The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has expressed concern over "the lack of a credible investigation" into the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who was abducted in August 2014, calling on the Government of Maldives "to take all necessary actions against impunity and in favor of justice" in all cases of human rights violations in the Maldives.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, FORUM-ASIA said that the Government of Maldives's inaction "to pursue justice and legitimately address the matter [Rilwan's abduction] contributes to worsening environment for human rights defenders in the country".
Noting that it has been three years since Rilwan's disappearance, FORUM-ASIA called him "a strong voice against Islamic extremism and critical of human rights violations in the country".
While Rilwan was last seen in the early hours on 8 August 2014, and is believed to have been abducted outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé, it took the police two years to confirm that the journalist had indeed been abducted.
FORUM-ASIA also noted that Maldives Democracy Network's (a local NGO) findings published in September 2014 had been dismissed by authorities, only to share the same information 18 months later "as new findings".
Rilwan's family, who has filed "for legal action against the police for refusing to disclose information on Rilwan's case" under the Right to Information Act, fears that those that abducted Rilwan "might flee the country in the same way the two previous did shortly after their release". Two of the suspects in the case had fled to Syria, and the two additional suspects arrested have been released as well.
FORUM-ASIA also noted that journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders in Maldives "have been forced to live in constant state of fear as both police and the Government of Maldives have shown complete inaction in these cases and failed to invest reasonable efforts to investigate and apprehend individuals involved in these crimes against dissenting voices".
Noting that the main person involved in the campaign to find Rilwan, his best friend and blogger Yameen Rasheed was brutally murdered recently, the statement emphasized that "this is a clear pattern of systemic repression of free expression and dissent in the Maldives, and particularly the unsafe environment of secular bloggers, journalists and defenders is of grave concern".
Furthermore, FORUM-ASIA called on the government to ensure an independent and impartial investigation into Rilwan's disappearance and to undertake all measures to prevent and protect all human rights defenders; monitor that the police conduct the investigation in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Act; enable the National Integrity Commission to conduct an independent inquiry into allegation of police failure in their response to both the disappearance of Rilwan and threats against him prior to his disappearance; and provide open communication channels and cooperation between the police and the Rilwan's family where in the family is provided with regular and adequate updates about past and current developments in the case.
Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA is a membership-based regional human rights organization with 58 members in 19 countries across Asia.