19 December 2020
Today marks one year since the Government of the Maldives arbitrarily shut down the longest serving human rights group in the country, the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) and arbitrarily confiscated all of its funds. Since then, the Government has not reversed any of its unconstitutional actions related to the dissolution of MDN.
We remind the Government of the Maldives that Article 30(b) of the country’s Constitution guarantees the right to establish societies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Article 43 affords everyone the right to fair administrative action that adheres to basic fairness and procedural propriety. MDN has been deprived of these rights through arbitrary action taken without due process.
An administrative decision was taken based on allegations of a criminal offence, depriving the organisation and the human rights defenders involved of their right to appeal in the criminal and civil processes initiated by the Government of the Maldives. The right to appeal is guaranteed by Article 56 of the Constitution. Furthermore, the organisation has not been given the right of reply or to defend itself against what is widely seen as a biased decision based on the interpretation of an academic research.
We are disappointed that the Parliament of the Maldives has refused to investigate the matter and hold the government accountable. We urge the Parliament not to use its mandate selectively, and call on it to conduct its affairs equally, uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.
The Government of the Maldives, by taking arbitrary and unconstitutional actions to silence civil society, has set a dangerous precedent that has resulted in a violent witch-hunt of human rights defenders and civil society organisations. We call on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to conduct a fair and open enquiry into these deplorable actions and stop the harassment of the human rights community in the Maldives, as several United Nations Member States recommended during the third Universal Periodic Review of the Maldives in November 2020.
The Asian Forum on Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a membership-based organisation with 81 members in 21 countries across Asia, headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, with offices in Kathmandu and Geneva. Since 1991, the organisation has been actively working to promote human rights and the right to development in the South and Southeast Asian region. MDN has been a member of FORUM-ASIA since January 2015.
CIVICUS is a global alliance dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world with 8,500 members in more than 175 countries. Based out of Johannesburg, CIVICUS has offices in New York and Geneva.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), is a non-partisan, non-sectarian, international non-governmental human rights organisation that federates 197 organisations from 117 countries. Founded in 1922 in Paris, FIDH is the world’s oldest human rights organisation. MDN has been a member of FIDH since 2019.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent non-governmental human rights organisation with specialisation in Access to information, Contemporary Forms of Slavery and Human Trafficking as well as Access to Justice. Founded in 1987, CHRI is headquartered in New Delhi, with offices in the UK and Ghana. It has been a partner of MDN and has provided technical assistance in Right to Information in the Maldives and on police and prison reforms.
The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) is a non-partisan civil society organisation based in the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, operating under the Swiss civil code. MDN, registered in the Maldives from 2006 until December 2019, was one of the longest-running human rights groups in the country until the Government of Maldives forcefully shut down the organisation.
For the pdf version of this statement please click here.
This post was originally published on FORUM-ASIA.