U.S. urges Maldives to respect rule of law amid emergency

07 February, 2018, 01:31 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • Supreme Court of the Maldives

On Sunday, the Maldives Supreme Court restored parliament membership of 12 supporters of the opposition, thereby giving the opposition coalition the majority of seats in the legislature, which has the power to impeach the president.

Mohamed Nasheed, the country's exiled former president whose 13-year jail sentence the Supreme Court anulled last week, called the state of emergency "tantamount to a declaration of martial law in the Maldives".

International rights watchdog Amnesty International has warned Male that emergency rule "must not become a licence for further repression", pointing to the country's "appalling track record of suppressing freedom of expression".

Yameen officially announced that the Maldives was in a state of emergency for the duration of 15 days starting on Monday night.

In a letter addressed to the worldwide community, Maldive opposition lawmakers appealed for external support in persuading Yameen to end the tense standoff with the country's highest court.

Mr Gayoom was the archipelago nation's president from 1978 to 2008 and is the half brother of the Maldives' current president. "The prevailing political developments in the Maldives are a matter of concern for India".

Officials said the court has not properly responded to a series of letters citing problems with implementing the order, including that the cases against the political prisoners are at different legal stages.

There was no immediate reaction from the court.

In December, the Maldives signed a trade pact with China raising eyebrows in India.

On Monday, before the emergency was declared, a minister quit in protest at the government's defiance of the supreme court.

The united opposition parliamentary group after an impromptu sit-down told reporters that the president had unlawfully abused his power to declare a state of emergency to seize control of all the powers of the state.

President Abdulla Yameen has refused to comply with a court order to release political prisoners.

The Kibindhoo lawmaker also condemned the arrest of deposed ruling party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and vowed to do everything possible to free the jailed political leaders. They rejected the country's Supreme Court ruling, leading to a wave of protests encouraged by former leaders.

Addressing the nation on state television, Yameen said he had acted to prevent a coup, and suggested that the judges had chosen to side with his opponents because they were being investigated for corruption.

Opposition supporters have staged street protests lobbying the government to obey the court order and have urged the global community to do what it can to persuade the government to obey the ruling.

Maldives became a multiparty democracy 10 years ago after decades of autocratic rule, but lost numerous democratic gains after Yameen was elected in 2013.

Nasheed has been living in exile in Britain since 2016 after being given asylum when he travelled there on medical leave from prison.

India is watching the situation with "a close eye" though the foreign ministry in New Delhi has not offered any comments other than a statement it put out on Friday urging the Male government to abide by the court order.

Speaking publicly for the first time since Thursday's Supreme Court order, Yameen said Saturday that he did not expect the court ruling, but that all relevant authorities of the state need to do "a lot of work to see how to implement it".



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