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Maldives remains UK ‘human rights priority country’

The UK said it would press the Maldives to restore democracy and rights.



The Maldives remains a human rights priority country for the UK government, a report published Monday said, with the human rights situation continuing to deteriorate and an increase in the intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists.

There was an increase in violent threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and NGOs, in particular against those advocating for freedom of religion or belief, said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The UK would continue to support human rights defenders, it said, and would work with international partners to press the Maldives to restore democratic freedoms including free and fair presidential elections scheduled for September.

“The UK will continue through public and private messaging to make clear to the Government of Maldives our concerns over the erosion of democracy and human rights.”

Other UK human rights priority countries include Somalia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Russia.

Criticism of the Maldives government has rocketed since February, when President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency in response to a Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of political prisoners.

The UN human rights chief described the government’s actions as “an all-out assault on democracy” while Amnesty International called it “a license for repression, targeting members of civil society, judges and political opponents.”

The ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled since Yameen took office include two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers lawmakers and the country’s chief prosecutor.

The Maldives has also fallen in a press freedom index.

The European Union has approved targeted measures, such as travel bans and asset freezes, against those responsible for “undermining the rule of law or obstructing an inclusive political solution and serious human rights violations” if the situation in the Maldives does not improve.

Yameen has yet to comment directly on the EU move.