The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has released the second of its three pending reports regarding police action around the contentious transfer of power in February.
The PIC states that it initiated the investigation due to allegations of police brutality when breaking up the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s demonstration on February 8, following the controversial resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed the previous day.
The PIC report on the events in Male’ on February 8 states that the investigation was carried out with a committee inclusive of all five members of the commission.
However, the report has two contradicting accounts, with President of the PIC Shahinda Ismail including her own findings in contrast to those of the other commission members.
The report states that the PIC looked into three main areas: whether police used disproportionate force in breaking up the MDP demonstration, whether individual police officers committed inhumane acts and acts of violence against citizens after breaking up the protest, and whether there were any police actions of the day which senior police officers must take responsibility for.
The investigation was carried out based on interviews, phone records, photos and video evidence.
Police acts within the law
PIC report contends that on February 8 , police acted within the boundaries of law and regulations.
It says that police acted in accordance with Article 6(4) and Article 6(8) of the Police Act and as protection from any danger that may ensue from the MDP demonstrations.
The investigation justified police action by stating that demonstrators had caused damage to property on their way to the MMA area, and that as there were large numbers of demonstrators, it may have led to unrest had the police not broken up the protest when they did.
The report further states that although sufficient warning had not been issued before breaking up the demonstration, police acted in line with Article 24 of the Freedom of Assembly Act as there was a small number of police officers controlling the demonstration which had a large number of participants, and any delays in breaking it up may have led to danger.
The PIC also stated that there were no incidents on February 8 that senior police needed to take responsibility for. It stated as reasons that there had been no prior knowledge of the protest being planned, that the intelligence department was not functioning at its best due to changes in management after February 7, and that after former President Nasheed’s statement in his resignation speech that his continuing to stay in power may cause harm to the citizens, there was no reason for police to expect his party to orchestrate such a demonstration against the new government.
Individual acts of brutality
The report however went on to say that individuals in the police force had committed acts of violence, inhumane acts, and used verbal abuse against demonstrators on February 8, acting against Article 54 of the Constitution of the Maldives, Article 7(a.11) of the Police Act, Articles 16(a), 16(d.2), 16(d.3), 16(d.5) of the Regulations for handling and use of weapons.
The report highlights 12 specific incidents, including video evidence and interviews proving inhumane acts of police against former President Nasheed, police brutality against MDP Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik and member of parliament Mariya Ahmed Didi and video evidence of police beating 14 individuals with batons.
The commission states here its intention to further investigate these acts, and take legal action against the officers who were involved.
President of the PIC, Shahindha Ismail, has however stated in the report that she sees acts of police on February 8 to have been against the law, and that she observed no valid reason for police to have broken up the MDP demonstrations in the manner the police did.
Ismail stated that while demonstrations were permitted in the MMA area, there was no evidence beyond that of statements by police officers to prove that any illegal acts had been committed, or that there was any intention to do so by the demonstrators.
Ismail further stated that the police broke up the protest without prior warning, acting against the orders of the officer in charge in the area, Inspector of Police Ahmed Shameem, order to ‘hold’ without advancing, and also against the advice of Maldives National Defense Force commanders. She said that the police had acted under orders from Unit Commander Seargant Mohamed Naeem.
Ismail described the acts of brutality noted in the PIC report as “targeted attacks to cause immense harm to certain people”, stating that these acts could not be seen as actions to protect anyone and should be further investigated and taken action against.
Ismail also states that Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Fairoosh and then Acting Head of Police Specialist Operations Department Ahmed Shameem must be held responsible for not having carried out the responsibilities of their posts in a sufficient manner.
She also notes the accounts given to PIC investigations by Fairoosh, Shameen and Assistant Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, stating that providing false statements to the investigation is a criminal offence as noted in Article 62 of Chapter 3 of the Penal Code.
Ismail further states that Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz and Head of Police Professional Standards Directorate, Assistant Commissioner of Police Ali Rasheed, must be held accountable for failing to investigate the acts of police on February 8. She states that this failure is a breach of the constitution and the Police Act.
Recommendations to the Minister of Home Affairs
The PIC report presents two recommendations to the Minister of Home Affairs.
It calls on the ministry to order the police to investigate undue use of force with batons during February 8.
Noting that many officers during the February 8 had had their faces covered with hoods and helmets, the report additionally calls on the Ministry to establish a system in the police which would facilitate identification of police being investigated under similar situations.
Police Media Official Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that they are in the process of studying the PIC report.
“After studying it, if we find that any steps need to be taken, or any reforms need to be made, then we will work on that,” Haneef said.
Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz was not responding to calls at the time of press.
Minivan News also tried contacting the Police Integrity Commission, but was unable to get a response at the time of press.