The Heads of Mission of the European Union (EU) based in Colombo and accredited to the Maldives sent a fact-finding mission to the Maldives from 24-26 August to evaluate the civil disturbances of 12-14 August 2005, the arrests of demonstrators, including the Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and the implications for the reform process. The mission spoke to several Cabinet Ministers, the Commissioner of Police, members of the Human Rights Commission, the National Security Service (NSS), the acting UN Resident Representative, the Chief Government Spokesperson, members of the MDP, and some of those detained following the unrest.

The EU expresses its concern at the recent disturbances, coming as they do a full year after previous disturbances in Male’. The latest events underline the continuing and urgent need for the Government of the Maldives, the opposition and all stakeholders in the Maldives to show genuine commitment to dialogue, democratic freedoms and proportionality in their actions.

Having taken account of the mission’s findings and without pre-empting planned court action, the EU takes note of the fact that only a few months after political parties were allowed to register for the first time, a number of opposition activists are now facing very serious charges. The credibility of the trial process and the evidence will come under close scrutiny. It is essential that the fundamental rights of all detainees are upheld. The EU calls on the Maldivian authorities to ensure that due process is observed. This includes adequate notice of court hearings to allow legal representatives sufficient time to prepare, and adherence to correct procedures. In relation to this the EU welcomes the permission granted by the government to allow the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to observe trial proceedings. The EU will be paying close attention to the conduct and progress of the court cases.

Given that those arrested have made allegations of human rights violations it is essential that the Human Rights Commission be able to conduct investigations into any complaints submitted. The EU encourages the Members of the People’s Majlis to ensure that the Human Rights Commission Bill presented to the Majlis for its consideration is fully aligned with international standards, guarantees autonomy for the Commission and provides sufficient resources and investigative powers.

The EU welcomes the fact that the government has now begun work on a draft paper to identify reform process milestones to be achieved within two years. This needs to be undertaken in a genuinely consultative manner involving all stakeholders and the wider public of the Maldives in order to raise awareness of and confidence in, the reform process. The EU urges the government to move forward with this without delay.

Measures to allow the registration of political parties for the first time was an important democratic step forward. It is essential that the government of the Maldives continues to allow political parties to meet freely and to carry out peaceful political activities. An effective political party system requires all parties to work within agreed parameters. The EU urges the government of the Maldives and all political parties to engage in a constructive dialogue to make clear what these parameters are. In this regard the EU commends the good offices of the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy.

The EU reaffirms its support for further democratic reform in the Maldives and urges the Government and opposition to take steps to facilitate this and to avoid actions which will make it more difficult. Genuine commitment to democracy requires living up to the spirit as well as the letter of reform.

A representative from the Canadian High Commission participated in the fact-finding mission and the Government of Canada wishes to be associated with this statement.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey and Croatia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Ref: 11905/05 REV 1 (Presse 219)