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TITLE:  MALDIVES HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


The Republic of Maldives comprises 1,190 islands in 26 natural 
atolls scattered across an area 500 miles long by 75 miles wide 
in the Indian ocean with a population of some 225,000 persons.  
It has a parliamentary form of government with a strong 
executive.  In practice, government authority in this small, 
homogeneous society rests largely in the hands of the President 
and a number of powerful Cabinet ministers.  Political parties 
are officially discouraged.  Candidates for the unicameral 
legislature, the Citizens' Majlis, run as individuals.  The 
Majlis selects a single nominee for president who is 
subsequently approved or rejected by the voters.  

In 1993 the Majlis nominated President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for 
a fourth 5-year term.  His principal rival for the nomination, 
Ilyas Ibrahim, was subsequently tried in absentia for violation 
of the Constitution, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to 
more than 15 years' banishment in what was widely seen as a 
politically motivated legal proceeding.  A number of Ibrahim's 
supporters were arbitrarily detained, and some were later tried 
and convicted for political offenses.

The National Security Service (NSS), which includes the army 
and police, is responsible for maintaining internal law and 
order as well as defending the country.  Total NSS membership 
is estimated at between 1,200 and 2,000.  NSS members generally 
serve in both police and military functions over their 
careers.  The police division investigates crimes, does 
security intelligence work, makes arrests, and enforces house 

Nearly half the work force engages in traditional activities 
such as fishing and small-scale agriculture.  Manufacturing and 
tourism employ an additional 25 percent of the work force, with 
tourism accounting for 40 percent of foreign exchange 

The Government continues to restrict human rights closely in 
several areas, including the right of citizens to change their 
government, freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of 
religion, and women's and workers' rights.  There are some 
political prisoners.  Other problems include arbitrary arrest, 
incommunicado detention, and lack of an independent judiciary.  
Some of these restrictions--on religion and women's rights, for 
example--are linked with the country's observance of the 
Shari'a (Islamic law) and other Islamic principles and customs.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of such killings in 1993. 

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances in 1993.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no credible reports in 1993 that persons were beaten 
while in police custody.  Supporters of Ilyas Ibrahim were 
alleged to have been abused while in custody, but these 
allegations were not substantiated.  Convicted criminals may be 
flogged under judicial supervision when this punishment is 
prescribed by the Shari'a.  Usually, however, punishment is 
confined to fines, compensatory payment, house arrest, 
imprisonment, or banishment to a remote and sparsely populated 
atoll.  Banishment is considered a particularly severe 
punishment because the banished person is not allowed visits by 
family members.

Prison conditions are reported to be adequate.  Food and 
accomodation provided, especially for political prisoners, is 
reportedly quite good by Maldivian standards.  Prisoners are 
allowed to work while in prison.  Spouses are now allowed 
complete privacy during visits with incarcerated partners.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution states that "no person shall be apprehended, 
except on a verdict specified by Shari'a or (civil) law."  
Police undertake investigations either on suspicion of criminal 
activity or in response to a formal written complaint alleging 
commission of a crime.  The complaint can be written by anyone, 
including a citizen, police officer, or government official.  
No warrants are required for arrests, but arrests are made only 
after clearance from a superior officer, such as the 
officer-in-charge, is received.  Depending on the results of 
the police investigation, the Attorney General may refer the 
case to the appropriate court.

Complainants may also directly petition a court for its 
intervention.  It is customary not to disclose to the public 
the details of the charges against a person until it has been 
established that the charges are likely to be upheld.

Persons under investigation generally are free pending trial, 
provided they do not leave a specified atoll.  Depending on the 
charges, however, a suspect may be imprisoned or placed under 
house arrest without trial for 15 days while the case is being 
investigated.  In most cases, if not brought to trial within 15 
days, the subject is freed.  After the first 15 days, detention 
or house arrest may be extended for 30 days by authority of the 
President.  There is no limit on the detention of persons 
suspected of such crimes as illegal drug use, terrorism, or 
attempted overthrow of the Government.  As a result, such 
detainees may be held without trial indefinitely.  

