The Maldives government has told the European Union it will not consider amending its constitution to allow for religious freedom in the country, reports Maldives-based news site Avas Online.
A report by the EU’s Electoral Follow-up Mission (EFM), published last week, said the Maldives had implemented none of the 22 recommendations on electoral reform it had made during a visit last year.
In a statement following the report, the government said the EU had “largely disregarded” the progress it had made and that it was working on putting new legislation in place to implement changes to the electoral framework.
But it would not take on board recommendations to revise the constitution to allow for religious freedom, stating: “The religion of the State of the Maldives is Islam and Islam shall be the basis of all the laws of the Maldives.”
The Maldives is the only country in the world where it is illegal to be anything other than a Muslim.
The country ranks 13th on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
According to former president Mohamed Nasheed, who fled in 2016 after being sentenced to 13 years in prison for “terrorism”, Maldivians find religious freedom “difficult to accept”.
In a tweet, he added that “the remaining recommendations are vital and must be implemented”.
The EU has proposed 29 recommendations for free and fair elections. Maldivians find one of these recommendations – religious freedom – difficult to accept. The remaining recommendations are vital and must be implemented. We welcome the EU statement.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) April 19, 2018
Nasheed’s hopes to run for office again were dashed last week when the Maldives government rejected the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s claims he had a right to stand.
The Maldives is scheduled to hold presidential elections in September, but the EFM warned that the archipelago is not ready to adopt “meaningful and concerted electoral reforms”.
”The focus of the government, parliament and the opposition has been on receding fundamental freedoms and human rights violations,” it said.