As Maldives returns to Commonwealth, CHRI urges protection of human rights defenders

Feb 04, 2020

New Delhi, India

Welcoming the return of the Maldives to the Commonwealth after a three-year break, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) today urged the island nation to adhere to human rights and adopt the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles* and the Harare Declaration* approved by Commonwealth heads of government. 

In accordance with this approach, the government should roll back measures against human rights defenders as part of its commitment to protecting freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

"The Maldives made an emphatic and welcome return to democracy last year. As part of that commitment, it should engage with civil society groups including those which disagree with its views," said CHRI's International Board in a statement. It called for President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to review the decision to shut down the country's most prominent civil society group, the Maldivian Democratic Network (MDN) and freeze its bank accounts

In a statement released on 23 October 2019, CHRI, on behalf of 16 prominent Asian human rights groups, had called on President Solih to remove MDN's suspension and ensure the protection and freedom of its members. The 2019 statement added that while the government had the power to investigate allegations of blasphemy that were made in relation to one of MDN's publications, it had "an equal and corresponding mandate to uphold the rights of MDN members", pursuant to its obligations in UN treaties and to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.

Previously, CHRI released a report which drew attention to serious failures by the Maldives government to make progress on six priority areas identified by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). 

CHRI underlines the concerns expressed in a statement by Amnesty International  last month which noted that "...while the government took steps to address the effects of climate change and made some progress on investigations into past attacks on journalists and activists, it largely failed to deliver on its commitments to uphold freedom of expression, reduce overcrowding in prisons and deliver justice to the families of disappeared and slain journalists."  The International Board drew attention to Amnesty's specific mention of MDN in its reference to the country's "mixed record on human rights commitments". 

* Adopted in 2004, the Commonwealth Principles govern issues such as the harmonious balancing of power and the interaction between parliament, the executive and the judiciary in democratic societies. The Harare Declaration of 1991 among other things, stressed fundamental human rights and individual liberty.

Issued by the International Board of CHRI: Prof Alison Duxbury, Chairperson (Australia), Wajahat Habibullah (India), Joanna Ewart-James (UK), Sam Okudzeto (Ghana) and Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director    

For further details, please contact:

Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director of CHRI, at