Documents considered by the Committee on 11 July 2018 Contents

11EU sanctions against the Maldives

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees

Document details

(a) Council Decision (CFSP) concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in the Maldives; (b) Council Regulation concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in the Republic of Maldives.

Legal base

(a) Article 29 TEU; unanimity; (b) Article 215 TFEU; QMV

Department

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Document Numbers

(a) (39943), —; (b) (39944), —

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

11.1The Maldives have faced political and social unrest for a number of years. The country left the Commonwealth in 2016 following concerns being expressed over the erosion of its parliamentary democracy and the increasing frequency of human rights abuses against political dissenters.75 According to the Foreign Office, the situation has “subsequently deteriorated, with all opposition leaders now either in jail or in exile”.76 The independence of the country’s judicial bodies has also been severely undermined, after a Supreme Court order for the release of several political prisoners was quashed by President Abdulla Yameen in early 2018.

11.2On 26 February 2018, EU Foreign Affairs Ministers adopted conclusions agreeing that the EU would “consider imposing targeted measures against Maldives if the situation did not improve”. The following month, the UK Government issued a statement on behalf of over 40 countries77 at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, condemning the situation. This noted with concern that “under the state of emergency declared and prolonged by President Yameen a large number of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Constitution were suspended, including rights of peaceful assembly, privacy, and freedom from unlawful arrest and detention”.

11.3In July 2018, the European External Action Service (EEAS) circulated draft legal acts to establish an EU framework for targeted sanctions against the Maldives. It would impose asset freezes and travel bans on “persons and entities responsible for undermining the rule of law or obstructing an inclusive political solution in the Maldives as well as persons and entities responsible for serious human rights violations or abuses”. Specific persons to be targeted would be added by the Member States at a later date, once the overarching legal framework was in place.78 The sanctions regime requires the unanimous agreement of all EU countries, and is due to be adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 July 2018.

11.4The Minister for Europe (Sir Alan Duncan) submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on the proposals on 3 July 2018. Referring to the Maldives as an “FCO human rights priority country”, he notes the Government’s support for the new sanctions regime which he argues would “complement our strategy of galvanising international action to effect respect for human rights, democracy and the independence of the judiciary in the Maldives” as well as “a strong political signal to the Maldives Government ahead of the Presidential elections in September”.

11.5We thank the Minister for the information provided on the proposals allowing for EU sanctions to be applied to those persons held responsible for the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Maldives. As this is a new European sanctions regime, we consider it politically important. Accordingly, we draw it to the attention of the House and of the Foreign Affairs and international Development Committees in particular. We now clear the proposals from scrutiny.

Full details of the documents

(a) Council Decision (CFSP) concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in the Maldives: (39443), —; (b) Council Regulation concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in the Republic of Maldives: (39444), —.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


75 BBC News, “Maldives leaves Commonwealth amid democracy row“ (13 October 2016).

76 Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (3 July 2018).

77 The statement was issued on behalf of all EU Member States, as well as 12 other countries.

78 It is not unusual for the Member States to establish the legal framework for sanctions without applying it to specific individuals straightaway. This applies pressure to the targeted country and allows actual sanctions to be applied rapidly when necessary. The EU recently did the same with respect to Venezuela (see our Report of 6 December 2017).




Published: 17 July 2018