U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Maldives
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Maldives, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa801f.html [accessed 26 May 2016]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
MALDIVESThe Republic of Maldives comprises 1,190 islands scattered across an area 500 miles long by 75 miles wide in the Indian Ocean. The population is about 245,000 persons. The Maldives has a parliamentary form of government with a very strong executive. The President appoints the Cabinet, members of the judiciary, and one-sixth of the Parliament. The President derives additional influence from his constitutional role as the protector of Islam. Political parties are officially discouraged, and candidates for the unicameral legislature, the Citizens' Majlis, run as individuals. The Majlis selects a single presidential nominee who is approved or rejected in a national referendum. The Majlis must approve all legislation and can enact legislation without presidential approval. Civil law is subordinate to Islamic law, but civil law is generally applied in criminal and civil cases. The judiciary is subject to executive influence. The National Security Service (NSS) performs its duties under effective civilian control. The NSS includes the armed forces and police, and its members serve in both police and military capacities during their careers. The police division investigates crimes, collects intelligence, makes arrests, and enforces house arrest. Fishing, small-scale agriculture, and tourism provide employment for over one-half the work force. Tourism accounts for over one-quarter of government revenues and roughly 40 per cent of foreign exchange receipts. Manufacturing accounts for 6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Government restricts human rights in several areas. The Majlis assumed a more active political role and its members routinely differ with government policy on many issues. However, the President's power to appoint a significant portion of the Parliament still constrains citizens' ability to change their government. An easing of government restrictions and the Press Council's balanced handling of issues related to journalistic standards allowed a greater diversity of views in the media. Nevertheless, a journalist was convicted in 1996 for comments in an article about the 1994 general elections. In addition, the Government banned a book in September because it contained derogatory comments about a previous president. The Government limits freedom of assembly and association. There are significant restrictions on the freedom of religion, and women face a variety of legal and social disadvantages. Some of these restrictions are linked to the Government's observance of Shari'a (Islamic law) and other Islamic customs. The Government restricts worker rights. Nonetheless, there was some progress in certain areas, as the courts were reorganized, and constitutional reforms were finalized.