IPU deeply concerned over human rights violations against Maldives lawmakers

The Inter-Parliamentary Union has expressed concern over human rights violation against opposition lawmakers in the Maldives.

In a press statement Wednesday, the global organisation of national parliaments called for a fact-finding mission by its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians and noted appreciation for an offer made by the Maldivian authorities to grant a visit in the near future.

The IPU “expressed deep concern that a sizeable number of opposition MPs had been subject to legal action” since the opposition secured a majority to impeach the speaker in early July.

“In particular, the Organisation regretted that the mandates of seven parliamentarians had been revoked in the absence of any legal basis under Maldivian law. It also raised the alarm about the increased militarization of the physical premises of the parliament.”

The organisation’s human rights committee offers protection and redress to individual MPs. During the IPU’s 137th general assembly last week, the committee’s decisions concerning 200 parliamentarians from 11 countries were adopted, “the majority of which related to only four countries: Turkey, Venezuela, the Maldives and Cambodia.”

A senior delegation of ruling party lawmakers, including Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan and Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, attended the general assembly in St Petersburg, Russia.

Nihan defended the Maldives at a committee hearing on October 14, claiming that the opposition’s allegations were based on “misinformation” and insisting “there is full respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers in Maldives.”

The delegation also met the IPU President and Secretary-General in Geneva on October 5.

In its decision on the Maldives, the committee noted that 33 different legal cases are pending against 21 opposition lawmakers, which “together with ongoing reports about reduced space for freedom of expression and assembly and reduced opportunities for the opposition to meaningfully contribute to the work of parliament lend weight to the allegation that this is part of a deliberate attempt to silence the opposition.”

The IPU said MPs should be able to access parliament at all times and called on the authorities to drop obstruction charges raised against 12 opposition lawmakers for entering parliament on July 24, when they were manhandled and dragged out by police officers and soldiers in riot gear.

A constitutionally-mandated deadline for voting on the no-confidence motion against Maseeh expired on July 24 but the contentious disqualification of defectors from the ruling party was used to quash the majority-backed motion.

Expressing concern about the case of the seven former ruling party lawmakers who were stripped of their seats “in the absence of a sound legal basis under Maldivian law”, the IPU said the move “was politically inspired as it had the immediate effect of limiting the likelihood of the successful passage of the no-confidence motion.”

Other cases of concern included the sentencing in absentia of Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim as well as the trials of MPs Faris Maumoon and Ibrahim Mohamed Didi.

Parliament reconvened after recess earlier this month but regular sittings have effectively been suspended. Two brief and raucous sittings were conducted over the din of opposition lawmakers clamouring for Maseeh’s resignation.

five-foot wall was erected during the break as a barrier between protesting MPs and the embattled speaker.

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