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Arrested Democracy
The legality under International Law of the 2012 transfer of power in the Maldives and alleged human rights violations perpetrated by Maldivian security forces
by Associate Professor, Dr. Anders Henriksen Attorney-at-law, LL.M.,
& Rasmus Kieffer-Kristensen Senior Policy Fellow, Jonas Parello-Plesner
July 16th, 2012
Summary of conclusions only.
Full report PDF - 300 KB download (right click:save link as)

Summary of conclusions
We conclude that President Nasheed resigned as President of the Maldives under duress, and that his resignation cannot be considered voluntary or otherwise 'in accordance with law'.

The revolt of the Maldivian Police and the seemingly unwillingness or inability of the Maldivian Military to restore law and order left the President with no choice but to accept the demand for his resignation that was put before him in mid-morning on 7 February 2012. To the extent that a 'coup d'etat' can be defined as the 'illegitimate overthrow of a government', we must therefore also consider the events as a coup d'etat.

We conclude that the coerced resignation of President Nasheed and the refusal by the new Maldivian government to hold new elections violate the right of the Maldivian people to democratic governance as manifested in Article 25 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the right to self-determination.

We cannot conclude with absolute certainty that the forced resignation of President Nasheed was a pre-planned coup d'├ętat, but we nevertheless find the factual circumstances surrounding the resignation of President Nasheed extremely damaging to the credibility of the new government and its claim that it did not instigate the transfer of power in the Maldives.

In light of the existing circumstantial evidence, it should not be for the opposition to prove that the new government under the presidency of Dr. Waheed orchestrated the forced resignation by President Nasheed, but rather for Dr. Waheed and his new government to prove that they did not.

We also conclude that the Maldivian security forces have committed a number of human rights violations in the months that have passed since the transfer of power.

First of all, we conclude that the Maldivian security forces have violated the rights to freedom of speech, association and assembly by resorting to excessive use of force; discriminating against protesters based on their viewpoints; restricting demonstrations without a legitimate reason and for failing to distinguish between those protesters that cause trouble and those that are peaceful.

We consider it fair to assume that the actions of the security forces against anti-government protesters has made these reluctant to exercise their legitimate rights to freedom of speech, association and assembly. We find, in other words, that the acts of the security forces have had a 'chilling effect' on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in the Maldives.

In addition, we also find that the Maldivian security forces have violated the right to personal security by resorting to excessive and indiscriminate use of batons, pepper-spray and tear gas in violation of international standards; by failing to protect peaceful demonstrators from rogue elements, and by occasionally mistreating individuals, including a number of female demonstrators, in governmental custody.

Furthermore, we conclude that the Maldivian security forces have not always fulfilled their obligations under international law to inform arrestees about the reasons for the arrest and the charges against them.

Responsibility for the worsening human rights record among the security forces must rest with the leadership of the forces who have clearly failed to discharge their duties in compliance with applicable democratic and human rights standards.

Overall responsibility for the numerous human rights violations in the Maldives over the course of the last six months must, however, rest with the new Maldivian government who are ultimately responsible for the acts perpetrated by its security agencies. The government appears to have taken no concrete actions in order to stop the violence against the anti-government protesters nor has it distanced itself from it.

So far, no security force officials have been held accountable for any of the incidents listed in this report.

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