UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein has called on the Maldivian government to release former President Mohamed Nasheed following his transfer back to jail from house arrest on Sunday night.
“The High Commissioner has expressed his deep concern to the government of the Maldives after former president Mohamed Nasheed was once again sent to prison late on Sunday,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said at a press briefing today.
“The return of Mr. Nasheed to prison in our view constitutes a serious set-back to the human rights situation as well as to moves towards finding a political solution in the Maldives. The High Commissioner has therefore urged the Government to consider former President Nasheed’s early release.”
The OCHR had been encouraged by President Abdulla Yameen’s decision to transfer the opposition leader to house arrest, given the “clearly flawed” nature of his trial on terrorism charges, he said.
Colville noted that force, including pepper spray was used against Nasheed’s supporters at the time of his renewed imprisonment.
The OCHR also called on the government to review pending cases against hundreds of opposition supporters relating to protests in recent months.
Since Nasheed’s imprisonment, the OCHR had sent two missions to the Maldives. Members met with Nasheed when he was in jail and under house arrest.
“His trial took a very short period of time, it was very flawed, there was no lawyer, his right to defence was seriously curtailed, he couldn’t call a witness, he couldn’t really argue his own case in front of the court, which for us was a bit shocking,” Mona Rishmawi, head of rule of law division in the UN rights office, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Rishmawi said the UN human rights office was in dialogue with the government when Nasheed was taken back to prison.
“We are worried about this situation where basically, with something which is very unclear, people can be just locked up and go back to prison,” Rishmawi said.
Following a visit to the Maldives in April, Rishmawi said Nasheed’s trial and conviction was “vastly unfair, arbitrary, and disproportionate.”
“We kind of started to get signals that even the government recognises that something went wrong with the process of the trial,” she said at the time.
The UN human rights joins British Prime Minister David Cameron in calling for the opposition leader’s release. In a tweet last night, Cameron urged President Abdulla Yameen to release all political prisoners.
Nasheed’s lawyers contend that his transfer to prison is illegal and arbitrary as his 13-year jail sentence had been commuted to permanent house arrest on July 19. However, the government has denied commuting the sentence, claiming that a document Nasheed signed agreeing to the terms of his permanent transfer to house arrest is forged.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has meanwhile decided to withdraw from official talks with the government in the wake of Nasheed’s re-imprisonment.