Maldives

Back to Maldives

MALDIVES 2021

The space for freedom of expression and dissent shrank. The impunity enjoyed by Islamist groups had a chilling effect on civil society and opposition voices.

Background

The archipelago remained vulnerable to climate change and experienced increased flooding, erosion and fresh water shortages. The government of the Maldives committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030, subject to receiving the technical and financial support required from the international community. The Maldives is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and this will in turn affect the rights of its citizens.

Freedom of expression and assembly

Throughout the year there were frequent police crackdowns on protests, particularly those by opposition political groups. Media personnel reporting on protests were also attacked or harassed by police. Police dispersed protesters, citing the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act 2016 and health guidelines because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new Evidence Bill contained a worrying provision that would allow journalists to be forced to reveal their sources, a contravention of media ethics and the right to freedom of expression.

On 6 May, an explosion targeted former President Mohamed Nasheed outside his home. Mohamed Nasheed, the current Speaker of the Maldives’ Parliament, had previously spoken out against alleged corruption and extremist groups operating in the Maldives. He was seriously injured in the blast along with four others. According to media reports, the police stated that the explosion was orchestrated by “Islamic State sympathizers”.

Investigations continued against the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), a widely respected NGO, which was de-registered and banned by the authorities in November 2019 and had its bank accounts closed in 2020. The investigations concerned allegations of blasphemy against Islam, in relation to a report published by MDN in 2016. By the end of the year there had been no thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into MDN’s forced closure.

The government had yet to respond to the targeting of the women’s rights organization Uthema by extremist groups in April 2020. The groups called for Uthema to be banned, labelling the organization “anti-Islam”. The authorities’ inaction was despite Uthema calling for the government to facilitate a dialogue with groups opposed to its work.

Freedom of religion

In May a bill was proposed in Parliament to criminalize hate speech. Media reports claimed the bill targeted conservative Muslim groups and that the MP who proposed it had received threats from these groups.

Right to truth, justice and reparation

On 15 January, President Solih appointed three Ombudspersons to the Office of the Ombudsperson for Transitional Justice, established under the Transitional Justice Act of 2020. According to the President’s Office, the Act sought to end the culture of impunity, strengthen the rule of law, prevent future abuses of authority and provide accountability and reparations for victims of violations that occurred between 1 January 1953 and 17 November 2018.

On 24 April, protesters gathered to raise concerns about the increase in cases of harassment and violence against women and children in the country. This was in light of government failures to safeguard women and children, and properly investigate cases of harassment and violence against them. Protesters said they were threatened with arrest by the police.

In April, seven years after the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, the Presidential Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances (DDCom) stated there were new developments in the case which would be shared with the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The trial of six men accused of involvement in the killing of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017 faced severe delays. In February, Yameen Rasheed’s family expressed concern about the carelessness and negligence of the prosecutors’ handling of the trial. In April, DDCom called on the authorities to accelerate the trial.

At the end of the year, there had yet to be any transparent, thorough, independent and impartial investigations conducted into the death on 13 September of Mohamed Aslam, a prisoner at Hulhumalé prison, and allegations of the torture of Ahmed Siraj in police custody in 2020.