Urgent Interventions

Lift restrictions against Maldivian Democracy Network; protect its associates from attacks

Geneva-Paris, October 11,2019: Maldivian authorities must immediately lift the arbitrary restrictionsimposed on the leading non-governmental organisation (NGO) Maldivian DemocracyNetwork (MDN), and protect its staff, board members, and their families fromattacks and other acts of harassment and intimidation, the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) urged today.

“We condemn in thestrongest terms the Maldivian government’s order to MDN to stop its activities.Instead of impeding the legitimate and important work done by MDN, thegovernment should address rampant religious extremism and protect human rightsdefenders,” said FIDH Vice-President Adilur Rahman Khan.

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 justifiedits decision in response to “widespread public condemnation” of a reportpublished by MDN in 2016 on the rise of violent extremism in the Maldives. MOFAsaid the measure would be effective for the duration of the authorities’“investigation into the matter.”

On the same day, theRegistrar of Associations, under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and CommunityEmpowerment, ordered MDN to immediately cease its activities due to a policeinvestigation being conducted into the 2016 report.

The Observatory isconcerned that in the absence of any information concerning such investigation,the “temporary cessation” of MDN’s activities is, in fact, an indefinitesuspension of the organisation’s work. It must be noted that MDN has extendedits full cooperation to the Maldives Police Service in its investigation.

The Observatorywelcomes the government’s pledge to “use the full force of the law” against those who issue threats and call for violence against others in the name of defending religion. However, todate, the Observatory has no knowledge of any investigations initiated by lawenforcement agencies against death threats and other forms of intimidation.

"It’s the ongoing useof social media to threaten and intimidate Maldivian human rights defendersthat should be investigated, not a three-year old report that impeccablydescribed instances of radicalisation among certain sectors of Maldiviansociety”, said OMCT SecretaryGeneral Gerald Staberock.

The Observatory recallsthat under Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights (ICCPR), to which the Maldives is a state party, the only permissiblerestrictions to the right to freedom of association are those “prescribed bylaw and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests ofnational security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or theprotection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

On October 9, 2019, MDNissued a press release in which it offered an apology for “the unfortunate useof language” in some sections of its 2016 report. MDN also retracted the reportfor further review.

MDN is set to become amember organisation of FIDH during FIDH’s 40th Congress, which willbe held in Taipei from October 21 to 25, 2019.

For further information, pleasecontact:
· FIDH:Ms. Eva Canan (English, French), +33648059157 (Paris)
· OMCT:Ms. Delphine Reculeau (English, French), +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is tointervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.