possible future decision as regards restrictive measures would be for the 28 EU Member States to take in the Council by unanimity. We would not speculate on whether or when this would happen.”