Maldives boycott threatened after UN Nasheed ruling

Lawyers for former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed on on Monday said they would not rule out pushing for a travel boycott to the tropical archipelago after the UN ruled his ongoing detention illegal.

London: Lawyers for former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed on on Monday said they would not rule out pushing for a travel boycott to the tropical archipelago after the UN ruled his ongoing detention illegal.

Nasheed's lawyer Amal Clooney called the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention verdict a "line in the sand", vowing to press the international community -- particularly India -- to impose travel bans and sanctions on those suspected of human rights abuses.

"We see this as an escalating set of measures," Clooney, wife of Hollywood A-lister George Clooney, said at a press conference in London.

We haven't come out and called for an all-out tourist boycott yet, but at the same time I don't think we would exclude it. Tourists have the power of the purse."

Her colleague Jared Genser, of campaign group Freedom Now, told AFP that the near-term focus was "on sanctioning individual human-rights violators".

"I believe we should be able to get his release without travel sanctions but we must keep our options open," he added.

"Governments don't release people like President Nasheed unless they are really forced to do so."

The UN working group -- an independent panel of five -- called for his immediate release, but the government of the atoll nation on Thursday rejected the ruling.

Nasheed was jailed for 13 years earlier this year on terror charges related to the arrest of an allegedly corrupt judge when he was still president in 2012.

His sentence was commuted to house arrest in July, but last month police took him back to prison, in a surprise move that drew fresh criticism from the UN and the United States.

Nasheed's wife Laila Ali called the UN working group's ruling an "extraordinary day" and told AFP that her husband was in high spirits during their weekly 10-minute telephone conversation.

"Maldives has a reputation as a holiday paradise, but for most Maldivians nothing could be further from the truth," she told the press conference.

"My husband is merely a symbol of a much wider crackdown. The Maldives has returned to its dark past. The regime has tried to break him so many times but they have never succeeded."

Nasheed's legal team has already been in touch with international leaders over then next steps and getting India on board is "top of our to-do list", said Clooney.

Genser warned that "a list is being developed with information about perpetrators... That will be the basis for our discussions with governments."  

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