MALDIVES 2021The space for freedom of expression and dissent shrank. The impunity enjoyed by Islamist groups had a chilling effect on civil society and opposition voices.
BackgroundThe archipelago remained vulnerable to climate change and experienced increased flooding, erosion and fresh water shortages. The government of the Maldives committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030, subject to receiving the technical and financial support required from the international community. The Maldives is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and this will in turn affect the rights of its citizens.
Freedom of expression and assemblyThroughout the year there were frequent police crackdowns on protests, particularly those by opposition political groups. Media personnel reporting on protests were also attacked or harassed by police. Police dispersed protesters, citing the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act 2016 and health guidelines because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new Evidence Bill contained a worrying provision that would allow journalists to be forced to reveal their sources, a contravention of media ethics and the right to freedom of expression. On 6 May, an explosion targeted former President Mohamed Nasheed outside his home. Mohamed Nasheed, the current Speaker of the Maldives’ Parliament, had previously spoken out against alleged corruption and extremist groups operating in the Maldives. He was seriously injured in the blast along with four others. According to media reports, the police stated that the explosion was orchestrated by “Islamic State sympathizers”. Investigations continued against the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), a widely respected NGO, which was de-registered and banned by the authorities in November 2019 and had its bank accounts closed in 2020. The investigations concerned allegations of blasphemy against Islam, in relation to a report published by MDN in 2016. By the end of the year there had been no thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into MDN’s forced closure. The government had yet to respond to the targeting of the women’s rights organization Uthema by extremist groups in April 2020. The groups called for Uthema to be banned, labelling the organization “anti-Islam”. The authorities’ inaction was despite Uthema calling for the government to facilitate a dialogue with groups opposed to its work.
Freedom of religionIn May a bill was proposed in Parliament to criminalize hate speech. Media reports claimed the bill targeted conservative Muslim groups and that the MP who proposed it had received threats from these groups.
Right to truth, justice and reparationOn 15 January, President Solih appointed three Ombudspersons to the Office of the Ombudsperson for Transitional Justice, established under the Transitional Justice Act of 2020. According to the President’s Office, the Act sought to end the culture of impunity, strengthen the rule of law, prevent future abuses of authority and provide accountability and reparations for victims of violations that occurred between 1 January 1953 and 17 November 2018. On 24 April, protesters gathered to raise concerns about the increase in cases of harassment and violence against women and children in the country. This was in light of government failures to safeguard women and children, and properly investigate cases of harassment and violence against them. Protesters said they were threatened with arrest by the police. In April, seven years after the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, the Presidential Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances (DDCom) stated there were new developments in the case which would be shared with the Prosecutor General’s Office. The trial of six men accused of involvement in the killing of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017 faced severe delays. In February, Yameen Rasheed’s family expressed concern about the carelessness and negligence of the prosecutors’ handling of the trial. In April, DDCom called on the authorities to accelerate the trial. At the end of the year, there had yet to be any transparent, thorough, independent and impartial investigations conducted into the death on 13 September of Mohamed Aslam, a prisoner at Hulhumalé prison, and allegations of the torture of Ahmed Siraj in police custody in 2020.
Maldives: The tortuous ordeal of a prisoner in paradise
October 30, 2018 – courts
Maldives: New defamation bill another blow to free media
August 10, 2016
Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms
February 22, 2016
Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016
February 18, 2016 – Annual Report
Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International
February 18, 2016 – State of the World 2015
Maldives: State of emergency an alarming development in continuing crackdown on human rights
November 4, 2015
Maldives rejects UN criticism of former President’s arbitrary political imprisonment
October 1, 2015
State of the World 2014/2015
February 25, 2015
Annual Report: Maldives 2013
May 21, 2013
Sexually Abused Girl Should Be Protected, Not Punished
January 8, 2013
Killing of Maldivian Parliament Member “Shocking Act of Violence”
October 2, 2012
Human Rights Crisis in Maldives Exposed in New Amnesty International Report
September 4, 2012