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On Maldives As Security Forces Tear Gas Opposition Lawmakers, ICP Asks UN, Now This

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 27 – With Maldives security forces surrounding the parliament and firing tear gas as opposition lawmakers, Inner City Press on July 25 asked the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, a stated proponent of conflict prevention, about it. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you, in the Maldives, the army has blockaded the parliament and fired teargas at opposition lawmakers.  So I wanted to know, I know there’s been some involvement in the past by the UN on it.  Is this something, particularly under the idea of conflict prevention or otherwise, that the UN is aware of, and do they have any… are they going to do anything about it?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq:  We’re aware of the situation there, and we are studying the situation as it stands.  If there’s any need for UN involvement, we would be willing to play a helpful role if asked by the various parties.

Inner City Press:  But is the army blocking elected lawmakers from entering the parliament and shooting teargas at them?  Is that of concern or would require the Government to ask for your assistance to have some greater concern about it?

Deputy Spokesman:  We’re concerned about the media reports of activity in the recent days, and we’re monitoring and trying to follow up.

  Now two days later, Haq has emailed out this: "The Secretary-General is concerned about recent developments in the Maldives with the gradual erosion of basic democratic norms and principles in the country.  He calls on the Government to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of speech and assembly.  The Secretary-General urges the Government to refrain from all acts that result in the harassment and intimidation of Members of Parliament, political parties, civil society and the media.
 The Secretary-General encourages effective dialogue and consultations on political issues." We'll see.
Back on November 4, 2015 with a state of emergency declared in the Maldives, Inner City Press on asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's now holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN had any comment -- really, if the UN is doing anything at all. Dujarric responded to Inner City Press with an if-asked statement, below.

 The UN has said nothing since. Others have pointed out that "the whole democracy project was derailed by ex-UN official Mohamed Waheed who staged a coup in Feb 2012" -- not the first, or last, connection between the UN, its staff and coups d'etat.

 Meanwhile, the head of the UN Development Program on November 6 re-tweeted praise of the Maldives, here (as UNDP has refused for a week to provide a copy of a document its Teresa Liu signed with now indicted David Ng Lap Seng and Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, click here for that.)

 On November 4, the US State Department issued this clearer statement, here.

 At the State Department's November 6 briefing, this was asked:

QUESTION: Maldives – day before yesterday you issued – it’s quite a strong statement on the imposition of emergency in the Maldives.  That hasn’t been lifted, there’s more people who have been arrested.  What do you have to say about the situation there?

SPOKESPERSON:  I would just say what I said in a statement earlier, that we are deeply concerned with recent events there in the Maldives, including the announcement of a state of emergency that curtails the vital civil liberties, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.  We’re concerned by reports of continued politically motivated arrests and call on the Government of Maldives to afford all its citizens due process.  We again urge the government there to take steps to restore confidence in its democracy and judicial independence.

QUESTION:  But they haven’t done – taken any of these steps.

SPOKESPERSON:  Is that a question?

QUESTION:  Yeah, so what do you have to say?  They haven’t --

SPOKESPERSON:  I would simply restate what we said before.  I mean, we’ve made our position very, very.. The – we’ve – we continue to make our case and will continue to do so.  I mean, I think where we’ve been on this issue has been very, very clear and very consistently so.  That’s not going to change.

 Here's was the UN's, which may now post-US, and two days and counting later, be supplemented:

“The Secretary-General is concerned about the recent political and security developments in Maldives. States have legitimate national security concerns, but the Secretary-General emphasizes that states of emergency should be used only when strictly necessary, in proportion to the stated threat and in accordance with the human rights obligations. In this regard, he hopes that all civil and political rights of the Maldivian people will be restored as soon as possible.”

Back on March 27, 2015 Inner City Press went to the US State Department's daily briefing and asked spokesman Jeff Rathke about the conviction of the country's former defense minister Nazim, and threats to deport migrant workers if they protest, amid attacks on free press.

  From the State Department's transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about in Maldives the former defense minister has just been sentenced to 11 years. And I know the State Department has expressed some concern about former President Nasheed’s trial. There’s also a situation in which migrant workers there are being told if they demonstrate about their rights they’ll be deported. So I’m wondering, is the State Department monitoring this? Do you have any comment on developments in the Maldives?

MR. RATHKE: Certainly, we are. I don’t have a comment in front of me. We’re happy to look into that and come back to you.

   While this is often said at the UN - and this week in Washington at the IMF on Inner City Press' question about Haiti -- in this case the US State Department DID come back with a comment, issued as a “Question Taken” later on March 27:

For Immediate Release  TAKEN QUESTION March 27, 2015

Concerns on Recent Developments in Maldives

Question:  Does the United States have any comment on the arrest of the former Maldivian Defense Minister?

Answer:  The United States is deeply troubled by recent developments in Maldives that call into question that nation’s commitment to democracy and individual human rights.  These developments include the conviction of former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on weapons charges March 26, and the March 25 arrest of Maldivian journalists under allegations of obstructing police duties.

Nazim’s trial was particularly concerning, as it was marred by the same apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures as the recent trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, including the inability to call the requested number of defense witnesses and concerns regarding the lack of impartiality and independence of the judges.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental democratic right, and we are in touch with Maldivian authorities to clarify why the journalists have been detained without charges.

We call on the Government of Maldives to take steps to restore confidence in its hard-fought democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence and freedom of the press.

  We'll have more on this -- including, from the Free UN Coalition for Access, on the situation of the press in the Malvides. Watch this site.


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