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TITLE:  MALDIVES HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            MALDIVES


The 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 
have a parliamentary form of government with a strong 
executive.  The president appoints one-sixth of the Parliament, 
the Cabinet, and members of the judiciary.  Political parties 
are officially discouraged and candidates for the unicameral 
legislature, the Citizens' Majlis, run as individuals.  They 
are elected to 5-year terms by universal suffrage.  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 
President derives additional influence from his constitutional 
role as the protector of Islam.

The National Security Service (NSS), which includes the armed 
forces and police, has between 1,500 to 2,000 members who 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 half the work force.  Tourism accounts for 
over one-quarter of government revenues and roughly 40 percent 
of foreign exchange receipts.  Manufacturing is 6 percent of 
the Gross Domestic Product.

The Government restricts human rights in several areas, but the 
political process became more open in the past year.  Political 
groupings at odds with the Government emerged in the Majlis 
which played a more active political role.  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 creation 
of a Press Council has allowed a greater diversity of views in 
the media.  Nonetheless, important restrictions continued on 
the freedom of religion.  Women and workers faced continuing 
restraints on the full exercise of their rights.  Some of these 
restrictions are linked to the Government's observance of 
Shari'a (Islamic law) and other Islamic customs.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

There were no reports of beatings or other mistreatment of 
persons in police custody.  Convicted criminals may be flogged 
under judicial supervision when this punishment is prescribed 
by Islamic law.  However, there were no reported floggings.  
Punishments are usually confined to fines, compensatory 
payment, house arrest, imprisonment, or banishment to a remote 
atoll.  The Government generally permits those who are banished 
to receive visits by family members.

Prison conditions are adequate.  Food and prisoner housing are 
good by Maldivian standards.  Prisoners are allowed to work in 
prison and given opportunity for regular exercise and 
recreation.  Spouses are allowed 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 initiate investigations based on suspicion of criminal 
activity or in response to written complaints from citizens, 
police officers, or government officials.  They are not 
required to obtain warrants for arrests.  Based on the results 
of police investigations, the Attorney General refers cases to 
the appropriate court.  The authorities generally keep the 
details of a case confidential until they are confident that 
the charges will be upheld.

Depending on the charges, a suspect may remain free, detained 
in prison, or under house arrest for 15 days during 
investigations.  The President may extend pretrial detention 
for an additional 30 days, but in most cases the suspect is 
released if not brought to trial within 15 days.  Those who are 
released pending trial may not leave a specific atoll.  The 
law, however, permits indefinite detention without charge for 
suspects accused of drug abuse, terrorism, or attempted 
overthrow of the Government.  There is no right to legal 
counsel during police interrogation.  There is no provision for 
bail.

The Government may prohibit access to a telephone and nonfamily 
visits to those under house arrest.  While there have been no 
reported cases of incommunicado detention in recent years, the 
law does not provide safeguards against this abuse.

There were no reports that security officials held citizens for 
prolonged periods without charge.  However, 18 Sri Lankan 
fishing boat captains accused of poaching in Maldivian water 
were held for extended periods--in some cases over 9 
months--without charge.

There were no reports of external exile in 1994.  However, the 
Government sometimes banishes citizens to remote atolls.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

There are eight lesser courts and a High Court on 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 adjudicates specialized 
cases, such as debt, theft, or property claims.  There are also 
general courts on the islands.  There are no jury trials.  Most 
trials are public and conducted by judges trained in Islamic 
and civil law.

Cases on outer islands are usually adjudicated by individuals 
without formal legal training, 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, call witnesses, 
and be assisted by a lawyer.  Courts do not provide lawyers to 
indigent defendants.  Judges question the concerned parties and 
attempt to establish the facts of a case.  They render verdicts 
based on law and custom.

Civil law is subordinate to Islamic law, or Shari'a.  Shari'a 
is applied in situations not covered by civil law as well as in 
certain acts such as divorce and adultery.  Courts adjudicating 
matrimonial and criminal cases generally do not allow legal 
counsel in court because, according to a local interpretation 
of Shari'a, all answers and submissions should come directly 
from the parties involved.  However, the High Court allows 
legal counsel in all cases, including those in which the right 
to counsel was denied in the lower court.  Under Islamic 
practice, the testimony of two women is required to equal that 
of one man.

The President influences the judiciary through his power to 
appoint and dismiss judges, all of whom serve at his pleasure 
and are not subject to confirmation by the Majlis.  The 
President also has authority to affirm judgments of the High 
Court, order a second hearing, or overturn the Court's 
decision.  The President may also grant pardons and amnesties.

Supporters of Ilyas Ibrahim, the President's chief rival for 
the 1993 presidential nomination, who had been detained in late 
1993, were brought to trial in early 1994.  They were charged 
with involvement in Ibrahim's antistate activities for which he 
was convicted in absentia in 1993.  Eight persons were tried, 
convicted, and sentenced by early 1994 to 7 years' banishment.  
The sentence was reduced to 1 year on appeal.

