Ben Rogers visiting Maldivian Democratic Party Chairperson, Mohamed Nasheed, in house arrest

FULL REPORT ATTACHED
The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission
June 12, 2006 - 9.30pm GMT
For Immediate Release


UK CONSERVATIVE PARTY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION REPORT CALLS FOR RELEASE OF DETAINEES AND ALL PARTY TALKS IN THE MALDIVES

The UK’s Conservative Party Human Rights Commission today released a report on its recent fact-finding visit to the Maldives, calling for the “immediate and unconditional” release of Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed and human rights defender Jennifer Latheef, currently under house arrest, and the commencement of all party talks. “Their release would be a significant gesture that would provide credibility for the [Government’s] reforms,” the report concluded.“There are very good reasons for recommending the immediate release of Mohamed Nasheed and Jennifer Latheef, preferably by June 18, the date of their next hearings,” the report continued. “In both cases the charges of terrorism are completely inappropriate and disproportionate. The evidence of the crimes they are alleged to have committed appears extremely weak and highly doubtful.  The conditions do not exist currently for a fair trial.”

The Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, journalist and human rights activist Benedict Rogers, visited the Maldives last week and met representatives of the Government, the Opposition, the Human Rights Commission, the Police Force and the media.  

In his report, Mr. Rogers concludes that “the space for dissent has opened up considerably in the past two years”. However, “the sincerity of the Government will only be proven by action”.   

Mr. Rogers condemned continuing human rights abuses, particularly the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists, opposition activists and protestors, and said that “the situation is extremely tense”. He called for an end to arbitrary arrests, police brutality and “violence by thugs allegedly controlled by the government”, improvements in press freedom including the registration of Minivan Radio, an end to all harassment of pro-democracy groups and the media, and the initiation of all party dialogue with President Gayoom, in the presence of representatives of the international community.  

“The Government must take the lead in creating conditions conducive to all party dialogue and a transition to multi-party democracy. If it does take such steps, the Opposition must be ready to respond generously and constructively,” Mr. Rogers argued.  

He urged the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to issue a clear statement of willingness to participate in all party talks, subject to the release of Mohamed Nasheed and Jennifer Latheef, and a clear statement of commitment to a peaceful transition to democracy. He also urged the MDP to “indicate its willingness to engage in constructive dialogue by reducing the frequency of demonstrations”, although he criticised the Government’s proposed freedom of assembly law as “completely unacceptable”.  

Mr. Rogers called on the international community to increase pressure on the Government of the Maldives to release detainees and stop arbitrary arrests and police brutality, to offer to facilitate all-party talks, and to send observers to trials and demonstrations, in particular the forthcoming demonstration planned for June 15 and the court hearings scheduled for June 18. He also recommended that the international community provide expertise and training to both the Government and the Opposition, to enhance the reform agenda and prepare for free and fair elections. In a statement today, Mr. Rogers said: “It is important to stress to all parties that my concern is to promote progress towards the development of multi-party democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. I am not siding with any one particular party. To their credit, the Government arranged a very balanced programme of meetings for me, with Government and Opposition, with no interference at all.”

Commenting on remarks attributed to the Chief Government Spokesman in the Maldives, quoted in Haama, in which Mohamed Hussein Shareef claimed Mr. Rogers had told him that “he didn’t believe what the MDP was saying”, Mr. Rogers said: “Such a remark is completely untrue and very unhelpful. I had very constructive discussions with the MDP and I respect their commitment to democracy and human rights enormously. I believe if it had not been for the courage and persistence of pro-democracy activists, the Government would not have embarked on the roadmap for reform. For the Chief Government Spokesman to claim I had expressed criticisms of the MDP is both untrue and damaging to the reform agenda. As Chief Government Spokesman, he ought to be more responsible in his remarks.”

Mohamed Hussein Shareef also criticised Minivan for “spreading misinformation”, and claimed that the Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Gary Streeter MP, has not given interviews to Minivan since Mr. Rogers’ departure from the Maldives on June 10, “because of the misinformation Minivan has been spreading”. Mr. Rogers rejected this statement, saying: “It is ridiculous to suggest that Mr. Streeter has refused to talk to Minivan since my visit. I only returned to London two days ago, and Mr. Streeter has not received any requests for interviews over the week-end. I have spoken to him today, and he would be very willing to give an interview to Minivan.”

Mr. Rogers added: “In my discussions with Government Ministers from the so-called ‘New Maldives’ faction, I felt that their commitment to democracy and human rights was genuine but needed to be put to the test. Remarks attributed to the Chief Government Spokesman in Haama undermine that impression.” For further information, please email Benedict Rogers: benrogers@conservativehumanrights.com

NOTES TO EDITORS:

During his visit, Benedict Rogers had meetings with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Justice, and Information and Arts, and the Attorney-General, the Chief Government Spokesman and the Commissioner of Police.  

He also visited the Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mohamed Nasheed, currently under house arrest, and human rights defender Jennifer Latheef, also under house arrest.  

He met former MDP President Ibrahim Ismail, MDP Vice-President Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, MDP Members of Parliament Mariya Ahmed Didi and Mohamed Ibrahim Didi, and MDP Secretary-General Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.  
In addition to these meetings, Mr. Rogers addressed an audience of about 80 police officers on the subject of human rights, at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He also addressed a public meeting of predominantly pro-democracy groups and media, organised by Minivan Radio.

 
    Related Articles: (Minivan News)  
    Government Admits ‘Stupidity’ Of Penal Code
  Rogers Calls For Immediate Release Of Anni and Jennifer Latheef
  Mundhood's 'Unhelpful' Comments Contradicted by British Human Rights Envoy
  Related Articles: (Press Statement from Maldivian Democratic Party)  
   Press statement by the Maldivian Democratic Party on the report prepared by Mr Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission (PDF)
 

       

 
 
Ben Rogers visiting Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Jennifer Latheef, a human rights defender, in house arrest Ben Rogers with the Maldivian Minister
of Home Affairs