Democracy Under Assault in Maldives

Democracy Under Assault in Maldives

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Wednesday said the declaration of a state of emergency in the Maldives "is an all-out assault on democracy".

Political turmoil has swept the Indian Ocean archipelago nation since the court ordered the release of several jailed opposition leaders, including many of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's main political rivals.

Soon, another former president, Mohamed Nasheed, urged India to send its envoy to Male and involve its troops to help release the judges.

Following the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges on Tuesday overturned the Court's previous unanimous ruling ordering the release and retrial of the nine political leaders. The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) said it remains deeply concerned over the escalating tensions and the resultant law and order situation in Maldives.

The opposition and general public have been unrelentingly asking President Yameen to step down and allow a new leadership to take charge. The political turmoil has been limited to the capital of Male, far from many tourist destinations and the statement stressed that no curfew has been imposed.

"The suspension of several functions of the judiciary and Parliament, and the restrictions on a series of constitutional rights, create a unsafe concentration of power in the hands of the President", UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said. What is happening now, he said, "is tantamount to an all-out assault on democracy".

"The US calls on President Yameen, the army, and police to comply with the rule of law, implement the Supreme Court's lawful ruling, ensure the full and proper functioning of the Parliament, and restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people and institutions of Maldives", a State Department spokesperson told PTI.

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A statement on Yameen's website said his administration welcomed the Supreme Court's U-turn on the release of the political prisoners.

"The worldwide community should play a constructive role on the basis of respecting the sovereignty of the Maldives rather than take actions that may further complicate the situation", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said without mentioning India.

Several countries have warned against travel to the Maldives, which depends heavily on tourism.

Police also this week arrested the country's former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was president from 1978 to 2008, when the Maldives became a multiparty democracy.

Police have "proof of these transactions" serving as evidence against Chief justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed, said Abdulla Nawaz, the acting police chief.

Opposition sources linked the arrest of Qasim Ibrahim's son to allegations that Qasim was a key figure behind the latest attempt to topple the president.

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