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Resort boycott list launched over Maldives human rights fears

By Neil Merrett | Monday, April 27, 2015 - 02:55
Anonymous group launches new ethical travel list for Maldives’ resorts, while government dismisses recent Amnesty International criticisms as “preposterous fabrications” 
 
Not for the first time in the Maldives’ recent history, calls are being made to boycott select resorts to raise awareness over concerns about judicial corruption and alleged human rights abuses.
 
Ethical Maldives, which describes itself as an alliance of concerned citizens, has launched a new website that uses a traffic light system to detail resorts linked with key figures tied to the current government of President Abdulla Yameen, which has come under global criticism for recent treatment of opposition politicians.
 
Over the last week, NGO Amnesty International issued findings warning of a deteriorating human rights situation in the Maldives whereby authorities were “muzzling peaceful protesters, silencing critical media and civil society, while abusing the judicial system to imprison opposition politicians.”
 
The conclusions, which were based around interviews with lawyers, journalists and activists during a “five-day fact finding mission” to the country earlier this month, have been dismissed by the government as “preposterous fabrications with zero truth”.
 
Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon was quoted in local media as accusing Amnesty International of working with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to tarnish the reputation of the Maldives and defame its judiciary and national institutions.  
 
The Maldives government has come under pressure from a number of foreign governments and judicial organisations over political influence within its justice system following the controversial imprisonments of several high profile critics of the present administration.
 
It is within this backdrop that Ethical Maldives, which claims it is an alliance that has no political affiliations or business ties with Maldivian parties, hopes to increase global awareness and pressure concerning alleged abuses of human rights in the country.
 
The list classifies resorts under one of three categories; green for “low-risk” properties that tourists are encouraged to visit; amber for properties under consideration owing to alleged human rights abuses, and red, for destinations that should be avoided altogether.
 
In an e-mail response to Dhonisaurus, the group - whose members are so far anonymous - said it believed a selective boycott will help the Maldives, rather than have a negative impact on the wider public.
 
“As you may be aware, Sir Richard Branson and the Forbes Magazine recently called for a complete boycott of Maldives,” said Ethical Maldives.  “However, we are calling for a selective boycott by listing few resorts from over 100 resorts in Maldives. We believe our list enables potential visitors to make the right choice from over 100 Maldives resorts rather than completely boycotting the country.”
 
The calls for a selective boycott of resorts have been covered by publications such as the UK’s Daily Telegraph, which cited Maldives travel expert Adrian Neville who noted that the alliance's claims were not substantiated with evidence.
 
Representatives for the Maldives government, as well as a number of local travel associations contacted by Dhonisaurus via e-mail, have not so far responded to requests for a comment.  
 
Ethical Maldives' campaign will prove controversial in a nation largely dependent on the tourist trade, especially considering the country’s long cultivated reputation as a tropical paradise build around over 100 exclusive island resorts catering for foreigners.
 
The new boycott calls follow the recent imprisonment of the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed.  
 
As a number of foreign governments including the UK and India raising concerns over the legal process, UN body the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has denounced the hearing as “grossly unfair” and a sign of “judicial politicisation”.
 
Earlier this month, defence minister Mohamed Nazim - sacked from his position in January - was sentenced to 11 years in prison on weapons charges, with the judicial process again coming under condemnation globally.  The US government was among the organisations to raise concerns about “an apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures” during the trial.
 
President Yameen - half-brother of the Maldives former autocratic ruler Maumoon abdul Gayoom - has maintained he can have no role in releasing his political rivals, despite UN and global criticism of the country's politicised courts.
 
It remains to be seen what impact the boycott campaign and growing global media scrutiny of the current government will have on the industry, with government statistics on visitor numbers for February 2015 recording an all time monthly record for arrivals. 
 
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