UN rights body concerned by ‘shrinking democratic space’ in Maldives

UN High Commissioner for human rights

UN High Commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on Monday expressed concern about the “shrinking democratic space” in Maldives.

In his global update to the UN Human Rights Council which began the 32 session in Geneva, Mr. Hussein said he was “troubled” by the application of terrorism-related charges against Opposition leaders of Maldives, and “a number of new rules which have negative impact on fundamental freedoms.”

However, he described as a “positive signal” the access given to his office by the government and said: “the authorities are open to discussion.”

He expressed the hope that his organisation would be able to assist the government to embark on “institutional and legislative reform.”

Hussein’s comments relate to the recent high-profile terrorism convictions in the archipelago. Former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor was convicted of two separate terrorism charges in as many days while the former chief prosecutor and a chief magistrate was also convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison for forging a warrant to arrest the president.

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has continued to attract international criticism and condemnation over the jailing of his political opponents. However, the president has maintained that his government does not have a say in matters of the judiciary.

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