#Maldives ‘The holding of unfair elections may lead to EU sanctions against the Maldives’ warns MEP Howitt

| February 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

Richard HowittUrgent inter-party talks should start to address democratic shortcomings in the Maldives or the country will be unable to hold free elections and the European Union will be forced to consider sanctions, says the Socialist and Democrat Group spokesperson on foreign affairs Richard Howitt.

The Labour MEP was speaking at an official press conference today (9 February 2016) on the islands’ capital, Male, as part of an official visit by the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with South Asia.

Richard Howitt held discussions with the legal team for the country’s former President Nasheed, who has been convicted on terrorism charges but claims the conviction was politically-motivated. He visited the prison cell at Maafushi Prison to inspect the conditions in which the former President is being held. The President is currently temporarily in London for urgent medical treatment.

Richard Howitt MEP was co-author of two European Parliament resolutions criticizing democracy in the Maldives last year, the second of which explicitly called for targeted sanctions. A current bill in the Maldives’ parliament would make it illegal for anyone to call for support for sanctions.

Richard Howitt MEP, who is also vice-chair of the delegation, said:

“Our presence in Male shows the deep and serious concern we have about the state of democracy in the Maldives. Europe does not support any one party. Our concern is for an apparent lack of independence of the judiciary and lack of respect for international legal standards not just in the case of President Nasheed, but in many cases in the Maldives. These form a pattern which suggests that this is a deliberate tool for the treatment of political dissent and opposition.”

The Euro MP also cited other cases including that of former vice-president Adeeb, of Colonel Nazim, of Sheikh Imran and the lack of an apparent investigation in to the continuing disappearance of the journalist, Ahmed Rilwan Abdullah.

Richard Howitt MEP made two direct appeals, saying:

“First, I hope there will be a return to inter-party talks; genuine talks, on an agreed timetable. These can be with an international mediator if requested, and we know our friends and colleagues in the United Nations offer their good services, with European Union support. Such talks would agree steps which can work to restore the political space, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, which are today absent.

“Dialogue cannot take place, whilst political leaders are in detention. All leaders should be free to engage. And the public must be kept informed.

“I have to say that, speaking today, it is difficult to foresee that there can be any chance that the 2018 Elections will be rated as free and fair, unless things start to change and change now.

“Second, we spoke with your parliamentarians and urged them: rather than criminalizing anyone who calls for sanctions against the Maldives, to take actions which remove the need for sanctions to be considered. We do not want sanctions. They were not in the first Parliament resolution last year, but they were in the second. This week we have undertaken a full assessment and we will go back to Brussels and continue to consider all options. We hope that a return to path of democratic development takes place in the country, so that these considerations are no longer necessary.”

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Category: A Frontpage, Democracy, EU

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