International Humanist and Ethical Union
46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (22 February – 19 March 2021)
Item 6: UPR on the Maldives
Speaker: Elizabeth O’Casey
The Maldives should, [I quote] “Remove legal provisions that restrict the right to freedom of religion or belief, guarantee the right to manifest one’s religion or belief, and combat discrimination and intolerance against persons belonging to religious minorities.”
This was a recommendation made during the review (A/HRC/46/10, recommendation 133.164). It is notable in articulating some of the very minimum requirements to realise the basic right to FoRB and non-discrimination.
It was not accepted by the Maldives. ( A/HRC/46/10/Add.1)
Yet, those promoting tolerance and secularism in the country have been facing online and offline violence for the past ten years.
The media often carry names and photos of individuals with allegations of apostasy, atheism, secularism, homosexuality or support for homosexuality.
Gender based violence and homophobia have thrived, largely instigated by religious hardliners using Islam to justify killings and discrimination.
In 2019, after publishing a report on radicalisation, the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) was arbitrarily suspended and the authors summoned after a complaint filed by the Islamic Ministry, alleging “blasphemous” content.
Indeed, since the current government assumed power in 2018, six Maldivians have been accused of “blasphemy.” One of those, Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba, has been kept in extended pre-trial detention, and according to his family, has suffered torture and solitary confinement. At the time of his arrest Rusthum was the subject of threats from violent groups, and had requested police protection.
Whilst we welcomed the establishment of the Deaths and Disappearances Commission in 2018, we note with regret it has yet to complete any investigations. This includes the forced disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed, both cases connected to violent extremism and religious fundamentalism.
The rights to freedom of belief and expression, freedom from violence and discrimination are right held by all Maldivians, whatever their religion or belief. We urge the government, to abolish its blasphemy laws, release all being held on blasphemy charges, drop charges against MDN, and urgently tackle the intolerance and violence fostered by religious extremists in the country.
'Human Rights in the Maldives', Humanists International