Escalating dismay over official disregard of detainees’ hunger strike

Family members and friends of pro-democracy detainees have expressed escalating dismay and anguish over what they describe as politically motivated disregard by the regime over the deteriorating health of those on hunger-strike. The detainees are protesting their prolonged and unnecessary detention.

The Maldivian Democratic Party is following up on all practical means available in addressing appeals to prevail over the Maldives government and the international community for intercession over this alarming situation.

Of increasing concern, from appeals brought forward by family members and friends are the weakening health of Hon. Ilyas Hussein Ibrahim MP, Mr.Shuaib Ali, Mohamed Ziyaad MDP Councilor, Abdulla Rasheed, Ismail Asif and Saaz Waleed. Their failing health is reported to be causing distress to their families as they have not taken any food the past four days.

On 7th November 2004, the warden at the interrogation center Staff Sergeant Ibrahim Manik, requested the wives, relatives and friends of those on hunger strike to go to the interrogation center on Dhoonidhoo Island. Five close associates of the detainees did speak to them. Sources quoting the detainees say that the detainees believe that it is up to the detaining authority to normalize the situation.

The continued detention of those protesting, friends believe, is to thwart their opportunity to participate, some to contest, in the forthcoming general elections, for which the application deadline is the 15th November.
Hon. Ilyas Hussein, member of the peoples Special Majlis (constituent assembly) for North Ari Atoll is much respected people’s representative. Writer, publisher and activist, Hon Ilyas Hussain is a people’s politician, a proudly proclaimed slogan on all his correspondence.

Mr.Shuaib Ali, a pro-democracy activist of repute and a would-be candidate in the forthcoming general elections, is believed to be alternating between unconsciousness and fainting spells. His worsening health is causing much distress to family members and friends.

Mr. Mohamed Ziyaad, Mr. Abdullah Rasheed, Mr. Ismail Asif, and Saaz Waleed are much respected and successful activists of the Maldivian Democratic Party. Relatives believe that their continued detention is an unconstitutional punishment by the regime for their very visible efforts in recent days on behalf of the Maldivian Democratic Party. Sources from their families claim that their investigations were over, that there was nothing going on, and that they are just being kept to annul their rights to participate in the general elections. Family members have alleged personal animosity by the regime, especially of certain police officers towards these detainees.

Over eighteen other inmates are reported to be on a hunger-strike the past four days.
Pro-democracy prisoners in the Maldives began a hunger-strike on 4th November in protest against their continued detention by the government of President Gayoom. The prisoners, who have been in jail for over 70 days without charge, are refusing to take food because of what they believe is the political motivation behind their continued detention. Detainees have continued to refuse food throughout from the respective times of beginning their protests in hunger.

At least five of the detainees on a water-only existence are now believed to have resolved to refrain from taking anything to drink, should official disregard for their situation continue. Serious health-risks are of major concern as the detainees, deprived of basic nutrients are also susceptible to hypothermia or heat stroke. Other health risks include damage to muscle and bone tissue, dementia and fainting spells, potentially permanent brain damage, damage to internal organs, potential failure of internal organs and death (which could happen at any time, depending on the state of the detainee’s health.).

Initial reports indicated that 23 prisoners were on hunger strike, which started on the evening of November 4th in Dhoonidoo and Maafushi Jails.

The prisoners were arrested along with 500 others – including 14 MPS – following a 12,000-strong peaceful pro-democracy rally in the capital island, Male’ on 12-13 August, 2004. President Gayoom also imposed a State of Emergency and night-time curfews in the crack-down that followed the protest.

Although the State of Emergency was repealed by President Gayoom in October and many of the detainees have had their detention transferred to house arrest, over twenty-five detainees remain in prison, in solitary confinement. Amnesty International and the Maldivian Human Rights Commission have expressed deep concern after reports of some of the prisoners being tortured and sexually abused whilst in jail.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) shares the concerns of the detainees about the political motivation for their continued detention. President Gayoom called parliamentary elections for the 31st December, 2004. In May 2004, the MDP shocked the regime by winning over 70% of the seats in the elections to the constituent parliament. Many of those in prison are would-be MDP candidates for the upcoming election.

The MDP calls on the government of President Gayoom to release all political prisoners in the Maldives immediately and unconditionally. President Gayoom continually exult the international community on his commitment to democratic reform in the Maldives. The MDP feels the continued imprisonment of pro-democracy campaigners is an affront to the President’s much talked-of reforms.