The Maldives government is undermining the rule of law and intensifying a brutal crackdown on its critics, a new report said Sunday.
The report, from the international non-profit CIVICUS and Maldives-based rights group Voice of Women (VoW), said authorities have repressed all forms of dissent including “violently breaking up peaceful demonstrations, arbitrarily arresting and detaining protesters, attacking journalists and threatening news organisations with closure.”
It also said the judiciary had been undermined through the “arbitrary arrest” of two top judges and that scores of opposition politicians and activists faced “trumped up charges” ranging from bribery to terrorism.
The Maldives was thrown into turmoil earlier this year when the Supreme Court ordered the release and retrial of President Abdulla Yameen’s jailed opponents.
Yameen ignored the ruling, instead imposing a controversial and widely criticised state of emergency and claiming there was a plot to overthrow his government.
Those who were already in prison, or exile, remain there.
Yameen has collected fresh scalps in recent months, imprisoning his half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two justices from the Supreme Court as part of a contentious probe into the alleged coup attempt. They deny the charges against them.
CIVICUS and VoW condemned the acts of repression, calling for an end to the crackdown and the immediate release of detainees.
“The Maldives authorities must drop the baseless and politically motivated criminal charges against the two Supreme Court judges and release them, as well as all those who have been arbitrarily detained under the state of emergency, solely for exercising their democratic, human rights,” said Josef Benedictus from CIVICUS.
“Steps must also be taken to ensure that the judiciary can operate in an independent and transparent manner without interference,” he added.
CIVICUS says the space for Maldivian civil society is obstructed, meaning power holders contest civic space, undermine civil society organisations and constrain the fundamental civil society rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
CIVICUS and VoW join a long line of organisations and individuals that have condemned the crackdown and repression.
The government maintains that the state of emergency, which lasted 45-days and triggered the ruthless pushback against the judiciary, media and opposition, was necessary to investigate the alleged coup attempt.