Washington and Geneva, April 16, 2018 — Today, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), announced its decision in the case that former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed brought against the Government, demanding that his right to able to run for President be restored.
In response to the HRC decision demanding the restoration of his civil and political rights, President Nasheed said, “The forthcoming presidential elections in the Maldives have far larger significance than me, President Abdulla Yameen, opposition leaders or even The Maldives. These elections will have implications on the stability, security, and safety of all countries in the Indian Ocean. If we do not take the proper approach, we will be fueling a cold war in the Indian Ocean. More than 70 percent of international ocean trade passes through the Maldives. As gatekeepers for this commerce, if we relinquish democracy and transparency it will not only harm us but also the wider security of the Indian Ocean and the wider world.
Jared Genser, international counsel to President Nasheed, who brought this case to the Committee with his colleague Nicole Santiago, and Hissan Hussein and Hassan Latheef, added, “In light of this dramatic victory for human rights and the rule of law today, the international community must now speak with a single voice, and if President Nasheed remains disqualified from running for President then any presidential elections held, regardless of the process or the result, must be immediately rejected as invalid. President Yameen must now sit down with President Nasheed and the opposition and engage in a dialogue that enables presidential elections to be held in accordance with global best practices for the conduction of free, fair, transparent and credible multiparty, democratic elections.”
In reaching its historic decision, the Committee found the judicial proceedings in which President Nasheed was convicted violated his rights to due process of law under Article 14 of the ICCPR. It observed the following:
“The crime of terrorism as established in the…Prevention of Terrorism Act…is formulated in a broad and vague fashion that is susceptible to wide interpretation as in [Nasheed’s] case, and does not comply with the principle of legal certainty and predictability . . .
“The Committee also observes…the trial started the day after [Nasheed’s] arrest, when he was notified of the charges, that [Nasheed] was not allowed to be represented by counsel of his choice. and that the Criminal Court delivered its judgment a few weeks later…The state party has not shown that [Nasheed] had been given adequate time to prepare his defence…[and] the state party has not rebutted [Nasheed’s] allegations that the judges in charge of his trial lacked independence and impartiality.
“Against this background, the Committee considers that the judicial proceedings in which [Nasheed] was finally convicted and sentenced for terrorism violated the right to fair trial, and therefore, that [his] rights under Article 14(1) and (3) of the Covenant were violated.”
The decision by the HRC further concluded that the restriction on President Nasheed’s ability to run for office, resulting from his arbitrary conviction on terrorism charges, was equally arbitrary. As Sarah Cleveland, a member of the Committee, states in the official HRC press release announcing the decision, “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.”
In its conclusion, the Committee stated, “[T]he state party is under an obligation to provide [Nasheed] with an effective remedy. This requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is obligated, inter alia, to: (a) quash the [Nasheed’s] conviction…[and] (b) restore his right to stand for office, including the office of President.
It is critical to emphasize that the obligations of The Maldives under the ICCPR are binding as a matter of international law. If it refuses to abide fully by this decision, the international community should both immediately reject any forthcoming presidential election results and impose further targeted financial and travel sanctions against both corrupt officials and serious human rights abusers.