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MEPs accused of breaking Maldives visa rules

The group presented themselves as an official delegation, a Maldives ambassador said.



European lawmakers who visited the Maldives were in “utter disregard and violation” of immigration rules following their trip last month to the country, according to a top diplomat who complained about them.

Three MEPs – Maria Gabriela Zoana, Tomas Zdechovsky, Ryszard Czarnecki – as well as Henri Malosse and Madi Sharma were accused by a Maldives ambassador of presenting themselves as if they were an official delegation of the European Union.

The EU said in July it would impose sanctions on people, organisations or institutions it says are responsible for human rights abuses, undermining democracy or stopping free and fair elections from taking place in the Maldives. A presidential election is due to be held on September 23.

An EU source told the Maldives Independent it would not send an official delegation to observe the election because “conditions for credible and transparent elections have not been met.”

Ambassador Ahmed Shiaan, writing to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani on September 3, said the visit was not conducted in an official capacity and that the group was in the Maldives on tourist visas.

He expressed “significant concern” that they did not meet any officials or government representatives, claiming the oversight denied Male a right of reply.

The group is likely to have enraged Shiaan because of a report published Monday by a think-tank which said the situation in the Maldives was worse than previously thought.

The report says Zoana, Zdechovsky, Czarnecki, Malosse and Sharma were in the Maldives on an independent and unofficial fact-finding mission for the think-tank.

The EU says the group was on a private visit, not an official one.

Malosse, who contacted the Maldives Independent in July ahead of the trip, also said people would be attending in a personal capacity “with consideration for their current positions.”

The Maldives Independent has contacted all five in the group for comment.

Zdechovsky’s office replied: “The only statement from our side will be same as to other newspapers. Mr Zdechovsky visited Maldives in his private capacity, when he can meet whomever he want and whereever he wish.

“His visit was absolutely not official and even secret, which is why he traveleled on his private passport, not on his diplomatic passport. Mr. Zdechovsky never said anywhere it was something official. We were very surprised when Madi Sharma presented it as such.”

Last month two UK lawmakers were in the Maldives to “observe election arrangements.”

They have so far failed to provide any information to the Maldives Independent about their trip, including how it was funded and who they met.

They have been contacted again, with an additional question about what visas they entered the country on.

Photo of Malé harbour by Nattu Adnan

This article has been updated with comment from Tomas Zdechovsky’s office.