UN rights committee urges Maldives to allow former president to run for office
UN rights committee urges Maldives to allow former president to run for office

The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) [official website] released a report [text, DOC] on Monday finding that the judicial proceedings under which former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed [campaign profile] were convicted “contained serious flaws and violated his right to a fair trial under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text]” and that he must be allowed to stand for public office.

The report addresses two claims that Nasheed filed in 2013 and 2015 after being “forced to resign from office under threat of violence against him and domestic unrest caused by his political opponents,” as well as his subsequent conviction on terrorism charges that carried with it a 13-year prison sentence as well as a 16-year disqualification from running in a presidential election.

The report details Nasheed’s claims and describes the facts and circumstances surrounding them, finding that “the measures taken within the proceedings in 2012-2013, cumulatively, were used as a means of preventing him from campaigning for the 2013 presidential elections, such as twice arresting him to interrupt campaign trips and denying his request to be authorized to travel to other islands and abroad in connection with the political campaign” and that Nasheed’s subsequent conviction was politically motivated, based on vague laws, and violations of his right to a fair trial. As such, the UNHRC declared that:

the State party is obligated, inter alia, to: (a) quash the author’s conviction, review the charges against him taking into account the present Views, and, if appropriate, conduct a new trial ensuring all fair trial guarantees; and (b) restore his right to stand for office, including the office of President. Additionally, the State party is under the obligation to take steps to avoid similar violations in the future, including reviewing its legislation to ensure that any restriction on the right to stand for office is reasonable and proportionate

The Maldives government issued a prompt response [press release] to the report, rejecting its findings and declaring that it is “committed to promoting and protecting the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Maldives and in the (ICCPR) as per its international obligations, and it wholeheartedly refutes that any of these rights have been violated in the case of the former President Nasheed [which is] … lawful and final.”

The UNHRC report comes just a few months after the country’s Supreme Court ordered [text, PDF, in Dhivehi] the release of several political prisoners, including Nasheed. The government’s refusal to comply with this court order resulted in popular protests in the island nation’s capital Malé, which in turn caused current president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom [official profile] to declare [JURIST report] a state of emergency. Under this state of emergency, two justices of the court, including the Chief Justice, were arrested on corruption charges and the earlier court order was reversed [JURIST report].