There is no provision under Maldivian law for bail.  Neither is 
there a requirement in law that persons be formally charged 
before being detained on suspicion, so some suspects, 
especially for political offenses, have been imprisoned or held 
under house arrest for weeks or months without charge.  There 
is also no right to legal counsel during police interrogation 
or the making of a confession.  One detainee, charged with 
withholding information about terrorist activities, was 
arrested in February 1991 and held under house arrest for 2 
years before his trial (at which he was acquitted in March 
1993) began.  Some detainees reportedly have been held without 
access to lawyers, friends, or family.  Persons held under 
house arrest may be prohibited visits by nonfamily members and 
access to a telephone.  At times prisoners have been held 
incommunicado as a way to extract confessions. 

Most, if not all, of the more than 50 persons arrested in 
November 1990 on what appear to have been exaggerated charges, 
including terrorism and political subversion, have either been 
released or tried, convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment or 
banishment to outer atolls.  

In 1993 at least 20 supporters of Ilyas Ibrahim--the 
President's brother-in-law and chief rival for the presidential 
nomination--were detained.  Three were charged with assisting 
Ibrahim in his campaign to win the presidency--an offense under 
the Maldives' Constitution (see Section 2.e. and Section 3).  
They were convicted and sentenced to 10 years' banishment.  A 
fourth was sentenced to 7 years' banishment for withholding 
information about the above-mentioned crime.  Other detainees 
were released after questioning, but approximately eight are 
believed to still be in police custody awaiting the filing of 

There were no cases of foreign exile in 1993.  The practice of 
banishment to remote atolls is a form of internal exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The President exercises considerable influence over the 
judiciary as demonstrated by his power to appoint and dismiss 
judges.  All judges serve at his pleasure; they are not subject 
to confirmation by the citizens' Majlis.  The High Court falls 
under the authority of the Office of the President.  Under the 
law, the President has the power to grant pardon and amnesty to 
offenders but, according to Maldivian officials, does not 
determine sentences.  Some observers also believe that the 
President personally reviews some court decisions and may use 
his influence to affect the outcome of decisions.

There are eight lesser courts and a High Court in the capital 
island, Male.  The High Court handles a wide range of cases, 
including politically sensitive ones, and acts as a court of 
appeal.  Each of the lesser courts deals with specialized 
cases, such as debt, theft, or property claims.  On other 
islands, there are all-purpose courts.  There are no jury 
trials.  Most trials are open to the public and are conducted 
by judges trained in Islamic and civil law.  Public and press 
attendance at trials of persons charged with political crimes 
has, on occasion, been restricted, but the major political 
cases in 1993--that of Ilyas Ibrahim and his supporters--were 
open to the public and heavily attended.

Ibrahim was charged with having illegally attempted to become 
president of the Maldives.  Under the Constitution, nomination 
of the presidential candidate is the responsibility of 
Parliament and it is a constitutional offense for an individual 
to actively seek the office.  Ibrahim was also charged with 
having violated his oath as minister.  Ibrahim, who was out of 
the country, declined to appear before the court as ordered.  
He was ultimately tried in absentia.  Although he was 
represented by counsel during the proceedings, Ibrahim claims 
that his attorney was prevented from traveling abroad to meet 
with him and that telephone and fax communications between him 
and his attorney were monitored by the Government.  Ibrahim was 
convicted on both charges and sentenced to 15 years' banishment 
on the first count and to 6 months' additional banishment on 
the second.  He still faces two additional charges involving 
conflict of interest between his ministerial duties and private 
positions that he held concurrently.

Most Maldivians believe that the charges against Ibrahim were 
motivated primarily by political considerations and that the 
results of the trial were a foregone conclusion (see Section 
3).  However, most also believed that there was some substance 
to the charges by government officials that Ibrahim attempted 
to bribe parliamentarians to vote for him.  

