Former President Mohamed Nasheed has filed a complaint at the United Nations Human Rights Committee to be allowed to contest the presidential elections in 2018.
The founding leader of the main opposition MDP, currently in exile in the UK, was constitutionally disqualified from holding a political office after being sentenced for 13 years under terrorism charges in 2015.
The opposition has called the terrorism charges ‘bogus’ and ‘politically motivated’.
Jared Genser, Nasheed’s international counsel said, “We have filed our complaint before the Human Rights Committee because any disqualification from running for office or leading a political party emanating from what has been found to be an arbitrary detention by an independent and impartial international tribunal is fruit of the poisonous tree and hence null and void by the standards of international law.”
The Maldives is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides for the rights to political representation and freedom of association.
In its ruling last September, the UN Working group on Arbitrary Detention – a specialised agency comprising of five independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council – described Nasheed’s conviction as politically motivated and in violation of international law.
In its 111-page report, the Group concluded that it was “impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Nasheed.”
Nasheed was charged under terrorism for detaining a criminal court judge in January 2012. A series of opposition-led protests and a mutiny by armed forces forced him to resign the next month.
His trial and the subsequent sentencing provoked outrage across the country and criticism by the international community. In May 2015, over 20,000 people took to the streets of capital Malé and demanded the release of Nasheed and other jailed political prisoners.
In January this year, Nasheed travelled to the UK for medical treatment and subsequently secured political asylum.
On June 1, while still in exile, he launched the Maldives United Opposition, a coalition with the other opposition parties, with the aim of “restoring democracy” in the Maldives. The same month, the Supreme Court upheld Nasheed’s prison sentence.
According to the Maldivian constitution, individuals cannot hold a political office for three years after completion of their prison sentence. The Supreme Court ruling made Nasheed ineligible from contesting elections or leading his party till 2031.