August 16, 2018
The Maldives government’s intimidation of the political opposition and media threatens prospects for free and fair elections in September 2018, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The government of this Indian Ocean archipelago has also interfered with the judiciary and the national electoral commission in order to tighten its grip on power.
“The Maldives government has cracked down on any and all dissent, from activists and journalists to Supreme Court judges,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Immediate steps are needed to restore political freedoms and democratic rule to ensure free and fair elections in September.”
The 52-page report, “‘An All-Out Assault on Democracy’: Crushing Dissent in the Maldives,” documents how the government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has used decrees and broad, vaguely worded laws to silence dissent and intimidate, arbitrarily arrest, and imprison critics. These include counterterrorism laws widely used against opposition activists and politicians; anti-defamation laws used against the media and social media activists; and restrictions on assembly that prevent peaceful rallies and protests. Religious extremists and criminal gangs – including many that enjoy political protection – have assaulted and sometimes murdered dissenters with impunity. This has had crippling effects on the Maldives’ nascent democracy and struggling civil society.