There are some political prisoners, most of whom were 
associated with the 1993 presidential aspirant Ilyas Ibrahim.

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

The Constitution prohibits security officials from opening or 
reading letters, telegrams, and wireless messages or monitoring 
telephone conversations, "except in accordance with the 
specific provisions of the law."  The NSS may open the mail of 
private citizens and monitor telephone conversations if 
authorized in the course of a criminal investigation.

Although the Constitution requires the authorities to respect 
private premises and dwellings, there is no legal requirement 
for search or arrest warrants.  The Attorney General or a 
commanding officer of the police must approve the search of 
private residences.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Citizens enjoyed greater freedom of speech and expression in 
1994.  However, Law No. 4J/68 of 1968 still prohibits public 
statements that are contrary to Islam, threaten the public 
order, or are libelous.  In September a court sentenced one 
person to 6 months for making false statements about the 
Government.  The Penal Code prohibits inciting the people 
against the Government.  However, a 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."

In 1994 the Government established a Press Council, composed of 
government and private media representatives, lawyers, and 
government officials, which oversees the press and protects the 
rights of journalists.  The Council is drafting a code of 
ethics for journalist activity.  The Government is also 
reviewing regulations that made publishers responsible for the 
content of the material they published.

In 1994 there were no reports of government censorship of 
either the print or electronic media, nor were there closures 
of any publications or reports of arrests or intimidation of 
journalists.  The last of the journalists associated with the 
closed newspaper Sangu was released in October 1993 from 
serving a 3-year sentence under house arrest and has resumed 
writing.  The Government reportedly discontinued its practice 
of providing reporting guidelines to the media.

The range and diversity of viewpoints in the media also 
expanded in 1994.  Television news and public affairs 
programming routinely discussed topics of current concern and 
freely criticized government performance.  Regular press 
conferences were instituted with government ministers.

The Government owns and operates the only television and radio 
station.  It does not interfere with foreign broadcasts or the 
sale of satellite receiving dishes.  Foreign newscasts such as 
the Cable News Network (CNN) are aired on the government 
television station.

Seventy-six newspapers and periodicals are registered with the 
Government which publishes 13 of them.  Aafathis, a morning 
daily, is published by the brother of the President's principal 
political rival, Ilyas Ibrahim, and is often critical of 
government policy.  An evening daily, Haveer, is published by 
one of the President's supporters.

There are no legal prohibitions on the import of foreign 
publications, except those containing pornography or material 
otherwise deemed objectionable to Islamic values.  No seizures 
of foreign publications were reported in 1994.  There are no 
reported restrictions on academic freedom, nor any governmental 
censorship or control over classroom materials.  Some teachers 
are reportedly vocal in their criticism of the Government.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Article 15 of the Constitution provides for the right to 
assemble, as long as the law or the Islamic code of behavior 
are upheld.  The Home Ministry permits public political 
meetings during electoral campaigns but limits them to small 
gatherings on private premises.  The Government registers clubs 
and other private associations if they do not contravene 
Islamic and civil law.  While not forbidden by law, political 
parties are officially discouraged by the President on the 
grounds that they are inappropriate to the homogeneous nature 
of society.  However, there is an active and outspoken 
opposition group within the Majlis that has stimulated closer 
parliamentary examination of government policy.

     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.  The practice of any 
religion other than Islam is prohibited by law.  However, 
foreign residents are allowed to practice their religion if 
they do so privately.

There are no places of worship for adherents of other 
religions.  The Government prohibits the importation of icons 
and religious statues.  It also prohibits non-Muslim clergy and 
missionaries from proselytizing and conducting public worship 
services.  Conversion of a Muslim to another faith is a 
violation of Shari'a law and may result in a loss of the 
convert's citizenship, although law enforcement authorities say 
this provision has never been applied.

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

Citizens are free to travel at home and abroad, emigrate, and 
return. Bbecause of overcrowding, the Government discourages 
migration into the capital island of Male' or its surrounding 
atoll.

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

Maldivians' ability to change their Government freely is 
constrained, as a strong executive exerts significant influence 
over both the legislature and the judiciary.  The Majlis 
chooses a single presidential nominee who must be a Sunni 
Muslim male.  The candidate is not permitted to campaign for 
the nomination and is confirmed or rejected by secret ballot in 
a nationwide referendum.  In 1993 President Gayoom was 
reelected to a fourth 5-year term.

The elected members of the Majlis serve 5-year terms.  All 
citizens 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 members.  
Individuals or groups are free to approach members of the 
Majlis with grievances or opinions on proposed legislation, and 
any member may introduce legislation.

The Office of the President is the most powerful political 
institution.  The Constitution gives Islamic law preeminence 
over civil law and designates the President as the protector of 
Islam.  The President's authority to appoint one-sixth of the 
Majlis members, which is one-third of the total needed for 
nominating the President, provides the President with a power 
base and strong political leverage.

