The authorities took further steps to restrict freedom of expression in law. The security forces routinely used unlawful force to suppress protests. Maldives retained the death penalty and people remained on death row.
Maldives remained one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Rising sea levels have already caused severe erosion of inhabited islands and depleted freshwater resources. At COP27 in November, the Maldivian authorities advocated vigorously for the establishment of an international fund to support victims of loss and damage in climate-vulnerable countries.
Freedom of expression and assembly
In July, parliament passed a new Evidence Act, section 136 of which allowed judges to compel journalists to reveal their sources. Local and international civil society groups including Amnesty International had previously warned against the passing of this law given its restrictive effect on media freedom. At the end of the year, the government was considering amending section 136.
Police used unlawful force to disrupt protests on several occasions. In January, protesters opposing Indian influence in Maldives were arrested by police on grounds that included the alleged obstruction of law enforcement officers.
The authorities continued to use the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act of 2013 to impose limitations on peaceful assemblies and to give undue discretion to the police in granting permission for protests, contrary to international human rights law and standards.
Freedom of religion
Some religious and political groups continued to use religious arguments to call for restrictions on human rights and the work of civil society organizations. The Maldivian Democracy Network remained unable to function since it was shut down in 2019 due to lobbying by religious groups.
Activist Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba spent more than six months in pretrial detention for blasphemy before being released in August.1 The charges related to comments he posted on social media about religious freedom and human rights.
In October, participants at a yoga event were attacked by people objecting to yoga as “un-Islamic”. The authorities arrested 21 people and charged 18 under anti-terrorism laws for disrupting the event. Two clerics remained on trial on charges relating to terrorism.
Women’s and girls’ rights
Concerns were raised by the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls about rising gender-based violence. Women made up only 4.6% of representatives in parliament, while quotas at local government level increased women’s representation to 39.5%.
Abdullah Rasheed died in police custody in October. By the end of the year, no investigation was known to have been initiated into his death, nor that of Mohamed Aslam who died in prison in 2021.
In January, two men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017. Civil society raised concerns around the impartiality of the investigation and prosecution and called for the Presidential Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances (DDCom) to investigate the case.