MDN was originally formed as the Maldivian Detainee Network in 2004 following the mass arrest of over 300 people on the 12th and 13th of August the same year and subsequent allegations of human rights violations taking place in State custodial centres. The arrests were made following the first public demonstration calling for people’s rights and democracy in the Maldives.
“MDN was founded in 2004 as the Maldivian Detainee Network”
Working from Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Male’, MDN established a network of families and friends of detainees in response to serious concerns over police impunity, lack of judicial independence and abuse of State power against citizens. MDN began its activities by assisting families of detainees to identify and claim their rights as provided by the then Constitution of the Maldives. Further, MDNs work was expanded across the country to educate and inform families of detainees about existing legislations and regulations that protected the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens. The empowerment of citizens to claim their rights is a vital element of MDNs continuing work. In relation to the situation of detainees, MDN worked to create greater transparency of existing State mechanisms, at both national and international level, to protect the dignity and human rights of detainees.
The organisation encountered several obstructions in its initial efforts to obtain legal status through formal registration in the Maldives. The Maldivian Detainee Network was formally registered in June 2006 following a lengthy struggle with the authorities, making history as one of the first human rights NGOs to become registered in the country. MDN played an important role in campaigning for human rights and democracy in the turbulent years from 2004 onwards. The organisation is recognised both nationally and internationally as one of the main civil society actors that contributed to the democratic reform process in the country.
“MDN made history in the Maldives by registering in 2006 as one of the first human rights NGOs”
The democratic reform movement in the Maldives culminated in a new Constitution that came into force on 7th August 2008 with a comprehensive bill of rights and a governance structure separating the three powers of the State for the first time in the country’s history. Moreover, the historic and first free and fair multi-party democratic general election in the country was held in October 2008 and the first democratically elected government established on 11th November 2008.
In order to better reflect the much wider range of human rights and democracy related work being carried out by the organisation, MDN changed its name to the Maldivian Democracy Network in 2010. However, MDN remains true to its roots with an enduring commitment to detainee rights. Following the controversial transfer of power in the Maldives on 7th February 2012, the issue of detainee rights has once again become a serious concern in the Maldives political context. MDN has incorporated trail observation and detainee rights back into the organizations focus areas, and hope to contribute towards improved and transparent culture of human rights and democracy in the Maldives.
“MDN remains true to its roots with an enduring commitment to detainee rights”