Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has referred to the UN the case of missing Maldives journalist Ahmed Rilwan, now missing for more than a year.
The global press freedom group have asked the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and the UN working group on arbitrary detention to open or re-open investigations into missing journalists in ten countries.
These include the Maldives, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria, Mexico, Colombia, Iran and Turkmenistan.
The petitions, filed two days before the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (August 30), urges the UN to “initiate the relevant procedures with the countries that are breaking international law in this area.”
Rilwan was last seen on August 8, boarding a ferry to Malé’s suburb island Hulhumalé. He is believed to have been abducted outside his apartment building.
In a letter to the chairs of the working groups, RSF’s Secretary Christophe Deloire said: “Enforced disappearances are the consequences of criminal acts that violate several human rights – the right to life, the right to freedom and the right to due process.
“Violence and crimes against journalists constitute attacks not only against the victims, but also against freedom of expression, the right to inform and its corollary, the right to receive information.”
For each case of a missing journalist or the country concerned, RSF filled out an official form.
The cases cited include those of nine journalists who have been missing in Iraq since last year, and 11 Eritrean journalists of whom there has been no news since 2001.
Rilwan’s family in September last year had also filed a petition with the UN working group on enforced disappearances.
“We are heartened by Reporters Without Borders’ advocacy on our behalf. We will continue to lobby the Maldivian state to fulfill its obligations and expedite investigations into Rilwan’s disappearance and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Fathimath Shehenaz, Rilwan’s sister.
Noting the lack of progress in the police’s investigation since the arrest of several suspects in October last year, RSF said the police have tried to intimidate Rilwan’s family and supporters, including putting a stop to a press conference in July.
Most recently police pepper-sprayed Rilwan’s family members and friends in an attempt to prevent a silent march on the anniversary of his disappearance. One family member was briefly detained.
Family members have requested the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the police’s use of force at a peaceful rally and the obstruction of freedom of assembly and speech.
Hussain Waheed, the Commissioner of Police, in a meeting with the Maldives Media Council in mid-August pledged to continue the search for Rilwan and said it was among the costliest investigations in police history.
Rilwan’s family and friends have accused the police of negligence.
Home Minister Umar Naseer has suggested the involvement of radicalized gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance, a finding backed by an investigative report commissioned by local rights group the Maldivian Democracy Network.