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Maldives: Move to dissolve about 70% of the NGOs would seriously impact human rights activities in the country

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 26 April 2013
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Maldives: Move to dissolve about 70% of the NGOs would seriously impact human rights activities in the country, 26 April 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/518ceec218.html [accessed 3 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Last Update 26 April 2013

Geneva-Paris, April 26, 2013. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their concern about the authorities' announcement to dissolve about 70% of the Maldivian NGOs for failing to abide by their reporting requirements.

On March 18, 2013, Maldives Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. Abdulla Mohamed, announced that his Ministry will dissolve about 1,300 legally registered NGOs – i.e. nearly 70% of the Maldivian NGOs – for allegedly failing to adhere to reporting requirements and to elect executive committees.

In Maldives, the Associations Act is extremely broad as it covers all types of NGOs, including human rights ones.[1] NGOs have to submit annual report to the government agencies, which most of them are reported to have not submitted. In February 2013, the Ministry of Home Affairs formally reminded the NGOs to submit annual reports on time or face risk of dissolution. After the deadline, the Registrar of NGOs, which is posted at the Ministry of Home Affairs, publicly announced that the majority of NGOs did not comply with the guidelines. The Registrar is legally empowered to dissolve NGOs who failed to submit annual report for two consequent years.

"The Ministry's move to dissolve a large part of the Maldivian NGOs would clearly have a devastating impact on the ability of civil society to conduct activities to promote and protect human rights, as provided for in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders", OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock said today. "We fear that it might aim at stifling human rights defenders' activities, especially in the run-up to the presidential elections that are scheduled for September 2013", he added.

The Observatory recalls that the right to freedom of association is a universally recognised right enshrined in numerous international and regional instruments, especially Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Such a move would also violate Article 30 (b) of the Constitution of the Maldives, which guarantees the right to form associations and societies. Moreover, in line with Articles 42 and 43 of the Maldivian Constitution, the Government must ensure judicial oversight by an independent and impartial court of any executive decision to dissolve NGOs. The Government must also immediately communicate the grounds for its decision in each and every case, citing clear examples.

"Although the right of NGOs to freedom of association is naturally accompanied by certain responsibilities on their part, especially in terms of transparency and good governance, as in any other sector of society, one shall not forget that legitimate restrictions on this right must be "necessary in a democratic society", and respect the primacy of the general interest and the principle of proportionality", said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen.

The Observatory therefore calls upon the authorities of the Maldives to guarantee the right of the concerned NGOs to benefit from suspensive measures so that
they can comply with the reporting and governance requirements and to an effective remedy in the event of suspension or dissolution, as well as to ensure that any limitation on the right to freedom of association is consistent in its entirety with Article 22 of the ICCPR.

The Observatory further calls upon Maldivian NGOs to respect, to the extent possible, the provisions relating to the transparency of reporting, financing and auditing in order to avoid unfounded indictment by the authorities; as well as to ensure that their modes of operation and purpose are consistent with Article 22 of the ICCPR.

The Observatory more generally urges the authorities of the Maldives to guarantee that human rights defenders and NGOs can carry out their activities free of any hindrances and to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments ratified by the Maldives.

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