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US threatens sanctions against Maldives

The government shows no sign of yielding to external pressure.



The US Friday threatened sanctions against people in the Maldives “who undermine democracy, the rule of law, and a free and fair electoral process.”

Heather Nauert, from the State Department, said the US was concerned about continued democratic backsliding in the Maldives, particularly as the country prepared for a presidential election due to be held on September 23.

A Human Rights Watch report said rights abuses had flourished under President Abdulla Yameen’s government.

But Malé shows no sign of yielding to external pressure to release political opponents, relax restrictions on free speech, restore democracy or hold free and fair elections.

“Absent Maldives’ return to a democratic path, the United States will consider appropriate measures against those individuals who undermine democracy, the rule of law, and a free and fair electoral process,” said the State Department.

Its stance follows the European Union saying in July it would impose travel bans and asset freezes on people, organisations or institutions responsible for human rights abuses, undermining democracy or stopping free and fair elections from taking place.

Last month the EU said sanctions were a “political signal” to authorities and current measures could be stepped up if there is no improvement in the country’s situation. An annex – due to list the individuals or entities targeted by the sanctions – remains blank.

The EU sanctions give countries the option to work with “third states to adopt restrictive measures in order to maximise the impact” of the sanctions.

“We join the international community in calling for the release of falsely accused political prisoners,” said the State Department, “full implementation of the Maldivian Supreme Court’s February ruling overturning the convictions of opposition members; an end to executive interference in the Parliament and judiciary; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and holding a free and fair election that reflects the will of the Maldivian people.”

The sanctions threat comes as state-funded media PSM refuses to retract allegations based on “leaked” documents about the US colluding with the opposition, despite the US embassy dismissing the alleged cable as fake.

The US embassy in Colombo said it was “aware that a fake cable is circulating that appears to discuss the upcoming elections in Maldives. The cable is fraudulent and unrelated to the US embassy.”