Washington DC: International legal counsel representing former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed are very concerned about a threat made by the Maldivian ambassador-designate to Colombo to detain their client in Sri Lanka and forcibly return him to the Maldives.
The ambassador-designate, Mohamed Hussain Shareef, popularly known as ‘Mundhu’, made the threat during a news show aired on Sun TV on 11 September.
During the interview, Shareef says: “If a Maldivian authority requests me to detain and return Mohamed Nasheed back to Maldives, I will. It’s very simple. They have to say, this is an individual who we are seeking. I’ll even go out to the street myself and do it… if our authorities inform me, request it of me, our embassy will enforce it.”
Shareef’s comments are not to be taken lightly. In 2015, staff at the Maldivian embassy in Colombo conspired to illegally abduct a Maldivian blogger in Sri Lanka who had been critical of the Maldivian regime. The blogger, Ahmed ‘Shumba Gong’ Ashraf, was abducted in Colombo and held captive at the Maldivian embassy in Sri Lanka, before being forced onto a Maldives-bound plane. On arrival in Male’ he was arrested and detained on arbitrary charges. The Sri Lankan foreign ministry took the highly unusual step of publicly chastising the Maldivian government over the incident, noting that it found it “deeply disturbing that Sri Lanka … is being used to initiate questionable action against political … activists.”
Commenting on the ambassador-designate’s remarks, legal counsel Amal Clooney said:
“Any attempt by a Maldivian diplomat to detain President Nasheed in Sri Lanka would constitute a violation of international law as well as Sri Lankan criminal law. President Nasheed should not be returned to the Maldives to serve a sentence that resulted from a sham trial, and it is incumbent on the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that his rights are respected while he is in their country.”
Jared Genser added:
“ The comments by the Ambassador-designate are as outrageous as they are in flagrant violation of international law. No country can violate another’s sovereignty by abducting their citizens from a foreign territory. Such an action would be in clear violation of the obligations of the Maldives under The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance, a treaty to which it is a signatory.“
President Nasheed was convicted of ‘terrorism’ in March 2015 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in October 2015 that President Nasheed’s conviction and detention violated international law and called for his immediate release. The trial was also widely condemned by the international community as being “vastly unfair, arbitrary and disproportionate” and “politically motivated”. The Maldives government refuses to accept the UN opinion.
President Nasheed’s international legal counsel comprises: Jared Genser of Freedom Now; Amal Clooney of Doughty St Chambers; and Ben Emmerson QC of Matrix Chambers.