Cases on outer islands are usually adjudicated by traditional 
legal practitioners, but more complex legal questions are 
referred to the appropriate specialized court in Male'.  The 
Male' court may in turn refer the issue to four judges attached 
to the Justice Ministry.

During trial, the accused may defend himself and call 
witnesses.  He also may be assisted by a lawyer, but most 
defendants do not use them because there are few professionally 
trained lawyers in Maldives.  Courts do not provide lawyers to 
defendants who cannot obtain legal counsel on their own.  
Traditional Islamic judges question the concerned parties and 
attempt to establish the facts of a case as well as reach a 
legal judgment.  Generally, the length and type of sentence are 
established by law and custom.  

Shari'a and civil law operate simultaneously in the Maldivian 
legal system, but civil law is subordinate to Shari'a.  Shari'a 
is applied in situations not covered by civil law as well as in 
dealing with certain specific acts and offenses, such as 
divorce and adultery.  The courts that deal with matrimonial 
and criminal cases do not, as a general rule, allow legal 
counsel to be present because the interpretation of Shari'a 
used in Maldives argues that answers and submissions should 
come directly from the parties involved.  The High Court of 
Maldives, however, does allow legal counsel in all types of 
cases, including those in which the right to counsel was denied 
by the lower court.

There are political prisoners, but there are no reliable 
estimates of the number.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution prohibits opening, or reading letters, 
telephone conversations, telegrams, and wireless messages 
exchanged between persons "except in accordance with the 
specific provisions of the law."  The NSS sometimes opens the 
mail of private citizens and notifies them that it has done 
so.  It is also widely believed that the Government taps 
telephones.  The Constitution requires that private premises 
and dwellings be respected, but there is no legal requirement 
for search or arrest warrants, and police officials sometimes 
search private residences without prior warning.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression 
"so long as the specific provisions of Shari'a and the law are 
not contravened."  In practice, however, freedom of speech, 
press, and broadcast are sharply restricted.  Under Maldivian 
law and custom, a citizen may criticize or complain to the 
Government without fear if he does so through recognized 
channels.  These include letters or oral complaints to the 
President, a Majlis member, a civil servant, or other person in 

Individuals who use other channels to express dissent, however, 
do so at their peril.  The Penal Code includes a provision that 
makes it illegal to arouse the people against the Government.  
A November 1990 amendment to the Penal Code decriminalized "any 
true account of any act of commission or omission past or 
present by the Government in a lawfully registered newspaper or 
magazine, so as to reveal dissatisfaction or to effect its 
reform."  This amendment so far has had no appreciable effect 
in easing journalists' concerns about publishing material that 
might be deemed to contravene the broad Penal Code provision.  
Law no. 4 of 1968 also prohibits public statements--either 
orally or in writing--that express anti-Islamic sentiment or 
that might threaten national peace and stability or that might 
be libellous to anyone.

The harassment, arrest, and conviction of a number of 
journalists following a short period of unprecedented press 
freedom in early 1990 eliminated the dissident press and 
created a persisting atmosphere in which newspapers are afraid 
to publish articles critical of the Government.  The Government 
also holds printers responsible for the material they print, 
resulting in the printers' refusal to accept anything even 
slightly controversial.

Seventy-six newspapers and periodicals are registered, of which 
13 are published by the Government.  The only two dailies are 
owned by government ministers.  Two politically outspoken 
newspapers, Sangu and Hukuru, whose official registrations were 
revoked in mid-1990, remain closed.  Of the 2 journalists 
affiliated with Sangu who were among 50 persons detained in 
1990, one, editor Mohammed Shafeeq who was originally sentenced 
to 11 years' imprisonment, was released from house arrest in 
May.  The second, a journalist, remains under house arrest 
serving a 3-year sentence.  Other journalists detained in 1990, 
including several from Hukuru, have reportedly either completed 
their sentences or been granted amnesty.  There were no forced 
closures of newspapers or magazines in 1993.  In the one 
defamation case brought against a journalist by a private party 
in 1993, the journalist was found innocent.  

