An IPU Human Rights team to the Maldives has expressed deep concern that police officers using excessive force against MPs remain unpunished and that parliamentarians continue to be subjected to political and physical intimidation in the country.
Presenting preliminary findings on the last of a three day mission to the Indian Ocean nation, the head of the IPU mission Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan, pointed out that in several cases of police aggression towards opposition MPs, there is clear video evidence available that should have enabled the authorities to take swift and effective action.
He also highlighted the violent arrest of MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor last week on what appears to be politically motivated charges days ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote as the latest examples of the lack of police accountability and the need for MPs to do their job without fear of reprisals.
A member of IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, Senator Pangilinan called on the Police Integrity Commission to do everything possible to shed full light on the arrests and take the necessary action. He also called on the authorities to resolve the earlier cases of police violence and intimidation.
Whilst stating that MPs should not be above the law, he offered IPU’s continued assistance to help the Maldivian parliament devise ways to offer adequate legal protection to its MPs. “Those who make the law should be the first to uphold it and the same applies to those tasked to enforce it,” Senator Pangilinan said.
A South African parliamentary expert on the IPU team will stay on in the Maldives to work with the Privileges Committee of the Maldives Parliament to finalize a draft Privileges Bill on which IPU has been providing technical advice. It would, when passed by parliament, provide more legal protection to MPs in doing their work.
The three-member IPU Human Rights mission, carried out amidst rising political tension in a country that has been in crisis since February and witness to much violent protest, held many high-level meetings including with President Waheed and the Speaker of the Maldivian parliament.
It also gathered first-hand information on cases of human rights abuses involving 19 opposition MPs lodged with the IPU Committee. These largely involve allegations of excessive violence, arbitrary arrests, intimidation and politically motivated criminal charges.
The IPU Committee expressed deep concern during the IPU’s 127th Assembly in Quebec City at reports of renewed ill-treatment, detention and harassment of the Maldivian MPs by law enforcement officers as well as shock at the killing of MP Afrasheem Ali in early October.