London ¬– November 3, 2016 ¬— Freedom Now is delighted to announce the appointment of President Mohamed Nasheed to its Board of Directors. The former president of the Maldives and prisoner of conscience will join Archbishop Desmond Tutu as Honorary Co-Chair.
“We are very pleased that President Nasheed has agreed to serve in this capacity and are excited to add his insightful perspective to our Board,” said Executive Director Maran Turner. “President Nasheed knows first hand the extent to which repressive governments will abuse human rights and silence independent voices. His passion and unwavering commitment to ending arbitrary detention and restoring rule of law is an inspiration. We look forward to his guidance and collaboration for many years to come.”
Mohamed Nasheed is an activist, journalist, and politician who served as the first democratically-elected president of the Maldives. President Nasheed made a name for himself as a dissident journalist, regularly challenging the authoritarian regime of former President Maumoon Gayoom. As a result of his outspoken criticism, he was repeatedly arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.
In 2003, President Nasheed formed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and in 2008, on a platform of human rights and democratic principles, he was elected president in the country’s first multi-party democratic elections, sweeping away 30 years of one-man rule. President Nasheed used his position as a platform for democratic reforms and climate activism. His work fighting to address climate change at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit was captured in the acclaimed documentary The Island President. President Nasheed won the 2009 Anna Lindh Prize, in recognition of his work promoting human rights, democracy and environmental protection. In September 2009, Time Magazine declared President Nasheed a “Hero of the Environment.” In April 2010, the United Nations presented Nasheed with its “Champions of the Earth” environment award, and in August 2010, Newsweek named President Nasheed in its list of the “World’s Ten Best Leaders.” Sadly, President Nasheed’s term in office was cut short in 2012 by a coup, and he was later arrested on false charges intended to remove him and his political party, which continued to be very popular among the people of the Maldives.
Freedom Now, along with Amal Clooney of Doughty Street Chambers, Jared Genser of Perseus Strategies, and Ben Emmerson, QC of Matrix Chambers represented President Nasheed as his international pro bono legal counsel. Following our joint submission of his legal case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN body ruled (Opinion No. 33/2015) President Nasheed’s detention arbitrary in October 2015 and called for his immediate release.
Freedom Now and its pro bono partners mobilized considerable international pressure within the U.S., U.K., UN, and elsewhere to secure President Nasheed’s release.
In May 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry called President Nasheed’s arrest a troubling sign “that democracy is under threat in the Maldives.” Then Prime Minister David Cameron urged members of the Commonwealth in November 2015 to toughen their approach with the Maldives over the “unacceptable” actions of its government. Sir Richard Branson issued a press release stating that the international community should not rest until President Nasheed is released. This wave of international criticism was too much for the Maldives to bear. In January 2016, the Maldivian government released Mr. Nasheed on medical parole and permitted him to travel to the UK, where he has been granted asylum.
Freedom Now is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, founded in 2001, with charitable status in the U.S. and the UK. The organization promotes respect for human rights and rule of law worldwide by helping to free prisoners of conscience — individuals wrongly imprisoned because of their exercise of a fundamental right, such as expression and belief. Since its founding, Freedom Now has helped more than 155 prisoners of conscience in 32 countries. To learn more about the work of Freedom Now, and its cases, visit: www.freedom-now.org.