MDV 001 / 1219 / OBS 111
NGO closure /
Obstacle to freedom of association
December 20, 2019
The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in the Maldives.
The Observatory has been informed by the MaldivianDemocracy Network (MDN) of the government’s announcement of MDN’s officialdissolution.
According to the information received, on December 19,2019, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment announced thatMDN had been officially dissolved, after a period of 45 days, which had been givento MDN to settle all its assets and bank accounts.
MDN’sdissolution was initially announced on November 5, 2019, by the Registrar ofAssociations under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowermentbased on Articles 19 (a) and (b), and Article 32 of the 2003 Associations Act.
The government’s decision to ban MDN purportedlystemmed from the publication of MDN’s report, ‘Preliminary Assessment onRadicalization in the Maldives’, which the organisation published in 2016. According tothe November 5 announcement about the dissolution of MDN, a policeinvestigation found that parts of the 2016 report were “contrary to tenets ofIslam”, which amounted to blasphemy in the Maldives.
The policeinvestigation lacked fairness and transparency, and did not abide by a dueprocess. The finding of blasphemy was based on the Maldives Police Service’sreview of the report’s content in cooperation with the Ministry of IslamicAffairs, which filed the initial complaint against MDN. No details concerningthe investigation - nor its findings - have been made available to MDN and thegeneral public (see background information).
The Observatory recalls that under the InternationalCovenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Maldives is a Stateparty, the Government has an obligation to respect and protect the right tofreedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association.These rights are guaranteed by Articles 19 and 22 of the ICCPR, and can only besubjected to certain restrictions that are ‘necessary’ for the respect of therights or freedoms of others, and for the protection of national security, ofpublic order (ordre public), or of public health or morals. TheMaldivian government’s decision to dissolve MDN is inconsistent with the stricttest of necessity and proportionality required by Article 19 and 22 of theICCPR.
TheObservatory strongly condemns the government’s dissolution of MDN, which seemsto be only aimed at sanctioning MDN for its legitimate human rights activitiesand the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. TheObservatory urges the Maldivian authorities to immediately reverse theirdecision to dissolve MDN and to guarantee under all circumstances the right tofreedom of expression and association in accordance with Articles 19 and 22 ofICCPR.
On October3, 2019, the Islamic Ministry filed a complaint against MDN after religiousconservative groups began instigating a smear campaign on social media againstthe NGO and its staff in early September 2019. The Islamic Ministry's decisionto request an investigation resulted in protests, calling for harsh punishmentand killings of MDN staff and members.
OnOctober 9, 2019, MDN issued a press release in which it offered an apology for“the unfortunate use of language” in some sections of its 2016 report. MDN alsoretracted the report for further review.
On October 10, 2019,the Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement to announcethat it had “imposed a temporary cessation” on MDN’s activities.MOFA justified its decision in response to “widespread public condemnation” ofMDN 2016 report. MOFA said the measure would be effective for the duration ofthe authorities’ “investigation into the matter.” Onthe same day, the Registrar of Associations, under the Ministry of Youth,Sports and Community Empowerment, ordered the “temporary” suspension of MDN’sactivities due to a police investigation being conducted into the 2016 report.
OnNovember 5, 2019, MDN’s dissolution was announced by the Registrar ofAssociations under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment,pursuant to Articles 19 (a) and (b), and Article 32 of the 2003 AssociationsAct.
OnNovember 6, 2019, MDN requested the Ministry of Youth, Sports and CommunityEmpowerment to provide clarifications concerning its decision. A reminder wassent by MDN to the Ministry on November 18, 2019.
OnDecember 8, 2019, MDN lodged an official request with the Maldives PoliceService to obtain a copy of the investigative report that the police submittedto the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, which led to theMinistry’s decision to ban MDN. The police failure to inform MDN of theallegations against it, and to enquire from MDN at any stage of theinvestigation prevented MDN from challenging the allegations made against it.
Please write to the authorities in the Maldives,urging them to:
i. Immediately reverse the decision to dissolve MDN;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - includingat the judicial level - against MDN, its members, and all humanrights defenders in the Maldives, and ensure in all circumstances that they areable to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear ofreprisals;
iii. Guarantee under any circumstances the right tofreedom of expression and association as enshrined in Articles 19 and 22 ofICCPR;
iv. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration onHuman Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nationson December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for humanrights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rightsstandards and international instruments ratified by the Maldives.
· Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of theRepublic of Maldives, Fax: (960) 332 5500 Twitter: @presidencymv
· Mr. Imran Abdulla, Minister of HomeAffairs of the Republic of Maldives, Phone: +960 3313325; Twitter: @homeministrymv Email: email@example.com
· Ms. Aminath Eenas, President of the HumanRights Commission of the Maldives, Fax: +960 3338658, +960 3304725, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
· H.E. Hala Hameed, Ambassador, PermanentMission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations Office in Geneva,Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 732 63 39, Email: info@MaldivesMission.ch
· H.E. Hassan Sobir, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republicof Maldives to Belgium, Fax: +32 (0)2 256 7569, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com
Pleasealso write to the diplomatic representations of the Maldives located in yourcountry.
Paris-Geneva, December 20, 2019
Kindly inform us of any action undertakenquoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedysituations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are bothmembers of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.
 Seethe Observatory Press Release published on October 11, 2019.
 Seethe Observatory Press Release published on November 6, 2019.