It’s been seven months since the former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was taken to Dhoonighoo prison without trial. Having been jailed north of ten times before for his environmental activism, Nasheed is no stranger to the corrupt and unjust government of the Maldives. The documentary “The Island President,” directed by John Shenk (“Lost Boys of Sudan”) aimed to raise awareness for the major injustice at play back in 2011. As a result, it garnered the attention of other documentary filmmakers and political figures. Most agree that the momentum of this case can be paid in part to the massive exposure the film provided.
This morning at a press conference held at London’s Doughty Street Chambers, Amal Clooney (barrister at the firm) spoke alongside Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali Abdulla and Jared Gesner, the founder of Freedom Now, an independent non-governmental organization that works to free prisoners of conscience worldwide, announcing the UN’s formal request to the Maldivian government to release Nasheed. The grounds on which Nasheed’s team stands on is incredibly strong, giving the Maldivian people hope that they won’t have to endure a regime that rejects freedom of speech as a human right.
Clooney opened the press conference explaining that her words would explain why Nasheed’s case is important and what the Maldivian government should do now. She spoke about the quality of his character, citing that he is the “Mandela of the Maldives” and an environmental activist who works tirelessly to save his land from rising sea levels. Fighting for “a free, moderate and inclusive Maldives,” is something that Clooney thinks Nasheed is paying too heavy a price for.
“The UN group is a body consisting of five experts, they’re based in Geneva, and they are selected following a vigorous selection process administered by the UN Human Rights Council. The current members come from South Korea, Australia, Mexico, Berlin and the Ukraine. They’ve got no connection whatsoever to the Maldives and all of them are experts in International Human Rights Law. Many of the members teach at law schools around the world and have written books on International Law and Criminal Justice,” said Clooney, vouching for the fair and qualified individuals who made Friday’s decision.
They concluded that “Mr. Nasheed should be released immediately and to be compensated by the Government.”
The formal statement outlined: “Working Group notes that detention will be considered arbitrary when is is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty. The Working Group respectfully disagrees with the Government’s assertion that since Mr. Nasheed was convicted by a Maldivian court in accordance with Maldivian law, this precludes the case falling within Category I… In an offence as serious as terrorism, which in the Maldives carries a sentence between 10 to 15 years of imprisonment or banishment for Terrorist acts which do not result in the loss of life, the Government should have been able to demonstrate the legal basis of the charges; the Government has not explained how the arrest of Judge Abdulla, which was carried out by the MNDF (Maldives National Defence Forces) under an order given by a third party, could constitute terrorism. the Government has also failed to rebut the assertion by the source that there was no evidence produced at the trial that Mr. Nasheed had ordered Judge Abdulla’s arrest. The Working Group considers that it is therefore clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Nasheed.”
Clooney had trouble holding back her smile when listing the numerous bodies of power in support of their cause on top of the numerous instances of the Maldivian government’s opaque and unjust behavior throughout the court hearings. “Ask the UN Secretary General what he thinks about this case. Ask the UN Commissioner for Human Rights what he thinks of it. Ask David Cameron what he thinks, or John Kerry. Ask the EU, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Amnesty International, The Bar Human Rights Committee, The international Commission of Jurors. All [have] said that Nasheed’s trial was unfair and that he should be released,” Clooney said.
Nasheed’s wife was earnest throughout her speech, sharing her side as a distressed wife and mother who is now displaced because of the political tension back home. Getting her husband out of prison means more to her than having him back in his two teenage daughters’ lives, it would send the message to the Maldivian people that they do not have to live in fear of a radical government anymore. She added, “we all knew that my husband’s trial was politically motivated. The government is trying to silence him and crush the political opposition. Now that the Working Group has ruled that my husband’s imprisonment is in violation of international law, my daughters and I are looking forward to being reunited with him soon.”
Having gained confidence with the UN’s recent decision, Nasheed’s team of lawyers has one more major objective to fulfill until they can ensure Nasheed’s removal from the Maldivian prison. Clooney stated that although she has Prime Minister David Cameron’s support, she is eager to receive India’s Prime Minister Narendra odi’s even more. Their upcoming meeting will take place in November in London, and Clooney intends to discuss Nasheed’s case and logistical ways to release him and propel democracy forward in the Maldives.