8 April 2016; This statement is issued in response to the non-binding Resolution of the United States Senate (S.Res.392) - A resolution that expresses the sense of the Senate regarding prosecution and conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed and urging the Government of the Maldives to take all necessary steps to redress the conviction and to ensure due process for all the people of the Maldives.
The Government of the Maldives takes note of the non-binding Resolution of the United States Senate (S.Res.392), and appreciates the interests that United States Senate has shown in the Maldives. The Maldives is fortunate to have the support and of its international partners as it seeks to implement further reforms to consolidate democracy in the country. The Government of the Maldives however must express its profound disappointment in the text of the Resolution.
The Case of Former President Nasheed
It was determined by the courts that the former President had ordered the army to abduct a judge - a matter that he has on more than one occasion publicly admitted. The allegation he did not receive a fair trial is something that has to be argued at the relevant courts in the Maldives. Mr Nasheed has now chosen to engage in the process, and the Supreme Court is presently considering his appeal.
A democracy is about ensuring the proper functioning of democratic and independent institutions. It is about the rule of law. It is about fundamental freedoms. It is about fairness, transparency and accountability. These are all matters that the Government strives to ensure are available to all its citizens.
The rule of law operates in a way that ensures that all persons, regardless of political affiliation, are held accountable for their actions if they breach the law. The mere fact that a person who has held political office in the past is arrested for a breach of the law should not automatically signify they are a political prisoner. The judiciary, prosecutorial authorities and law enforcement agencies must be permitted to operate independent of the executive. Any interference in their work can not be accepted in a democracy irrespective of the standing of the person under consideration.
The Government of Maldives has the utmost respect for the integrity of the US Senate and the dignity of the U.S. Government However, it is clear that the Senate has considered this matter without being aware of the full facts of this case.
The Restriction to Civil Liberties and a Crackdown on Political Dissent
The Government of the Maldives rejects the suggestion that there is a climate of fear amongst the political opposition.
The Governments of the Maldives welcomes, a vibrant and strong political opposition. This is essential in any democracy, especially one in its infancy and undergoing a period of development, as is the case in the Maldives.
It is notable that the opposition parties have refused to engage with the Government, and refused to partake in ‘all-party talks’. The Government re-affirms its willingness to work with opposition parties and seek to address their concerns, however, there must be engagement on all sides.
The Government of the Maldives views its obligations towards its citizens with the utmost seriousness and is adamant that fundamental rights and freedoms will be further entrenched.
It must be remembered however that such rights are not absolute, and must be exercised within the confines of the law, which is there to ensure that all citizens are protected.
Further, citizens must be allowed the freedom to express themselves and the freedom to protest against those acts that they do not agree with. However, such freedoms should not be exercised at the cost of those that do not wish to partake. Therefore, a balance must be struck.
Again, to suggest that democracy is under threat, and that civil liberties are being curtailed, is a misinterpretation of the reality, and again, does not accord with the evidence.
The Government of the Maldives does not accept that there are political prisoners within the Maldives penal system.
It would refer to the comments of the recent UK All Party Parliamentary Group on the Maldives in its report that referred to the figure of ‘1,800 political prisoners’ as being “a bizarre fabrication” when it is considered that the entire prison population of the Maldives is less than this number.
It is not disputed that there are individuals in custody who are supporters of the political opposition, however, this is not the justification for their detention. The justification is that there is an ongoing police investigation into allegations of criminality, or in the alternative, that they have been convicted following an allegation of criminality, and imprisonment has been imposed by way of sentence.
The fact that an individual may support the political opposition in a country, and that individuals find themselves in custody does not not translate into the position that they are a political prisoner. This is however, the danger in the position that is set out in the Resolution.
A Threat to Regional Security
The Maldives is not alone in facing the global threat of terrorism and extremism. Members of the Government have consistently called upon the international community to work together to seek to address the cause of extremism, the Foreign Minister recently called upon the UN Human Rights Council to be “persistent in its efforts to address the root causes of these conflicts”, and for “stronger global and unified efforts” against terrorism.
Domestically, the Government of Maldives takes the issue with the utmost seriousness, enacting legislation to address the issue, and specifically, the issue of individuals seeking to travel abroad to engage with terrorist groups. Extremism and radicalism is not and will not ever be tolerated in the Maldives.
The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom looks forward to the ongoing cooperation with the international community so as to enable it to further develop domestically, and be part of the fight against those ever-present issues that threaten global peace and security.