Maldives unrest: Ex-President banned from election despite UN demands
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Maldives unrest: Ex-President banned from election despite UN demands

THE MALDIVES rejected a demand by the UN Human Rights Committee on Monday that former president Mohamed Nasheed be allowed to stand for office, including in a presidential election later this year.

The demand was made in response to two individual complaints by Nasheed filed in 2013 and 2016, following his conviction on terrorism charges that saw him sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.  As a result, he was disqualified from running in presidential elections for 16 years – the term of his sentence plus an additional three years.

The panel of experts found Nasheed’s conviction was based on “vague legislation, contained serious flaws and violated his right to a fair trial.”

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“Political rights can be suspended or restricted only in exceptional circumstances and under certain conditions. And judicial proceedings that violate the right to fair trial can render the resulting restriction of political rights arbitrary,” committee member Sarah Cleveland said in a statement.

Between 2008 and 2012, Nasheed served as the first democratically elected president of the Maldives before he was reportedly forced to resign “at gunpoint.”

Following criminal charges in 2015, Nasheed fled to Britain where he remains in exile. Amnesty International has described the conviction as “politically motivated,” and the United States Department of State expressed concern at “apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures during the trial.”

SEE ALSO: Protesters, journalists arrested in Maldives as state of emergency continues

On Monday, the UN body said it wanted evidence from the Maldives within 180 days to show their demand had been taken into account. Those measures must then be widely shared with the public in the official languages of the Maldives.

But the government swiftly rejected the Committee’s report, describing Nasheed as a “fugitive.”

“The Government of the Maldives… wholeheartedly refutes that any of these rights have been violated in the case of the former President Nasheed. The Government accepts the conviction of Nasheed as lawful and final,” it said in a statement.

In a tweet on Monday, Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jeffrey Salim Waheed, called Nasheed a “convicted felon” and accused the Committee of succumbing to his manipulation.

The island nation, most commonly associated with holidaying honeymooners, has experienced simmering political unrest since Nasheed’s resignation in 2012. Many Maldivians still see him as the rightful president and would like to see his return to politics.

SEE ALSO:  Maldives: Killing of activist a ‘direct attack’ on freedom of expression – rights group

In February, mass protests broke out in the capital Male after current president Abdulla Yameen ignored a Supreme Court ruling to release many of his political opponents who had been rounded up in previous weeks.

On Feb 5, Yameen declared a state of emergency, suspending several constitutional rights and giving himself sweeping powers to arrest and detain.

During the 45-day emergency, Yameen’s administration arrested former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the chief justice, another Supreme Court judge and a Supreme Court administrator on charges of trying to overthrow the government.

All four have been charged under terrorism laws. They have all rejected the charges.

The Supreme court, now reduced to three bench judges after the arrests, went on to reverse its decision to quash the convictions of the opposition leaders.