Investigation into the legality and legitimacy of the transfer of power on February 7 is not within Maldives’ independent state institutions’ mandate, the institutions have said.
Instead, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) will respectively investigate human rights violations and police conduct on February 7.
The Prosecutor General (PG) and the Maldives Media Council claim the two bodies do not have investigative authority, while the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said no cases have been lodged with the commission regarding the transfer of power.
Following the Commonwealth and EU’s call for an impartial investigation into the alleged coup d’état, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan appointed a three member Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) to investigate the transfer of power. However, the commission has come under fire from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and civil society groups for unilateralism and lack of independence.
Moreover, the CNI has said it will not conduct a criminal investigation, but will publish a report based on members’ informed opinions in May. The commission’s mandate “specifically indicates that the inquiry will not be a criminal investigation. Any criminal investigation pertaining to the subject of the inquiry will remain the responsibility of the relevant authorities”.
But with the abdication of responsibility by independent state institutions, it now appears no independent commission in the Maldives will investigate the power transfer of February 7.
Ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor expressed “deep disappointment” and said institutions were “not extending themselves enough.”
“When the system breaks down, it is the responsibility of national mechanisms to deal with it. The democratic impulses driving these institutions are dying. This is why we are asking for external involvement and mediation in the inquiry,” he said.
President Mohamed Nasheed stepped down after elements of the police and military mutinied and called for his resignation. Video footage also show the police and military vandalising MDP’s offices and taking over state media Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) prior to Nasheed’s resignation.
Police cracked down on peaceful demonstrators in Malé the following day on February 8, leading to widespread arson and vandalism of courts, police stations and courts in the atolls.
Speaking to Minivan News, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) said the commission will investigate human rights violations on February 6, 7, and 8, and release a comprehensive report by mid-April. However, the commission will not look into the transfer of power.
“We will not be looking into the transfer of power. The transfer of power is out of the commission’s mandate or the capacity in terms of numbers to investigate such a complex matter that involves so many institutions,” said commission member Ahmed Abdul Kareem.
“If HRCM gets involved in this inquiry, then we will not be able to investigate day-to-day cases,” he added.
He also said the best solution was for an impartial state inquiry with the representation of the Majlis and courts.
HRCM is currently investigating former President Mohamed Nasheed’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed. The former President, along with former Home Minister Hassan Afeef and Defence Minister Tholath Ibrahim, were last week summoned for questioning by the commission.
In response Gafoor said, “If the HRCM does not understand a coup to be an infringement of an entire public’s human rights, they are not extending themselves at all.”
Police Integrity Commission
President of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahindha Ismail said the commission would only be investigating the legality of police actions before and after February 7.
“Although the question of a coup has been raised, the PIC does not have the mandate to investigate such a claim. We are investigating police actions before and after February 7—whether they were lawful or unlawful,” she said. The PIC can only address the question of police mutiny once investigations are complete, she added.
Further, the PIC can only investigate the police role, but not that of the military. “There is no oversight body of the military except for the parliament,” she said.
Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz previously told local media the police would not be conducting an internal investigation of police conduct during transfer of power, citing concern of investigation “overlap” on the issue between the HRCM and the PIC.
Prosecutor General’s Office
Deputy PG Hussein Shameem said the Prosecutor General was not an investigative body, but could order an investigation if an investigation is not taking place.
“We have not ordered an investigation because we have been informed such an investigation is ongoing,” Shameem said referring to the CNI’s work.
Article 223 (d) of the constitution gives the PG the authority to oversee the legality of preliminary inquiries and investigations into alleged criminal activity. However, with the CNI stating it will not conduct a criminal investigation, the PG office’s role in the CNI inquiry is now unclear.
Maldives Media Council
Minivan News asked the Maldives Media Council (MMC) whether it was investigating the police and military takeover of the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) on February 7. Video footage shows some kind of firearm or explosive being used to enter the courtyard, and MNBC staff alleged the police and military intimidated them, and forced some journalists to go home before rebranding the station to its former title under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The 15 member MMC is mandated by law to establish and preserve the freedom of media.
MMC President Mohamed Nazeef said the council was not an investigative body, and was waiting on other institutions to complete investigations.
“We are waiting since other institutions, such as the HRCM are investigating this matter. We do not want an overlap. We are not an investigative body and we cannot conduct an in-depth criminal investigation. We can only recommend matters of concern to the police. But if no one is investigating the issue, we will address it,” he said.
“MNBC was state media, controlled and protected by the government. Our concern and focus was more on the media personnel and private independent media organisations,” Nazeef added.
The Anti-Corruption Commission
The Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) said that although the MDP alleged elements of the police and the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) were bribed to revolt against Nasheed, the commission could not investigate the entire military and police force.
“There are allegations that the police and military took bribes during the transfer of power. But there are approximately 5000 police officers. We cannot investigate the entire police force. We would need to conduct a forensic investigation, check their bank accounts and the bank accounts of relatives. But no one, even on a podium, has said with certainty the individual who took bribes. They say all police officers took bribes. I would like whoever is accusing the police to give us more details,” ACC President Hassan Luthfee said.
He also said there had only been two cases submitted regarding the transfer of power. One of them concerned a complaint that MDP demonstrators who laid money at police feet were actually bribing the police. The MDP were protesting against alleged police bribery.
The CNI has now asked for witness statements and asked the public to upload statements and videos on their website if witnesses were uncomfortable giving statements in person.
The CNI has collected statements from all political parties except the MDP. But the MDP has refused to cooperate with the committee.
“We do not recognise the CNI. How can the people who instigated a coup investigate the coup? There is no validity in the process. How can we give any weight to it?” Gafoor told Minivan News.
The MDP has raised concerns over the committee’s composition. The CNI is chaired by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Defence Minister Ismail Shafeeu. The MDP has also called for strong international presence on the commission.
The EU, Commonwealth, India, UK and the US have called for an impartial investigation.
Dr Waheed Hassan told local television station Villa TV (VTV) he would resign and reinstate ousted President Nasheed if the CNI established the February 7 transfer of power to be illegitimate.