Feb 4, 2018
Disturbed by reports of clashes between security forces and demonstrators in the Maldives over the country’s Supreme Court verdict freeing political prisoners, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has urged the government to exercise restraint, respect the rule of law and the independence of the Supreme Court.
The Indian Ocean Island has been in turmoil since last Thursday when the Maldives Supreme Court ordered the release of all political prisoners, triggering celebrations by opposition groups which quickly turned into protests as they demanded swift implementation of the judicial verdict.
The government of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom dismissed a police chief who said he would implement the court’s decision.
(An Associated Press report from the capital of Male says that “As of Sunday, no prisoners had been released. The government said it had been advised by the chief justice to follow due process in releasing the prisoners.” A government statement later Sunday said the prosecutor general had appraised the Supreme Court on the ‘numerous legal challenges’ in the implementation of the ruling.”)
Among those ‘freed’ by the Court was former President Mohamed Nasheed, who currently lives in exile between Britain and Sri Lanka.
CHRI had in the past highlighted the lack of due process which had resulted in their arbitrary imprisonment of political prisoners. This has also been reiterated by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
“CHRI welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate 12 Members of Parliament and views this as a positive, necessary step towards ensuring free and fair elections in the Maldives,” said Sanjoy Hazarika, CHRI’s international director.
He noted that it had been the Court which had previously sanctioned the removal of the parliamentarians. CHRI said it continued to support democratic governance and the separation of powers between the political executive and the judiciary.
Urging the Maldivian government to implement the Court’s order without delay, Hazarika said it could be an important move “towards restoring rule of law and constitutionalism in the Maldives”.