Students Staff

28 April 2016

‘Maldives’ Mandela’ to meet Essex’s human rights community

The first democratically-elected President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, will meet University of Essex students and staff this week to talk about his experiences as a human rights defender.

Mr Nasheed, who has been named Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience twice, is in the UK on temporary release from prison to receive medical treatment for injuries he claims he sustained under torture. He will speak at the student-organised Human Rights in Asia 2016 conference at the University on 30 April.

Dubbed the ‘Mandela of the Maldives’ by his supporters, Mr Nasheed will tell students about his own experience of an oppressive regime, arbitrary detention, and promoting democracy. He will also explain how global threats such as climate change impact human rights.

Amanda Georgsson, a postgraduate student studying for an LLM Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, is co-organiser of the event. She said: “The Human Rights in Asia conference gives students an opportunity to present their research and exchange ideas. We aim to raise awareness of issues that are less prominent in the British media so it’s an exciting opportunity to be able to hear from Mohamed Nasheed who is well known internationally but less so in the UK.”

Formally a journalist, Mr Nasheed was first jailed in the 1990s after criticising the country’s authoritarian regime. After forming the Maldivian Democratic Party in 2003, Mr Nasheed swept to victory in the country’s first multi-party democratic elections in 2008, but by 2012 he had resigned, claiming he was forced out by a coup. Despite popular support in the country, in 2015 he was charged with terrorism offences, convicted and sentenced within three weeks.

In January 2016 he and his lawyer, Amal Clooney, met David Cameron, to thank the Prime Minister for his support.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Deputy Director of Essex’s world-leading Human Rights Centre, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, served as Foreign Minister in Mr Nasheed’s government. He said: “I am delighted and proud that former President Nasheed will speak to our students about his experiences as a champion of human dignity. Few people alive today have achieved so much for their people in as little time as he did as President of Maldives, and against such odds, leave alone his lifetime of achievement as a human rights defender.”

Other speakers at the conference include Michel Forst, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair of Essex’s Human Rights Centre.

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