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Maldives 2023

Authorities further restricted press freedom, including through penalizing and arresting journalists reporting on protests. The police routinely used unlawful force to suppress protests, and human rights defenders faced reprisals. Gender inequality was particularly evident in political representation. The Maldivian government announced plans to reinstate the use of the death penalty.


Mohamed Muizzu of Progressive Alliance – a coalition between the Progressive Party of Maldives and the People’s National Congress – defeated Ibrahim Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party in the presidential elections on 30 September. In August, the Supreme Court upheld the Elections Commission of Maldives’ disqualification of former president Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives from standing in the election following his conviction in 2022 for corruption.

Freedom of peaceful assembly

Police routinely used unlawful force to disrupt peaceful protests and arbitrarily arrested protesters. In January, nine people were wrongfully arrested during peaceful protests. In June, police used pepper spray at an opposition protest leading to several injuries.

Protests were organized against India’s influence in the Maldives (“India Out” protests), calling for the removal of Indian military personnel stationed in the country. Protests were also organized to call for the release of former president and current opposition leader Abdulla Yameen, who was serving an 11-year jail term after his conviction in 2022. In March, 12 protesters were arrested, including Adam Asif, a member of Abdulla Yameen’s legal team.

Freedom of expression


At least four journalists were arrested by the police while reporting on protests throughout the year. On 19 January, Mohamed Samah was placed under house arrest for a month after covering a protest. On 16 March, Hussain Juman was detained after reporting on a Progressive Party rally and released without charge the next day. On 7 February, police used pepper spray on two journalists and pushed one to the ground with their shields, causing him to lose consciousness.

The new Evidence Act took effect in January, allowing judges to compel journalists to reveal their sources or be subject to fines or jail if they refuse. Journalists increasingly faced harassment and threats, including death threats, from the state and other actors over articles they published related to corruption and religion. Authorities failed to investigate and ensure accountability. On 22 November, the criminal court dropped charges against the accused in the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017.

Freedom of association

In March, the Civil Court of Maldives upheld the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment’s 2019 decision to de-register the Maldivian Democracy Network, which had been unable to function since it was shut down in 2019.

Women’s and girls’ rights

Women’s rights activists raised concerns about the continued lack of political representation. During the presidential election in September, all eight candidates were men. Women continued to be significantly under-represented in political life, comprising just 4.6% of members of parliament.

Human rights defenders

In October, the UN Human Rights Council raised concerns that the police had failed to investigate targeted harassment, threats and intimidation against individuals affiliated with the women’s human rights organization Uthema, related to their 2021 report to the UN CEDAW Committee.

The case of Ahmed Rilwan, an investigative journalist and human rights defender who disappeared in April 2014, remained unresolved after a court on 22 November dropped charges against a man accused of murdering him.

Right to a healthy environment

Maldives remained one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea levels had already caused severe erosion of inhabited islands and depleted freshwater resources.

At COP28 in November, states reached an agreement on the operationalization of a new loss and damage fund to support communities most severely affected by the climate crisis. The Maldives called upon higher-income countries to contribute to this vital fund. 

Recent Maldivian administrations have failed to comply with environmental laws and regulations and neglected the concerns of local communities around mitigating the detrimental impacts of development projects, such as no compensation for loss of housing. Environmental groups warned of risks from climate change to reef ecosystems, seagrass meadows, mangroves, wetlands and island shelterbelts, which are the basis of many livelihoods, including tourism and fishing.