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Trouble in Paradise – A Political Crisis Intensifies in the Maldives

In the early hours of Tuesday, February 6, 2018, the President of the Republic of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, declared a 15 day state of emergency and ordered the arrest of the island nation’s chief justice of the Supreme Court, Abdulla Saeed, along with Justice Ali Hameed.[1] [2] [3] By that afternoon, Yameen’s security forces barricaded the Parliament building, in effect preventing its members from meeting, and earlier that morning, Yameen had ordered the arrest of his half-brother, and former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on charges of bribery.[4] [5] The decision to declare a state of emergency, the terms of which gave Yameen the power to make the arrests by waiving the special privileges afforded to members of the Supreme Court, was justified by the President as necessary to prevent an attempted coup.[6] [7] The allegations against Chief Justice Saeed and Justice Hameed stem from a decision handed down by the Supreme Court on February 1, 2018, stating that the convictions of 9 of President Rameen’s leading political opponents, including exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed, were invalid and ordered their release. [8] [9] [10] [11] The court also ordered the reinstatement of 12 members of Parliament (MPs) who were living in exile following the stripping of their seats, which the MPs assert was a direct result of their abandoning Yameen’s political party and joining the opposition. [12] [13] The reinstatement of the MPs would have given the opposition a majority in the Parliament to go along with their current majority in the House. [14] Following the arrest of the two Justices, the remaining three members of the Supreme Court reversed the earlier ruling and reinstated the convictions, although it is reported that this decision was made under pressure of Yameen’s government. [15]

Former President Nasheed, who was himself removed from power through a coup in 2012, used Twitter to release a statement calling on the Indian government to intervene militarily, and asking the United States to freeze the banking transactions of Yameen and his government’s leaders. [16] [17] Critics of Nasheed and opposition party members believe that the decision handed down by the Supreme Court, who previously ruled in favor of the Yameen government, was the result of bribes from wealthy opposition leaders.[18] President Yameen has also been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the proceeds of secret deals to sell Maldive islands to foreign companies. [19]

Through his spokesman, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, along with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, “[called] on all to exercise restraint[,]” and called on President Yameen to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision. [20] The European Union and foreign governments including India, the United States, and the United Kingdom have also urged President Yameen to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling. [21] China, who recently signed a trade agreement with Yameen’s regime, called on the political crisis to be dealt with internally. [22] The United Nations has offered its support in mediating this political crisis, however Yameen is currently bolstered by the support of the military. [23] [24] It remains to be seen if that support will continue, but what is clear is that “the world’s eyes are on the Maldives right now.” [25]

This post is a student blog post and in no way represents the views of the Fordham International Law Journal.