Maldives: Release peaceful protestors immediately and unconditionally
The Maldivian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all people who have been arbitrarily detained under the state of emergency solely for exercising their human rights and halt attacks on peaceful protestors, Amnesty International said today.
The human rights organization has documented several arbitrary detentions on the island nation under state of emergency laws, mainly of peaceful protestors and journalists. Members of the judiciary and political opponents have also been held arbitrarily since the state of emergency was imposed on 5 February, and the organization has called for their immediate release unless promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence.
“Those who were peacefully protesting against the state of emergency should never have been detained in the first place and must be released immediately and unconditionally. The Maldivian government is using the state of emergency as a licence for repression, targeting members of civil society, judges and political opponents,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director.
The state of emergency was extended on 20 February for a further 30 days, a move that was deemed “unconstitutional” by the Maldives prosecutor-general. The vote to extend the state of emergency was forced through parliament in the absence of a quorum.
Amnesty International has also documented the use of unnecessary and excessive force by the police against journalists and peaceful protestors.
Hundreds have been gathering every night on the streets of Malé, the capital, calling for the release of people arbitrarily detained and for the lifting of the state of emergency.
One of the protestors, Abdulla Saleem, slipped into a coma after the police used pepper spray to disperse a protest. He remains in an intensive care unit in a hospital in the Maldivian capital.
On 16 February, the police attacked several journalists while covering the protests against the state of emergency. Some of the journalists sustained serious injuries and had to be hospitalized.
On 25 February, the Maldivian authorities imposed a curfew after 10:30pm, prohibiting protestors from gathering after that time.
“People have a right to protest peacefully and journalists have a right to document and report on these protests freely and without fear. The state of emergency cannot be used to justify such a crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The authorities must immediately halt the attacks on peaceful protestors and effectively investigate those suspected to be responsible and hold them to account,” said Dinushika Dissanayake.