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ACHR PRESS RELEASE
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ACHR Index: PR/MAL/01/06
08 November 2006

UN urged to intervene in Maldives
Over 40 pro-democracy activists arrested

New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene against repression on pro-democracy activists in Maldives. More than 40 pro-democracy activists have been taken into illegal custody to foil the demonstration called by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) at Male on 10 November 2006. The MDP has been calling for speedy political reforms as proposed by President Gayoom himself.

“Two foreign journalists have been asked to leave while foreigners have been advised not to visit the country ahead of the November 10th demonstration. These are nothing but an attempt to turn Maldives into an “Incommunicado Detention Centre”. – Stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

ACHR also criticised the United Nations for the failure to grant refuge to Maldives' most well- known cartoonist, Ahmed Abbas to the police on 2 November 2006 on the ground that there was no “grave threat” to his life. On 25 October 2006, Abbas was sentenced in abstentia to six month's imprisonment for criticizing the police brutality on the pro-democracy protestors in a “Minivan Daily” article in August 2005 and sought asylum inside the UN office in Male after Indian High Commission refused to grant him refuge.

“Obviously, the officials of the United Nations refused to uphold the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which refers “to well-founded fear of being persecuted for membership of a particular political opinion” and not grave threat to life. It is another sad case of the United Nations' failure.” – added Mr Chakma.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United Nations Development Programme with the government of Maldives on 31 October 2006 to support the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives for three years by providing US$800,000 has also been criticised.

“When Human Rights Commission of Maldives had only three out of nine members for the last one and half years and now the Commission does not even have the quorum to conduct meetings, how could the funds be utilised?” – asked Mr Chakma.

[Ends]


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