14 March 2015

Fiona Bruce MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, today condemned the decision by the Maldivian Criminal Court to jail former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed for 13 years, describing it as a “blatant and grotesque injustice”.

The Maldivian Criminal Court sentenced former President Nasheed on Friday 13 March on charges of ‘terrorism’, for his role as President in the arrest and detention of a criminal court judge who had been accused of corruption, abuse of power and who had refused to obey police summons. For much of the trial Mr Nasheed had been denied legal representation, denied the right to appeal, denied bail or medical treatment despite injury from police brutality, and the court refused to hear evidence from his defence witnesses. In contrast, it appears prosecution witnesses were coached by the judges and the police, and two of the judges also acted as witnesses for the prosecution.

Fiona said: “This sentence is a gross assault on basic human rights, democracy, freedom, justice and the rule of law by the Maldivian regime. The trial violates the laws of the Maldives and the country's non-derogable international treaty obligations. The conviction is a blatant act of reprisal against a selfless human rights defender by a vindictive and ruthless dictatorship, which must not be tolerated. The international community simply cannot allow this to go unchallenged, and I therefore urge the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and The Maldives’ neighbours to consider what action they can take to ensure that the Maldivian regime is left in no doubt as to how completely unacceptable this decision is.”

In a statement on 12 March, Fiona urged the international community to consider a range of sanctions to be imposed on the Maldivian regime. Today she reiterated this call. “I repeat the recommendations I made two days ago, to consider imposing targeted financial sanctions against individuals within The Maldivian regime, freezing their overseas assets, imposing a travel ban, an arms embargo, suspension from the Commonwealth and urging the travel industry and the general public to consider a tourism boycott. We need to use every means to put pressure on the Maldivian regime to permit an appeal by Mr Nasheed, release him, drop the charges, begin a political dialogue, and move towards the restoration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

In court, following his sentence, Mohamed Nasheed issued the following, heartfelt, statement:

 “Beloved citizens of Maldives, I appeal to all of you today to stay courageous and strong; to confront the dictatorial power of this regime. To change this government and work towards forming a government that would pave the way for the people’s development and prosperity; to not be afraid of being arrested or facing a long sentence; to take all of your lives in your hands and to go out onto the streets in protest. Do not consider either the security of your personal lives or the transitory happiness of your wives, husbands, children, parents and relatives; for the security of all of your children and their children is in jeopardy.

Why am I calling for such a sacrifice? Know this for sure: it is not for my own well being . I am not staying in jail, a captive, because I have no way out. I could easily secure my freedom and happiness by agreeing to stop the work I am doing, and falling at President Yameen’s feet. I could choose to live in riches, in comfort, and in joy. But if I choose that path, Maldivians will reach a tragic end. Maldivians will be deprived of what they rightfully deserve: freedom, dignity and democracy. They will never be allowed to stand tall. Forever, they will be forced to cower before this dictatorial regime.

I accepted the results of the 2013 presidential election in good faith. I believed President Abdulla Yameen’s government would uphold the noble principles of Islam. I accepted the results in the hope that this would be a government that would respect democratic norms.

But consider how things have transpired in the year and a half since the election. The Maldivian judiciary is full of corruption and disgrace. Judges are routinely accepting the vile money of bribery. These judges have no fear of the day of judgment, and no shame in this world. The consequence of their actions is injustice to the public, and the thwarting of this country’s development.

But in this time of profound injustice, I harbour no hatred. And to those who seek to destroy me, I say: I wish upon you good grace and blessings. I wish for good blessings upon us all, in this world and the next.”

Fiona said: “Listening to Mohamed Nasheed’s remarkably courageous message, which combines principle with generosity, conviction with compassion, strength with forgiveness, and an extraordinary absence of bitterness, should inspire us all to work for his release and for freedom and human rights in The Maldives. The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission which I am now privileged to chair has a long history with The Maldives, and we will continue to speak out until democracy and human rights are restored.”