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UN Official: Maldives State of Emergency Undermines Democracy


A Maldives policeman charges with a baton towards protesters after the government declared a state of emergency, in Male, Maldives, early Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has condemned the state of emergency imposed by the president of the Maldives as an ‘all-out assault on democracy’ and a violation of peoples’ rights.

Zeid said the suspension of constitutional guarantees in the Maldives has created a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of President Abdulla Yameen.

The Maldives president declared a state of emergency following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release and retry nine political leaders and to reinstate 12 suspended opposition members of parliament.

Chief of the Rule of Law and Equality in the High Commissioner’s Office Mona Rishmawi, told VOA that is creating a very unfortunate situation for the country.

FILE - Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, center, surrounded by body guards, arrives to address his supporters in Male, Feb. 3, 2018.
FILE - Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, center, surrounded by body guards, arrives to address his supporters in Male, Feb. 3, 2018.

“You have to remember that this year is a year of elections — 2018 is a year of elections. So, if the political leaders cannot freely run for elections, how can the elections take place in a free and fair manner. So, it is a very worrying sign for a small country of islands like the Maldives and we are extremely concerned,” she said.

Rishmawi said a state of emergency can be legally proclaimed if the life of the nation is threatened. She said the Maldives’ case does not meet that standard and is in violation of international law.

She notes the decree also suspends fundamental protections against arbitrary detention. That, she says, makes detainees very vulnerable because they will have no right to appeal a conviction and sentence in a criminal or civil matter.

Soon after the state of emergency was declared, former Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was arrested on charges of trying to overthrow the government. Two Supreme Court judges, including the chief justice who had ordered the release of political prisoners, also have been detained.

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