February 18, 2018 / 4:19 pm

State of Emergency Declared in Maldives

A 15-day state of emergency has been declared in the Maldives after security forces entered the island nation’s highest court.

A tweet by the Maldives Judiciary on Feb. 5 reported the Maldives National Defense Forces stormed the Supreme Court in the capital city of Male.  This comes after the court’s ruling last week to release nine political prisoners and return 12 legislators to power.  Doing so would give majority power to the President’s opposition.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom declared a state of emergency Monday. Al Jazeera reported Tuesday that Yameen ordered the island nation’s security forces to arrest two Supreme Court justices – Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed – and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his estranged half-brother.

Just hours later, three Supreme Court justices announced their annulment of the decision to release the political prisoners.

The state of emergency restricts some constitutional liberties and grants, like the right to assembly and protest, and grants certain policing powers to Yameen, according to an official release by the President’s office.

The declaration was amended late Tuesday to also “restrict or suspend” Article 48 of Maldives’ Constitution.  The article allows any individual arrested the right to be informed of the reason for their arrest, to receive immediate legal counsel and to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed has asked India for aid in enforcing the now-retracted Supreme Court order releasing the prisoners, reports BBC.  Nasheed has also petitioned the U.S. to apply financial pressure on the leaders, and requesting that it “stop all financial transactions of Maldives regime leaders going through US banks,” according to a tweet from the former president’s official account.

Many world leaders have condemned President Yameen’s declared state of emergency.  Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the State Department, said the U.S. was “troubled and disappointed” by the action, and called on Yameen to return order and constitutional liberty to the people of the Maldives.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “seriously concerned” about the situation, and demanded President Yameen lift the state of emergency “as soon as possible.”

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called the restrictions on constitutional liberties “an all-out assault on democracy.”

Journalists within the Maldives are facing difficulties reporting on the situation.  Maldives Independent, an online news outlet, said it was targeted in a cyberattack meant to “coincide with the announcement” of the state of emergency.  It moved to Twitter to live-tweet the event, and continues to liveblog on its website.

Statement from Maldives Independent, Feb. 6

The state of emergency continues, and it is yet unclear if Yameen will stick to the 15-day limit, or lift the restrictions early.

Read President Yameen’s full statement, delivered Feb. 6, here.