Relations between the Government and Majlis have been 
constructive.  The Government may introduce legislation, but 
may not enact a bill into law without the Majlis' approval.  
However, the Majlis may enact legislation into law without 
Presidential assent if the President fails to act on the 
proposal within 30 days or if a bill is repassed with a 
two-thirds majority.  In recent years, the Majlis has become 
increasingly independent, rejecting 8 government bills since 
1990 and sending 28 bills to committee for review.

In 1993 the Majlis introduced a question time in which members 
may question government ministers about public policy.  Debate 
on the floor has since become increasingly sharp and more 
open.  The last Majlis election was held in December.  
According to South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation 
observers, the elections were generally free and fair.  
Irregularities were observed and repolling required in one of 
20 constituencies.  Over 200 candidates campaigned freely for 
40 seats.

Women are not eligible to become president but may hold other 
government posts.  For reasons of tradition and culture, few 
women seek or are selected for public office.  In 1994 two 
women served in the Majlis and one in 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.  The Government 
has been responsive to at least one foreign government's 
interest in examining human rights issues.  The Government also 
facilitated the visit of a team of South Asian Association for 
Regional Cooperation election observors.

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

     Women

Women traditionally have played a subordinate role in society, 
although they now participate in public life in growing numbers 
and gradually at higher levels.  Well-educated women maintain 
that cultural norms, not the law, inhibit women's education and 
career choices.  In many instances, education for girls is 
curtailed after the seventh grade, largely because parents do 
not allow girls to leave their home island for one having a 
secondary school.  Due largely to orthodox Islamic training, 
there is a strong strain of conservative sentiment--especially 
among small businessmen and residents of the outer 
islands--which opposes an active role for women outside the 
home.

Under Islamic practice, husbands may divorce their wives more 
easily than vice versa--absent any mutual agreement to 
divorce.  Islamic law also governs inheritance, according to 
male heirs twice the share of female heirs.  As noted in 
Section 1.e., a woman's testimony is equal to only half of that 
of a man.  Women who work for wages generally receive pay equal 
to that of men in the same positions.  About 10 percent of 
uniformed NSS personnel are women.

There are no firm data on the extent of violence against women 
because of the value attached to privacy in this conservative 
society.  Police officials report that they receive few 
complaints of assaults against women.  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 rare.

     Children

There is no reported pattern of abuse against children.  
Children's rights are 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 the authority to 
enforce this law, takes its responsibility seriously, and has 
received strong popular support for its efforts.

     People with Disabilities

There is no law that specifically addresses the rights of the 
physically or mentally disabled.  However, the Government has 
established programs and provided services for the disabled.  
There is no legislated or mandated accessibility for the 
disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

While the Government does not expressly prohibit unions, it 
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 1994.

The work force consists of approximately 57,000 persons, about 
20 percent of whom are employed in fishing.  About 17,000 
foreigners work in Maldives.  Many are from Sri Lanka and India 
and work in resort hotels so that Maldivian nationals may avoid 
serving liquor.  Many factory workers are also foreign 
laborers; others are engaged in construction projects.  The 
great majority of workers are employed outside the wage 
sector.  The Government estimates that the manufacturing sector 
employs about 15 percent of the labor force and tourism another 
10 percent.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law neither prohibits nor protects the workers' rights to 
organize and bargain collectively.  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.  There are no laws specifically prohibiting antiunion 
discrimination by employers against union members or 
organizers.  The Government has exerted pressure in the past to 
discourage seamen from joining foreign seamen's unions as a 
means to secure higher wages.  There were no reported 
complaints alleging such discrimination in 1994.  In addition, 
there were no reports in 1994 of government interference with 
workers' attempts to join unions.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is not prohibited by law.  There are 
no reports that it is practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

There is no compulsory education law.  A 1992 law 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.  The hours of 
work of young workers are not specifically limited by statute.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

In June the Government promulgated its first set of regulations 
for employer-employee relations.  The regulations specify the 
terms that must be incorporated into employment contracts and 
address such issues as training, work hours, safety, 
remuneration, leave, fines, termination, etc.  There is no 
national minimum wage for the private sector, although the 
Government has established wage floors for certain kinds of 
work.  Given the severe shortage of labor, employers must offer 
competitive pay and conditions to attract skilled workers.

There are no statutory provisions for hours of work, but the 
new regulations require that a work contract specify the normal 
work and overtime hours on a weekly or monthly basis.  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 working more than 6 hours 
a day was instituted in the public sector in 1990.  Under the 
new regulations employees are authorized 20 days of annual 
leave, 30 days of medical leave, maternity leave of 45 days, 
and special annual leave of 10 days for extraordinary 
circumstances.  There are no laws governing health and safety 
conditions.  Regulations require that employers provide a safe 
working environment and ensure the observance of safety 
measures.

(###)


[end of document]

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