President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih
The President's Office
Republic of the Maldives
By email: email@example.com
8 August 2019
RE: Ongoingthreats against human rights defenders in the Maldives
Dear Mr. President,
TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDHand the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), is writing to you to expressits deepest concern over the ongoing threats and harassment against humanrights defenders in the Maldives.
TheObservatory has received information that at least 15 human rights defenders,including journalists, lawyers, and non-governmental organisation (NGO)workers, have been subjected to repeated acts of harassment and intimidationonline since you took office in November 2018. In many cases, such acts haveamounted to hate speech and death threats, which fostera dangerous environment for human rights defenders and impede them fromdoing their work.
Human rights defenderswho have advocated for the respect of human rights, gender equality, andaccountability for violations, as well as those who have expressed theirsupport for religious tolerance, have been especially targeted. Online newsoutlet Vaguthu Online, Facebook page Siru Arts, and the now defunct Telegramchannel Murtad Watch [‘ApostateWatch’] Mv have been the preferred platforms for religious extremists toattacks human rights defenders and label them as “un-Islamic”, “anti-religious”or “apostates.” Such platforms have also encouraged users to directly threatenhuman rights defenders with violence, often hiding behind anonymous Twitter orFacebook accounts.
We are particularlytroubled by the lack of action by law enforcement agencies to investigate andrespond to threats and death threats against human rights defenders. Coupledwith a lack of condemnation by your administration, this impunity emboldensextremists who have little hesitation to turn their words into action. This wasthe case of blogger Yameen Rasheed, who was murdered in April 2017 afterreceiving multiple death threats that were not adequately investigated.
Today, on the five-yearanniversary of the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, we wish toremind you that during your election campaign you promised to investigate hisdisappearance, as well as the murder of Yameen Rasheed. While we welcome someconcrete steps that your administration has taken to investigate these twocases, we urge you to ensure that full and transparent investigations areundertaken into all cases of threats, harassment, and violence against humanrights defenders and other members of civil society. We also urge you topublicly condemn all acts of hate speech and other harassment of human rights defenders,publicly recognise the legitimate work of human rights defenders, and send themessage that violence against them will not be tolerated in the Maldives. Webelieve that by undertaking these important actions you will significantlycontribute to the prevention of further harm to other individuals.
Lastly, the Observatoryurges you to ensure that authorities conform to the provisions of theDeclaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations GeneralAssembly on December 9, 1998, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and toall other international human rights instruments to which the country is astate party.
Thank you for yourattention to this important matter.
OMCT Secretary General