The United Nations has called for an immediate investigation into the killing of a liberal blogger in the Maldives, calling on the government to ensure the safety of dissidents in the troubled honeymoon destination.
On Monday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned Sunday’s stabbing of Yameen Rasheed and urged a swift and thorough inquiry into the killing, meeting international standards.
“Mr Rasheed’s killing comes in the context of what appears to be an upsurge in arrests and prosecutions of the political opposition,” Zeid’s spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement.
She noted that Rasheed, 29, had received death threats in December and lodged complaints with the police, yet had to push to get his concerns registered.
Rasheed, who poked fun at the nation’s politicians on his blog The Daily Panic, was found in the stairwell of his Male apartment with multiple stab wounds to his chest and neck. He died in hospital.
“We remind the state that it has a duty to ensure that journalists, civil society actors and human rights defenders are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and opinion without fear for their safety,” Shamdasani said.
The government of President Abdulla Yameen has already faced censure from the UN rights body over the arrest and jailing of a former president and a former defence minister.
Rasheed is the third media figure to be targeted in the Maldives in the past five years.
Blogger Ismail Rasheed narrowly escaped death when he was stabbed by an unidentified attacker in 2012.
A journalist with the independent Minivan News, Ahmed Rilwan, was likely abducted in August 2014 and has been missing ever since.
The government has said it will investigate the killing and has called for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.
“Actions of the government to avoid opportunity for unrest in the nation by keeping the youth from criminal acts and to build a peaceful society will continue,” said Ibrahim Muaz Ali, spokesman for President Abdulla Yameen.
Exiled opposition leader and ex-president Mohamed Nasheed has also demanded an international investigation.
In the wake of Rasheed’s death, Nasheed, who is living in London, said on Twitter that “a treasured soul has been stolen from us”.
The killing comes as political tension mounts in the Maldives after last month’s failed opposition bid to impeach the parliamentary speaker.
A coalition of opposition parties, led by Nasheed, is trying to undermine Yameen before elections next year.
It faces an uphill struggle, with all opposition leaders now in exile or in jail after a years-long crackdown on dissent under Yameen’s leadership.
The clampdown has raised fears over the country’s stability and dented its image as a tourist paradise.