There is no prior censorship of newspapers, but officials in  
the Department of Information and Broadcasting sometimes call 
publishers to point out that certain articles are unacceptable 
for political or other reasons.  Publications may be banned for 
containing criticisms of the Government "based on falsehood and 
unfounded speculation."  The Government also reserves the right 
to take action against journalists who "bring discredit and 
dishonor to individuals or groups through the malicious use of 
mass media and create social unrest among the general public."  
Because these regulations are often broadly construed, 
self-censorship is well ingrained among writers and editors.  

The Government owns and operates the only television and radio 
stations.  Foreign broadcasts are not jammed. There is no 
prohibition on satellite receivers anywhere in the country.

There are no legal prohibitions on the import of foreign 
publications, except those containing pornography or material 
otherwise deemed objectionable in terms of Islamic values.  No 
seizures of foreign publications were reported in 1993.  There 
are no reported restrictions on academic freedom nor any 
governmental censorship or control over classroom materials.  
Some teachers are reportedly quite vocal in their criticism of 
government policies.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Article 15 of the Constitution guarantees Maldivians the right 
to assemble as long as they do not violate the law or the 
Islamic code of behavior.  Public political meetings are 
permitted during electoral campaigns, with Home Ministry 
permission, but so far political meetings have been limited to 
small gatherings on private premises.  Clubs and other private 
associations are permitted if they do not contravene Shari'a 
and civil law.  They must be registered with the Government.  
While not expressly forbidden by law, political parties are not 
permitted in practice.  President Gayoom has publicly 
discouraged their formation, declaring political parties 
inappropriate to the homogeneous Maldivian society, at least 
for the present.  

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is significantly restricted.  The 
Constitution designates Islam as the official religion and 
requires all citizens to be Muslims.

There are no places of worship for adherents of any other 
religion, and the importation of figures for worship is 
prohibited.  Clergy and missionaries of non-Muslim faiths may 
enter Maldives but are forbidden to proselytize or hold public 
worship services.  Conversion of a Muslim to another faith is a 
violation of Shari'a law and could result in a loss of 
citizenship for the Maldivian convert, although law enforcement 
authorities say this provision of the law has never been 
applied.  The practice of any religion other than Islam is 
prohibited by law.  Citizens of other nations resident in 
Maldives are, however, allowed to practice their religion if 
they do so privately.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no formal restrictions on freedom of movement within 
the Maldives.  Although no law explicitly prohibits migration 
to the capital island of Male' or its surrounding atoll, these 
areas have become so overcrowded that the Government 
discourages migration there except for short periods of work, 
education, or medical treatment.  

There are no arbitrary restrictions on foreign travel or 
emigration.  A Maldivian who has acquired another nationality 
must maintain Maldivian nationality concurrently and must enter 
and leave Maldives on a Maldivian passport.  The Government is 
not known to have revoked the citizenship of any Maldivian.  

There are no refugees or displaced persons.  

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Maldives traditionally has been governed by a limited circle of 
persons, and Maldivians have only limited and indirect 
influence on the selection and organization of their 
government.  A single nominee for president, who 
constitutionally must be male and a Sunni Muslim, is chosen by 
secret ballot in the Majlis from as many candidates as are 
proposed by members.  Direct personal campaigning for the 
nomination by a candidate is not permitted.  The nominated 
candidate is confirmed or rejected in a nationwide referendum, 
also by secret ballot.  In 1993 the Majlis nominated President 
Gayoom to a fourth 5-year term in office.

Members of the citizens' Majlis, a unicameral legislature, are 
chosen for 5-year terms by secret ballot.  All Maldivians over 
21 years of age may vote.  Of the body's 48 members, 40 are 
elected--2 from each of the 19 inhabited atolls and 2 from 
Male'--and the President appoints 8.  Individuals or groups are 
free to approach members of the Majlis with grievances or 
opinions on proposed legislation.

