Authorities in the Maldives must ensure that opposition-led May Day protests are allowed to pass peacefully and police who have threatened to crack down on demonstrators must refrain from excessive force, Amnesty International said.
Supporters of the opposition coalition “Maldivians against Tyranny” are planning to stage a protest in the Maldives capital Male on 1 May. They demand the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed who has been imprisoned on charges of terrorism since March 2015 after an unfair trial. The opposition claims many thousands of people might take part in the protest, in what could be one of the largest such gatherings in the island nation’s history.
“The May Day demonstrations come at a time when political tensions are threatening to boil over in the Maldives. The country’s security forces have a troubling history of violently repressing opposition protests, not least over the past few months – this must not happen tomorrow,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.
“The Maldivian people have a right to air their frustrations with the current government, including about the sham political trials of Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders.”
Similar protests have in recent weeks led to a harsh crackdown on opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders. Authorities must ensure that people’s right to demonstrate peacefully is respected and must protect protestors from any violent attempt to disrupt the demonstration.
Armed riot police have staged training exercises in Male over the past days, and authorities have threatened to use both the army and police to crack down on protesters if they turn violent. A police official quoted in the Maldivian press said that police will hold responsible the protest organizers over anything that happens during the protest even if they are not directly involved. This is in violation of international law.
Earlier this month, an Amnesty International briefing on the Maldives documented how police have used excessive force, including beatings, against demonstrations supporting Mohammed Nasheed since his arrest.
Political rallies have in the past been attacked by gangs working in connivance with the police, leading to the forceful dispersal of the protest under the pretext of violence. Attacks against peaceful demonstrators have not been thoroughly investigated and no one has been brought to justice. Ahead of tomorrow’s protests, opposition leaders have accused the authorities of giving a blank cheque to such gangs to attack demonstrators in Male.
“The blanket impunity for human rights abuses against peaceful demonstrators – be it from state security forces or criminal gangs who apparently operate with the authorities’ blessing – must not continue. The authorities must take seriously their duty to protect peaceful assemblies and hold to account those responsible for such attacks,” said Abbas Faiz.
“Maldives: Assault on Civil and Political Rights”, Amnesty International Briefing, 23 April 2015.