At least 29 political prisoners remain behind bars in the Maldives, a rights group said as it expressed its “deepest concern over the serious deterioration of human rights and the extremely limited space” for civil society in the country.
The situation of human rights defenders was extremely precarious, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said Wednesday.
“Frequent harassment by authorities, coupled with threats and intimidation by pro-government elements as well as self-professed defenders of Islam, contributed to a hostile and dangerous environment for HRDs,” it added.
FIDH travelled to the Maldives in April and met activists, journalists, lawyers, and families of individuals detained during the state of emergency.
They told FIDH the human rights situation was unlikely to improve in the lead-up to the next presidential elections, scheduled to be held in September.
FIDH said that one common concern reported was the rising threat posed by radical elements who, under the guise of defending Islam, have been consistently targeting human rights defenders, particularly through social media.
“The growing and unchecked trend of the radical interpretation of Islamic values and principles has created a difficult environment for many segments of society (particularly women), has greatly limited the right to freedom of expression, and has been deliberately used to target HRDs,” said the FIDH statement.
“It has led to a climate of fear that has inhibited many forms of activism, including any possible work with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights.”
FIDH urged authorities to cease the harassment of human rights defenders, establish accountability for human rights violations and release all political prisoners in the country.
Although the state of emergency has been lifted the government continues to crack down on the opposition, most recently through Wednesday’s presidential primary by the Maldivian Democratic Party, and intimidate the media through threats of “action.”
A joint statement, released Thursday by ambassadors from the European Union, Canada and the US, said it was critical that authorities respect fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly and speech.
“We urge authorities to demonstrate genuine commitment to a credible, transparent, and inclusive election process,” the ambassadors said.