Amnesty International calls to lift MDN ban

Amnesty International has called on the Maldivian government to reverse its decision to shut down NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN).

Youth Ministry, which regulates the activities of clubs and NGOs revoked the license issued to the non partisan organization after police investigation confirmed that the organization's publication titled "Preliminary Assessment on Radicalization in the Maldives" disrespected Islam and slandered Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).

The report published in 2016 outlined several verses from the Quran and 'Hadith' of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) as examples of ideas that contribute to promulgation of radical worldviews, which sparked the outrage of local religious scholars and the public.

Amnesty International on Wednesday said the Maldivian government's decision to shut down the NGO shows that despite a change of government, old patterns of repression had not gone away.

“The new Maldivian government was supposed to mark a break with the island nation’s repressive past. The decision to shut down the MDN’s operations, however, show that time-worn tactics to intimidate human rights defenders and shrink space for civil society remain a threat,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, South Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International further said Maldives is a state party to several core human rights treaties, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Under its international obligations, Maldives must respect and protect freedom of expression, including where it is deemed offensive, they noted.

“The MDN is being punished for exercising its legitimate right to freedom of expression. The fact that a more than four -year-old report is being cited now as grounds to shut down the NGO raises suspicions as to the true motives behind this decision. Is the new government just as intolerant of critical voices as the one it replaced?” said Dinushika Dissanayake.

“The Maldivian authorities must immediately reverse this decision, investigate threats made against MDN staff, offer MDN staff protection, and create a tolerant and enabling environment that allows NGOs to continue their important work freely and without fear", she added.

Founder of MDN Shahindha Ismail has also called on the government to reverse its decision to ban the organization. She has previously warned that the country would face international pressure if action is taken against the organization.