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US urged to impose targeted sanctions against Maldives officials

President Abdulla Yameen’s repressive rule, “blind-eye” to religious extremism, and pervasive human rights abuses, which include the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed, “constitute an extraordinary threat to US national security and foreign policy,” renowned campaign group Freedom Now has said.



Freedom Now, a renowned Washington-based campaign group for political prisoners, has urged the United States government to impose targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against top Maldivian officials accused of human rights abuses.

President Abdulla Yameen’s repressive rule, “blind-eye” to religious extremism, and pervasive human rights abuses, including the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed, “constitute an extraordinary threat to US national security and foreign policy,” the NGO said.

President Barack Obama could therefore exercise authority granted to him by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and issue an executive order imposing asset freezes, the NGO said Tuesday in a 30-page report.

Freedom Now’s founder Jared Genser, who also represents Nasheed, said: “We have been incredibly grateful for the strong support of the United States both to secure President Nasheed’s freedom and to address the rapidly deteriorating rights situation.

“Given Yameen’s utter intransigence, it is time for the United States and other countries to move from condemnation to action by imposing targeted sanctions on key regime officials.”

The report, titled ‘Moving From Condemnation to Action: The Case for the United States to Impose Targeted Financial Sanctions and Travel Bans on Serious Human Rights Abusers in the Maldives,’ also explained how targeted sanctions are imposed and compares the Maldives’ situation to other countries such as Belarus, Burma, and Zimbabwe, against which the US had previously imposed sanctions.

After launching the report yesterday, the opposition leader’s international counsel also submitted a confidential list of perpetrators to the US government.

Genser along with Amal Clooney and Ben Emmerson have previously provided a similar list to the UK Foreign Office.

In December, the European parliament adopted a non-binding resolution calling for Nasheed’s “immediate and unconditional release” and urging member states to impose targeted sanctions against state officials as well as pro-government businessmen. 

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March over the military’s detention of a judge. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison after a 19-day trial that was widely criticised over apparent lack of due process.

After a UN human rights panel declared his imprisonment arbitrary and politically motivated in October last year, Nasheed’s high-profile lawyers have been lobbying world leaders to impose targeted sanctions against senior Maldivian officials.

Yameen, however, has declared he would not bow down to foreign pressure. He insists that Nasheed must exhaust all domestic appeal processes before he is eligible for clemency.

An appeal of the terrorism conviction is now before the Supreme Court.

The Freedom Now report details “the broad range of human rights abuses being committed by the authoritarian regime of President Abdulla Yameen.”

“Imposing sanctions would send an unmistakably clear message – it will embolden courageous human rights defenders, serve as an important warning and deterrent against human rights abuses to others not yet on the sanctions list, and encourage other governments to impose sanctions of their own,” the report said.

The US government’s condemnation of Yameen’s actions “will only bring about the necessary result if accompanied by concrete action that carries real consequences for the top perpetrators of human rights abuses,” it continued.

The Maldives’ strategic location astride the East-West trade route together with its new partnership with China also constitute “a threat to critical US interests in the Indian Ocean and those of its strong ally India,” the report suggested.

It noted that Chinese investment in infrastructure projects will ensure that the Maldives will remain “indebted to China for the foreseeable future.”