Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has failed to publicise a document as specified in the recently passed Anti-torture Act, thereby violating the articles of the landmark legislation.
The act – which came into force on March 22 this year – states that within 15 days of coming into force (6 April), the minister must publish a complete list of places where people are detained in state custody.
“The deadline for the home minister to make public all places of detention designated as such has passed, and it is disheartening to know that the first violation under this act has been by the state,” Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) member Jeehan Mahmoud has said.
The ministry has confirmed that it was not published by the deadline, with one official explaining that this was mainly due to issues with obtaining information from other institutions with such centres under their authority.
The official said that the ministry is attempting to publish the list by Sunday (April 13).
Within seven days of publishing the list, the ministry was also required to submit a report to the HRCM with the locations of all detention facilities and details of persons held in those places.
The ministry has assured that the compilation of this report is also currently in progress.
The act gives the HRCM overall responsibility for the implementation of the new law, empowering the commission to prevent all crimes underlined in the act by taking direct action.
Jeehan has said the commission is monitoring the deadlines and will take action against any and all schedules that are disrespected by the state.
According to the commission, a written reminder was sent to ministry as soon as the law came into force and another reminder sent yesterday. The issue will soon be discussed in the commission which will then decide on next course of action.
Commenting on the issue MP Eva Abdulla, who introduced the bill to the People’s Majlis, said it was “not surprising that a government controlled by the Gayoom family would be hesitant, even reticent to implement anti-torture legislation.”
Eva said that the bill has to be implemented on schedule to address the return of torture to prisons.
“We are very concerned about reports of ill-treatment and physical abuse in the prisons again. The legislation needs to be implemented on schedule to address this and to address the feelings of past victims. Implementation needs to be flawless,” said the recently re-elected MP.
Under Article 23 (g)- 2 of the Anti-Torture Act, establishing, running or maintaining a place of detention other than those publicly announced is considered a crime.
Article 23 (g)- 3 states that failure to publish the mandatory report to HRCM is also a crime. The penalty for both is 1 – 3 years
imprisonment. Criminal offenses underlined in the act are to be investigated and forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office for prosecution.
The HRCM did not comment on the possibility of criminal charges against the home minister, stating that the commission will address the matter as mandated by the act.
Umar Naseer was unavailable for comment as he is currently abroad.