Commonwealth’s concern over ‘continued misuse’ of anti-terrorism law in Maldives

Rues "little or no evidence of substantive progress" achieved in respect of "practical CBMs" to promote freedom and space for civil society.

Updated - November 26, 2021 10:23 pm IST

Published - April 21, 2016 06:32 pm IST - COLOMBO:

Taking stock of developments in Maldives in the last two months, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has expressed concern over the “continued misuse” of anti-terrorism legislation and “little or no evidence of substantive progress” achieved in respect of “practical confidence-building measures” to promote freedom and space for civil society.

At its meeting in London on Wednesday, the CMAG referred to the recent introduction in the country’s Parliament of a “broad-ranging” Defamation Bill seeking to criminalise defamation and statements against national security, an official release said.

Apprised of political climate

According to the office of the Maldives President, Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon briefed the Group of the political climate in the country.

Led by Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, the CMAG, which comprises representatives of nine countries including India and Pakistan, highlighted the importance of the leadership of the Maldives government in advancing a legislative framework reflecting the commitment of Maldives to the Commonwealth Charter. It expressed serious concern that anti-terrorism legislation “continued to be misused in a politicised manner.”

At its extra-ordinary meeting in February, the CMAG urged Maldives to show progress in many areas including political dialogue to ensure inclusive, free and fair elections in 2018.

Prompt release of leaders urged

The Group, at its latest meeting too, underscored the “continued importance” of the government facilitating the prompt release from detention of political leaders in order to help restore confidence in the overall political environment in Maldives. It conveyed its “disappointment” over the government’s revocation of the medical leave granted to some senior political figures.

The representatives of the Commonwealth underlined their expectation of “clear, measureable progress” on the six priority areas identified in February when they would review the situation in September.

Reacting to the CMAG’s decisions, the Maldives government, however, contended that the Group decided “not to place Maldives on its agenda.”

Addressing concerns: Minister

Minister for Legal Affairs at the President’s Office, Aishath Azima Shakoor, argued that the Group recognised that “Maldives had come a long way in addressing the body’s initial concerns,” a statement of the President’s office. The government welcomed the CMAG’s call to all political parties to participate constructively on a political agenda dialogue.

Going back on its decision to cancel the extension of medical leave of former President Mohammed Nasheed, Home Minister Umar Naseer, on Wednesday, approached the Medical Board of Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) for reconsideration of the matter so that Mr. Nasheed would be granted an extension.

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