Freeing Mohamed Nasheed

On Monday, we finally had some closure on the case of the jailed former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. The United Nation's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a ruling declaring Nasheed's imprisonment to be illegal, in violation of international law.

The Working Group – a highly respected, independent panel of five senior judges – said Nasheed should be immediately released and paid due compensation. Ban Ki-Moon, David Cameron, John Kerry, the European Parliament and the UN Human Rights Commissioner, ‎Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad have also called for Nasheed's release.

I met Nasheed when he was still president. He is a democracy and human-rights hero within his own country – some people call him the 'Mandela of the Maldives'. Abroad, we know him as a champion of the environment, who famously held a meeting of his cabinet underwater to highlight the Maldives’ vulnerability to sea level rises due to climate change. He's the sort of leader the world needs more of.

Image from Virgin.com

But the saga of Nasheed's wrongful imprisonment isn't over just yet. The Maldives regime is refusing to abide by the UN's verdict and release Nasheed. This is despite the fact that the Government fully engaged in the UN Working Group process.

Nasheed's pro-bono legal team say the next step will be calling on governments to impose targeted sanctions on regime officials who are guilty of human rights abuses. They don't want economic sanctions that would hurt ordinary Maldivians, nor a tourism boycott, but rather travel bans and asset freezes that hit officials responsible for violating Mohamed Nasheed’s human rights.

I hope that the US, European Union and Britain now follow through and impose sanctions on rights abusers in the Maldives. In the spirit of democracy and the rule of law, we shouldn’t rest until Mohamed Nasheed is a free man.

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