The most recent Majlis election was held in November 1989.  
Under the Constitution, Islamic law rather than the Majlis has 
legal preeminence.  In practice, the President, who in addition 
to being the head of government and state is also responsible 
for the protection of Islam, and key members of his Cabinet 
wield tremendous power over the Majlis.  

It is widely believed that through a combination of inducement 
and intimidation the President and key members of his Cabinet 
have been able to control the outcome of the presidential 
election process.  In the 1993 campaign President Gayoom was 
challenged by his brother-in-law and Cabinet Minister Ilyas 
Ibrahim, who had also been nominated.  In the nominating vote, 
Gayoom won 28 votes to Ilyas' 19.  Ilyas, who charged that he 
had been forced to leave the country by the President, and who 
faced criminal charges should he return, alleged that the 
President improperly pressured Majlis members and denied him 
his right to contest fairly for the presidency.  Government 
officials allege, however, that Ilyas improperly used funds 
from his ministerial portfolio to induce parliamentarians to 
vote in his favor.

In place of political parties, factions in the Majlis tend to 
form around individuals or points of view.  Any member may 
introduce legislation.  If seconded, it must be considered by 
the entire legislative body.  Although the Majlis previously 
could not interpellate ministers, in 1993 President Gayoom 
instructed the Majlis to introduce a question time during which 
Members of Parliament will question ministers directly about 
government policy and administration.  The Government has said 
that members of the Majlis are protected by law for statements 
made during Majlis debates; however, since the arrest and 
banishment of a member of the Majlis in 1990 on charges that 
were not made public and the harassment of several others for 
outspokenness in 1990 and 1991, the atmosphere in the Majlis 
reportedly has become more subdued than it was in early 1990.  
The Majlis still, however, proposes new legislation and debates 
some draft bills vigorously.  

Women are not eligible to become president but may hold all 
other government posts.  For reasons of tradition and culture, 
however, few women seek or are selected for public office.  In 
1993 2 women served in the 48-member Majlis.  There were no 
female members of the Cabinet.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no active local human rights groups, and government 
restrictions on freedom of speech and press inhibit any 
organization from investigating and publicly criticizing the 
Government's human rights policies.  

In general, the Government does not welcome international human 
rights organizations or the human rights inquiries of foreign 
governments, considering them an intrusion into Maldives' 
domestic affairs.  However, there have been instances in recent 
years in which the Government has engaged international human 
rights organizations in discussion.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Women traditionally have played a subordinate role in Maldivian 
society, although they now participate in public life in 
growing numbers and gradually at higher levels.  Well-educated 
Maldivian women report that although the upward professional 
mobility of women is not limited by statute, the education, 
career choices, and achievement of women is circumscribed by 
cultural norms and expectations.  Because Islamic practice is 
the basis for Maldivian civil law, it is easier for husbands to 
divorce wives than vice versa.  Islamic law also governs 
inheritance, according to men twice the share of women.  Women 
who work for wages--for the Government, in business, or in 
garment factories--generally receive pay equal to that of men 
in the same positions.  Approximately 10 percent of uniformed 
NSS personnel are now female.

The Government has shown interest in promoting the welfare of 
women in both the public and private sectors.  A Department of 
Women's Affairs and a National Women's Council have been 
created to protect women in traditional roles and, to a degree, 
to expand opportunities for them in nontraditional 
occupations.  These efforts must contend, however, with 
conservative sentiment among small businessmen and residents of 
the outer islands, due largely to orthodox Islamic training 
which opposes women being active outside the home.

