Dr. Shaheed: Criticism of foreign policy cannot be criminalized

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed. (File Photo/United Nations)

UN Special Rapporteur, former Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmed Shaheed states criticism of the government’s foreign policy or its policy on India cannot be criminalized. 

The comment comes after ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) confirmed it is drafting a bill to criminalize action and speech that disrupt diplomatic relations – a move aimed at cracking down on the opposition’s ‘India Out’ campaign. 

In a tweet on Sunday evening, Shaheed said he did not think criminalizing freedom of thought and expression would be something that MDP, and especially its leader, President Mohamed Nasheed, MP Eva Abdulla or MP Imthiyaz Fahmy would ever advocate. 

"Hope you denounce this bill in unequivocal terms!” he said. 

Shaheed said that criticism of foreign policy or the policy on India cannot be criminalized. 

MDP’s top parliamentarian Ali Azim told Sun on Sunday morning that MDP has made a tentative draft of the bill, and was discussing it. 

While Azim declined to comment on the specifics of the bill, it reportedly prescribes prison terms and hefty fines for disrupting diplomatic relations. 

He also denied the bill was aimed at cracking down on a specific political campaign.