Amal Clooney Urges Action over the Maldives: 'The Noose Around Free Speech Is Tightening by the Day'
"Per capita, the Maldives has the highest rate of recruitment to ISIS," Clooney said at press conference in London.
Amal Clooney today called on foreign governments to introduce travel bans and financial sanctions against Maldives officials for their “crackdown on freedom” in the Indian Ocean nation. She also warned that the exotic vacation spot is in danger of turning into a hotbed of terrorism.
Her comments came during a press conference at her Doughty Street legal offices in London as part of her ongoing human rights case defending former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who remains imprisoned.
Nasheed – the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, whom Clooney described as “the Mandela of the Maldives” – received a 13-year sentence in March under “anti-terror” laws. On Friday the United Nations categorically ruled that both Nasheed’s arrest and trial were illegal and called for his immediate release.
Amal visited the nation last month as part of her work defending Nasheed. A source told PEOPLE at the time that she faced a “really, really dangerous situation” when she was there.
On Monday, she told reporters: “Why, some of you may be thinking, does this matter to you. Isn’t this just one case about one man?”
“I was in the Maldives a few weeks ago and I met with human rights activists and members of NGO’s and they told me, ‘We get death threats. Our offices are raided’.
“Just a couple of days before I arrived in the Maldives our colleague, another lawyer who represents President Nasheed, was stabbed in the head in broad daylight in the streets.
“So what’s happening to President Nasheed is also happening to others in the country.”
Clooney added that the instability was driving the nation away from an alliance with the United States and into a partnership with China and Saudi Arabia. She also detailed how the Maldives – best known as a dream travel destination for honeymooners – has now become a hotbed for terrorism.
“It is also shifting away from religious moderation towards more extremism,” says Clooney.
“It is estimated that today, on a per capita basis, the Maldives has the highest rate of recruitment to ISIS.
“So Nasheed’s unfair trial is emblematic of a bigger crisis in the country, where the noose around free speech is tightening by the day and where a fledgling democracy has entered a much darker period of repression.”
Together with Jared Genser of U.S.-based Freedom Now Clooney is now asking foreign governments to take action against the new leaders of the Maldives.
The findings of the United Nations judges have also found support from John Kerry, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Amnesty International and the European Union, among others.