There are no firm data on the extent of violence against 
women.  Violence against women is probably underreported to 
authorities because of the value attached to privacy within the 
family in this conservative society.  Police officials report 
that they receive only three or four complaints of assaults 
against women each year, and Maldivian women's rights advocates 
agree that wife beating and other forms of violence are not 
widespread.  Rape and other violent crimes against women are 


There are no reported patterns of abuse against children in 
Maldives.  A Bill of Children's Rights is incorporated into 
Maldivian law which specifically protects children from both 
physical and psychological abuse--including at the hands of 
teachers or parents.  The Ministry of Home Affairs has direct 
authority for overseeing enforcement of this law and reportedly 
takes the responsibility seriously.  

     People with Disabilities

There is no legislation in Maldives that specifically addresses 
the rights of the physically or mentally disabled.  The 
Government has, however, played an active role in the 
protection and rehabilitation of the disabled.  There is a 
government institution for treatment of the mentally 
handicapped.  The Ministry of Health and Welfare arranges for 
treatment abroad for physically disabled persons who need 
specialist care and for visits to Maldives by specialists to 
treat both the mentally and physically disabled.  The 
Government also provides a monthly allowance for the blind and 
makes items such as wheelchairs, crutches, and eyeglasses 
available to those who cannot afford them.  The Government has 
not legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility for the 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

While unions are not expressly prohibited, the Government 
recognizes neither the right to form them nor the right to 
strike.  There were no reports of efforts to either form unions 
or to strike in 1993.

Maldives has a work force of approximately 57,000 persons, 
about 20 percent of whom are employed in traditional fishing.  
Approximately 17,000 foreigners work in Maldives.  Many are 
brought in from Sri Lanka and India to work in resort hotels so 
that Maldivian nationals will be only minimally involved in the 
serving of liquor.  A large number of factory workers are also 
foreign laborers, and many are engaged in road work and 
construction projects.  The great majority of economically 
active Maldivians work outside the wage sector.  Detailed 
employment statistics do not exist, but it is estimated that 
the manufacturing sector employs about 15 percent of the labor 
force and the tourism industry another 10 percent.  Tourism, 
however, accounts for about 20 percent of the gross domestic 
product and 40 percent of foreign exchange receipts.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively are 
neither recognized nor protected by law.  Wages in the private 
sector are set by contract between employers and employees and 
are usually based on the rates for similar work in the public 
sector.  In 1993 the Government asked a foreign union organizer 
to leave the country due to his efforts to persuade Maldivian 
seamen to join the International Transport Workers Federation 
(ITF) for the purpose of obtaining wage and other benefits not 
provided to them in their employment contracts approved by the 
Ministry of Transport and Shipping.  Maldivian officials also 
reportedly warned seamen against becoming involved with foreign 
seamen's unions, arguing that shipping company recruiters would 
stop coming to Maldives to offer jobs if they did so.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There is no legal code regulating the conditions of labor.  
Forced or compulsory labor is not prohibited, but there are no 
reports that it is practiced. 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

There is no compulsory education law.  However, in 1990 some 77 
percent of those 5 to 19 years of age were enrolled in 
government or private schools.  A law passed in 1992 bars 
children under 14 years of age from "places of waged work" and 
from work that is "not suitable for that child's age, health, 
or physical ability" or that "might obstruct the education or 
adversely affect the mentality or behavior of the child."  An 
earlier law prohibits government employment of children under 
the age of 16.  There are no reports of children being employed 
in the small industrial sector, although children do work in 
family fishing, agricultural, and commercial activities.  Hours 
of young workers are not specifically limited by statute.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage for the private sector, 
although the Government has established wage floors for certain 
kinds of work.  There are no statutory provisions for hours of 
work and length of annual leave.  Given the severe shortage of 
labor, however, employers must offer competitive pay and 
working conditions to attract skilled workers.  In the public 
sector, a 6-hour day and a 6-day workweek have been established 
through administrative circulars from the President's office.  
Overtime pay for those who work more than a 6-hour day was 
instituted in the public sector in 1990.  Government workers 
receive 3 weeks' leave per year.  There are no laws governing 
health and safety conditions. 

[end of document]


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