CPJ calls on Maldives to empower commission on enforced disappearances and murders

March 27, 2019 4:08 PM ET

Speaker Qasim Ibrahim
The People's Majlis
80 Medhuziyaarai Magu, Malé 20080, Maldives

March 27, 2019

Via [email protected]

Dear Speaker Qasim Ibrahim,

We at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent press freedom advocacy organization, are writing to urge you to strengthen press freedom and commit to pursuing justice and ending impunity by calling for a vote on the bill to grant investigative powers to the presidential commission on enforced disappearances and murders. A broad coalition of civil society members and the families of those involved have called for this vote and we write to offer our support for those efforts. CPJ was heartened to see an improving press freedom environment in the Maldives during our mission to the capital last month and we believe it can improve even further if this commission is able to successfully carry out its mission.

The commission was announced on the first day of President Ibrahim Solih's administration and the bill, proposed by the government in November, would grant that commission investigative powers. Recently, you have raised concerns about the constitutionality of the bill, though in December you said there were no legal obstacles because it had been cleared by the counsel-general.

This bill represents an essential step in the pursuit of justice for crimes committed against journalists in the Maldives, yet three previous attempts at holding a vote on the bill could not take place due to a lack of quorum.

The Maldives cannot achieve its goals of a democratic and just society if impunity reigns in cases of religiously motivated attacks targeting writers. According to the commission's chair, Husnu Al Suood, the attempted assassination of Ismail Khilath Rasheed (also known as Hilath), the murder of Afrasheem Ali, the abduction of Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, and the murder of Yameen Rasheed were all connected and orchestrated by a religious militant group that had gang connections. If the government had taken action against Hilath's attackers, Suood said the subsequent attacks could have been prevented. Prosecuting and holding the perpetrators accountable is imperative to preventing any future attacks and lifting the climate of fear for writers.

Given the lack of due process and the documented police negligence and judicial interference in the aforementioned cases, it is crucial that the parliament approves investigative powers for the commission for it to be able to carry out its mission in an efficient and effective way. As a democratically elected representative of the people of the Maldives, you owe it to your constituents to allow a vote on the bill.

We urge you to bring the bill back onto the agenda and to hold a vote prior to the upcoming parliamentary elections.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Steven Butler

Asia Program Coordinator

Committee to Protect Journalists

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