A petition has been filed in High Court to strike down the first amendment to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act.
The petition was filed Ahmed Azan, Ahmed Ibrahim, and Shifzan Ahmed of Dhiyares news, TMJ’s parent paper. They will be represented in Court by Ahmed Shaffan Mohammed, a young Oxford-educated lawyer. Lawyer Shaffan is presently studying for his PhD from the same University.
The case states that presently, the amendment requires that demonstrations take place only with written permission from Maldives Police Service (MPS) or in areas designated by Ministry of Home Affairs.
It adds that any right granted under the Constitution, can be restricted by a Parliament motion, only to the amount that is restricted in other democratic states. It also adds that courts have to refer to the level of restriction and the way of restriction, when looking at if the restriction aligns with the Constitution.
Freedom of Assembly Act was passed in 2013. The first amendment was brought in 2016. The amendment states that protests can be held after seeking permission from MPS or in an area designated by Ministry of Home Affairs. The amendment also mandated Home Ministry to issue a list of areas designated as protest areas.
The petition to strike down the amendment stated that these restrictions and appeals to MPS and Home Ministry for permission was a violation of basic rights guaranteed under the constitution.
During the 2018 presidential campaign, then-candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had vowed to nullify this amendment. This remains to be carried out. Minister of Home Affairs Sheikh Imran Abdullah had argued in the Parliament’s Judiciary Committee that this amendment was necessary.