The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) national council adopted a resolution last night backing targeted sanctions against state officials if the government continues to detain President Mohamed Nasheed in defiance of a UN rights panel ruling declaring his imprisonment arbitrary and illegal.
“The Maldivian government is obliged to abide by the UN ruling on President Nasheed’s case as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” reads the resolution proposed by Deputy Chairperson Ali Niyaz.
The Maldives has ratified the ICCPR, the resolution noted, and the constitution stipulates that the government must respect and adhere to international laws and treaties.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) had ruled that Nasheed’s conviction on a terrorism charge in March was politically motivated and violated international law. But the government last week called the judgment “flawed and premature” and said it “will not be made to act on the basis of a non-binding opinion.”
Nasheed’s high-profile international lawyers have since launched a campaign lobbying for targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, to be imposed on senior officials of the state.
The MDP has resumed its anti-government campaign with protest marches, street gatherings, and rallies in southern strongholds after a three-month hiatus. Turnout has been average at the events. The party is also gearing up for a nationwide protest on Friday, October 9.
Following debate among national council members, Niyaz’s resolution was passed unanimously last night. The resolution also stated that the party will not respect “illicit” agreements made with dubious foreign investors.
MDP MPs and senior members warned that the Maldivian people would suffer the consequences of the government’s defiance of the UN ruling. The government’s actions risk isolating the Maldives in the international arena and turning the country into a pariah state, they said.
After the session, the national council members along with some opposition supporters took to the streets around 11:00pm for a brief protest march.
Two people were reportedly arrested when protesters gathered behind police lines near President Abdulla Yameen’s residence.
President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali meanwhile told local media yesterday that the international community would not impose sanctions on the Maldives over the case of an individual. He accused the opposition of trying to instil fear and create anxiety among the public with its calls for sanctions.
MP Ahmed Nihan, parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), told The Maldives Independent yesterday that sanctions were not the solution to strengthening democracy and accused the MDP of prioritising one person’s rights over that of a whole nation.
“There hasn’t been a genocide here, or ethnic cleansing, or mass murders, or famine. We are talking about a single case against a former president. This does not warrant a call for sanctions,” he said.
As a sovereign nation, the Maldives has the right to decide whether to implement the UN’s recommendations, Nihan said.
Nihan also called on the MDP to commit to dialogue with the government. The MDP had withdrawn from talks in late August saying the government refused to honour its commitments to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians, but Nihan suggested the party should give the government more time.
He also said the PPM and the government has been too preoccupied with an explosion on board a boat carrying President Yameen on September 28 and has not had time to respond to the WGAD opinion.
In the wake of the UN WGAD opinion, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had urged the government to grant clemency to Nasheed and restart political dialogue with the opposition. Amnesty International said the government’s rejection of the UN decision “underscores the insidious disregard for judicial independence in the country.”
Hugo Swire, UK minister of state at the foreign and commonwealth office, also renewed calls for Nasheed’s release.
— Hugo Swire (@HugoSwire) October 5, 2015
The MDP also said yesterday that the European Union (EU) parliament is considering passing a resolution to pressure the government to release Nasheed.
In late April, the EU parliament adopted a non-binding resolution urging the government to release Nasheed and advising member states to issue warnings on the Maldives’ human rights record on their travel advice website.
The MDP’s Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and Chairperson Ali Waheed have discussed ways to exert pressure on the government with British MPs, the party said in a statement yesterday. The pair are currently in England to attend the Conservative Party Conference.
British ruling party MPs “expressed concern over the situation in the Maldives and are seeking consensus on actions that will pressure the government,” the MDP said.
MDP MP Eva Abdulla meanwhile submitted an urgent motion at yesterday’s sitting of parliament to debate the government’s refusal to abide by the UN ruling. But Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed refused to table the motion in the agenda claiming it involved an issue currently before a court.
After the High Court rejected the state’s appeal of Nasheed’s conviction, Prosecutor General Muthaz Muhsin asked the Supreme Court last month to order the appellate court to hear the case. The Supreme Court is yet to hold a hearing in the case.
“The motion calls on the government to respect and abide by the ruling of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, it has nothing to do with the Supreme Court,” Eva told The Maldives Independent.