The reported coup took place only a short time after the documentary’s release, after which Nasheed went on an international publicity blitz—including an interview on The Daily Show—which no doubt ruffled feathers back home in Malé. But while global outcry in the wake of his most recent arrest has been loud (he was detained more than 20 times as a human-rights advocate during the Gayoom years), efforts to secure his freedom have yet to materialize.

Gabriela Knaul, a UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, called Nasheed’s trial a “mockery” of the Maldivian constitution. “I am extremely concerned about the lack of respect for the most basic principles of fair trial and due process during Mr. Nasheed’s criminal hearings,” she said in a press release issued Mar. 19. “The series of due process violations that were reported to me since Mr. Nasheed’s arrest on 22 February is simply unacceptable in any democratic society.”

“No democracy is possible without fair and independent justice,” she stressed.

The problem of human-rights violation in the Maldives is bigger than the case of Mr. Nasheed, however. Political detainees are regularly tortured by police, according to Amnesty International’s 2013 edition of annual reports on the country. “Beatings, pepper-spraying the eyes and mouth, denial of drinking water and, in [certain detention centers], incarceration in dog cages, were all common methods used.”

Civilians, too, are frequently victim to police brutality:

“Throughout the year, security forces frequently attacked peaceful demonstrators, including MPs, journalists and bystanders, in the capital Malé or in Addu, both MDP strongholds. Officers clubbed them, kicked them and pepper-sprayed them directly in the eyes. Around the time of Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation, from 7 to 9 February, police targeted senior MDP members for attack and tracked down and assaulted injured protesters in hospitals.”

And woe betide any Maldivian with the audacity to speak out. In a statement released in Oct. 2014, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemned the arrest of five members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives. The activists are now facing “serious criminal charges” following a presumably unfavorable review they submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in preparation for the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR)—scheduled to be held between April and May of 2015.

Perhaps this review process will force the international community to decide what, if any, practical actions to take on behalf of the Maldivian people. It was, after all, the threat of sanctions by the European Union and Commonwealth of Nations that ensured the country’s first free elections, and the subsequent ascendance of Mohamed Nasheed.

Boycotting tourism isn’t likely to work. Europeans make up the lion’s share of visitors, and while tourism was down last year, any gaps were filled by Chinese and Middle Eastern vacationers potentially less concerned with issues of human rights than their Western counterparts. (It’s worth noting that Western concern for human rights, particularly in favored tourist destinations, is still often superficial at best.)

As the 2008 elections demonstrated, the powers that be in Malé only respond to real, international pressure. Talk is cheap, and sanctions may or may not actually work, but the threat, at least in this tiniest of authoritarian states, seems effective.

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