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Cablegate: Truth and Reconcialiation Commission Proposed for Maldives

VZCZCXRO1022
PP RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #1156 3530908
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190908Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1012
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 2197
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 9221
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 7471
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 5320
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3624
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 9781
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 7072
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3936
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS COLOMBO 001156

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PREL MV
SUBJECT: TRUTH AND RECONCIALIATION COMMISSION PROPOSED FOR MALDIVES

1. (U) SUMMARY: Maldivian media reported December 18 that a South
African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had been
proposed following President Mohamed Nasheed's radio address last
week, where he called on the Human Rights Commission of Maldives
(HRCM) to look into past injustices and become a "commission that
properly works for human rights in this country." The proposal has
drawn mixed reactions, with supporters stating that such a
commission would promote forgiveness and reconciliation, and critics
suspecting that it would be used as a political tool and set a
precedent for a witch hunt. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) In an interview with local media, HRCM President Ahmed Saleem
suggested the establishment of a separate commission "to look into
the past with the intention to unify rather than punish." Saleem
stated that HRCM's mandate was to send matters to the courts and it
rarely investigated cases that occurred before 2000.

3. (U) The South African TRC was established in South Africa after
the abolition of apartheid. Its mandate was to bear witness to,
record, and in some cases grant civil and criminal amnesty to the
perpetrators of crimes in exchange for truthful testimonies. It was
regarded by many as invaluable to South Africa's transition to a
full and free democracy. A similar commission in Maldives would
require the approval of parliament.

4. (U) The main opposition party, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP),
announced it opposed the concept and stated that such a commission
would only be used by the new government as an opportunity to pass
on the blame for its failings to the previous regime.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: President Nasheed's recent call for
investigations into past injustices appears to be a departure from
past statements that he would not bring charges against his
predecessor. Some believe that this change of heart is due to
intense pressure from those who suffered under the previous
government. Some already foresee challenges in achieving political
and social consensus around the unfamiliar concept of a TRC, as
serving justice is usually equated with arrest and imprisonment
rather than forgiveness and reconciliation. Its mandate would have
to be carefully explained to victims of injustices to ensure they
are not misled or given false expectations on the possible outcome
of the investigations. Although the South African TRC was generally
thought of as successful, Ilham Mohamed of Transparency Maldives
stated that the model might not have the same results in the
Maldives, as the country lacks a well-regarded, unifying spiritual
leader to parallel the role of South Africa's Desmond Tutu in the
TRC process. Mohamed, nevertheless, stated that Maldivians would
likely welcome an acknowledgement of past wrongs to advance the
cause of reconciliation. END COMMENT.

BUTENIS

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