13 March 2015
An Open Letter to the Conservative Human Rights Commission
We write in regards to the press release of 12 March 2015 issued by the Conservative Human Rights Commission, regarding the arrest of former President Mr Mohamed Nasheed.
Whilst the Government of Maldives recognises the important stated role of your organisation, it is extremely disappointing that a commission as ostensibly objective as the one you chair could release a statement as one sided and narrow in conception as you have. The Government believes that it was extremely irresponsible of the Commission to release this to press without adequately verifying the facts of the case. Your Commission website shows that you have only released a handful of statements in the past three years, the majority of them in defence of former President Mr Mohamed Nasheed. Further, a body within the Conservative Party issuing such a statement has had the unfortunate effect of being labelled as a statement from the Conservative Party. Instead of relaying the truth of the matter, the statement released serves only to perpetuate the spread of misinformation and baseless rumour. We would therefore like to take the opportunity to provide an accurate account of the circumstances surrounding the trial of the former President and draw your attention to the number of factual inaccuracies detailed in your statement.
Firstly, the Government of Maldives take grievance with the claim that Mr Nasheed “was overthrown in a coup d’etat”. As you will be aware, following events surrounding the resignation of Mr Nasheed on 7 February 2012 the then President in office, Dr Mohamed Waheed, in collaboration with the Commonwealth established the Commission of National Inquiry. (To inquire into, and report on, the facts and circumstances leading to the 7 February transfer of power; establish the veracity of former President Nasheed’s claim that he resigned under duress; and ultimately determine the legality of the transfer of power.) As a result of the close collaboration with the Commonwealth, the respected Singaporean judge, Justice J.P Selvam was appointed as co-Chair of CoNI, and Sir Bruce Robertson and Professor John Packer were appointed as International Legal Advisers to the Commission representing the Commonwealth and the United Nations respectively.
The release of The Report of the Commission of National Inquiry, Maldives on 30 August 2012, and its subsequent acceptance by domestic and international stakeholders, has comprehensively laid to rest all doubts concerning the legality of the transfer of power and the legitimacy of the former Government.
In regard to the CoNI report, the Government of Maldives would like to draw the Conservative Human Rights Commission’s attention to the following key points:
- The findings of the CoNI report verify the legality of the transfer of power and confirm legitimacy of the present administration. The summary of the Commission’s conclusions on page 2 of the CoNI report reads as follows:
- The change of President in the Republic of Maldives on 7 February 2012 was legal and constitutional.
- The events that occurred on 6 and 7 February 2012 were, in large measure, reactions to the actions of President Nasheed.
- The resignation of President Nasheed was voluntary and of his own free will. It was not caused by any illegal coercion or intimidation
- There were acts of police brutality on 6, 7 and 8 February 2012 that must be investigated and pursued further by the relevant authorities
- The CoNI and its findings were welcomed and commended by a multitude of international stakeholders. Among others, statements of support were issued by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, HE Mr Kamalesh Sharma, a spokesperson of UN Secretary-General HE Mr Ban Ki-Moon, the US State Department and the British Government.
The Government also categorically rejects the suggestion made in your statement that that the charges against former President Nasheed are “politically motivated”. We can assure you that there is no conspiracy by the Government to unwarrantedly convict Mr Nasheed and prevent him from participating in the political arena in the future. Instead, the independent Judiciary is exercising its constitutional authority to pursue charges against President Nasheed for the abduction of Judge Abdulla in January 2012, and the Government (Executive) cannot interfere with these proceedings under our Constitution. Former President Nasheed, like any other citizen of the country is entitled, by virtue of the constitution to a transparent and impartial trial and the case against him continues in accordance with the rule of law.
As you will appreciate the Maldives is a nascent democracy, undergoing a dynamic phase of transition. The Government remains steadfast in its commitment to entrenching democratic principles in the Maldives, but this can only be guaranteed by adhering to the separation of powers and the primacy of the rule of law at all times. The Constitution of the Maldives clearly establishes the structure of governance and the independence of the branches of state within the Maldives. All of the branches of state—without exception—function independently and without political interference, in full adherence to the separation of powers. Similarly, all legal cases—irrespective of the individuals involved—proceed fairly and transparently, in full accordance with the Constitution and the rule of law. We can assure you that the independence of the Judiciary and the fairness of due legal process remain as sacrosanct in the case against former President Nasheed as they would for any other Maldivian citizen. The Government of Maldives will continue to ensure the inviolability of a citizen’s right to a fair trial, insulated from political interference, and continue to strive to enforce the law within its constitutional mandate.
Further, the statement makes reference to the “mistreatment’ of Mr Nasheed whilst in custody as well as alleging that he was denied any legal representation and the right to appeal. These allegations are substantively unfounded-Mr Nasheed was in fact, given the opportunity-when he was presented before the judge at the Criminal Court on 23 February-to appoint a legal counsel. Throughout the process, the Maldives Police service followed standard procedure and due process. A statement was in fact issued by the Maldives Police Service refuting allegations of manhandling on 23 February 2015. The statement identifies that Mr Nasheed was “granted all rights of an accused who is kept under detention and obligatory access was given to his family, party activists and legal counsel as well as officials of the Maldives Human Rights Commission.”
We are aware of Nasheed’s excellent relations with your Party, but in reporting on events in Maldives without adequately checking the facts, the Conservative Human Rights Commission has disseminated and perpetuated false rumours about the domestic situation in the Maldives, just to support a good friend. Regretfully, issuance of the press release has had the unfortunate result of lending credence to baseless allegations, which, in turn, have been reported by domestic media sources. In light of this the Government of the Maldives has serious concerns not only about the factual inaccuracies in the statement, but more importantly questions the Commissions neutrality and objectivity in the Maldives.
Nonetheless, the Maldives has always sought to actively engage with our bilateral partners as we continue along the road of modernising, reforming and strengthening our institutions. With constructive engagement and the support of development partners like the United Kingdom, the Government of Maldives remains confident that democracy will consolidate in the Maldives despite the many challenges that the country continues to face. Having said this however, all progress being made by the Government with the democratic transition is hindered by the release of statements that spread misinformation and groundless accusations. The Government of Maldives believes that productive dialogue is what is needed to succeed in cultivating democratic values in our society, not the spread of inflammatory accusations, which only seek to further perpetuate domestic tension.
On behalf of the High Commission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- Conservative Human Rights Commission, Fiona Bruce MP calls for release of former President Mohamed Nasheed in the Maldives and an end to “sham” trial, 12 March 2015,
- Report of the Commission of National Inquiry, Maldives
- Commonwealth welcomes Maldives Commission of National Inquiry Report, 30 August 2012
- Secretary-General, Welcoming Commission of Inquiry’s Report on Maldives Power Transfer, Urges Parties to Accept Findings, Begin National Dialogue, 30 August 2012
- Release of Report by Maldivian Commission of National Inquiry, 30 August 2012,
- Foreign Office Minister welcomes Maldives report, 1 September 2012,
- Maldives Police Service Statement, re: Allegations of police brutality on 23 February 2015, 26 February 2015