The circumstances behind the arrests of Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Jabir and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor for their alleged possession of alcohol have been labelled “very worrying” by delegates from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Findings compiled by the three-person delegation raised further concerns over the failure to punish police officers who used excessive force on MPs earlier in the year.
At a press conference held today (November 22), the delegation revealed their findings following a three-day mission to the Maldives over alleged human rights abuses of MPs.
The delegation consisted of Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan from IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians, South African Parliamentary expert Peter Lilienfeld and Head of the Human Rights programme, Rogier Huizenga.
Pangilinan said that the circumstances surrounding the arrests of Jabir and Ghafoor earlier this month were “very worrying” and that the delegation found it “difficult” to believe it was not politically-motivated.
Both Jabir and Ghafoor – along with eight others – were arrested on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll for the alleged possession of alcohol and drugs.
The arrests were made days prior to a vote on whether or not a no confidence motion against President Mohamed Waheed could be voted with a secret ballot.
Following Jabir’s subsequent release by the Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court, the State has asked the High Court for an order to re-arrest Jabir.
State Prosecutor Hana Waheed requested High Court cancel the Kulhudhuffushi Court ruling, which stated that that there were no grounds to arrest Jabir.
Section 202.D of Parliament’s rules of procedure states that MPs cannot be arrested while there is a no-confidence motion before parliament to impeach the president or remove a cabinet minister, judge or member of an independent commission from his or her post.
However according to Hana, Article 202 of Parliament Standing Orders is against the constitution, and she requested the court to cancel the article and issue an order to arrest Jabir.
At a press conference this morning, Pangilinan from the IPU delegation said: “The circumstances of the arrest are very worrying. An impressive team of unidentified police and an army of officers allegedly carried out the arrests, reportedly without a warrant and ill-treated the MPs.
“We are well aware that the consumption of alcohol and drugs is forbidden in the Maldives, but we find it difficult to believe in light of the circumstances and timing of the arrests that the parliamentarians were not targeted for political reasons.”
The delegation further expressed their concern over the failure to punish the police officers who used “excessive force” against MPs earlier this year.
In March, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group submitted cases alleging police brutality against the former ruling party’s MPs to the IPU’s human rights committee at the 126th Assembly held at Kampala, Uganda.
The cases targeted police brutality against MDP MPs on February 7 and 8, in particular on the latter date during a heavy-handed police crackdown on an MDP protest march that left scores injured and hospitalised, including former MDP parliamentary group leader and Hulhu-Henveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Maafanu South MP Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Bonda’.
“The delegation is deeply concerned that the police officers who used excessive force against the members of parliament earlier this year have not yet been punished, and that Members of Parliament appear to remain subject to intimidation.
“The delegation points out that in several of the cases in the use of excessive police force, there is clear video evidence available which should have enabled the authorities to take effective and swift action. The delegation therefore calls on authorities to do everything possible to expedite their efforts to a successful conclusion,” Pangilinan said.
Findings from the mission also revealed a lack of trust in the government from the general public and called for parliament to rectify this perception.
“The parliament does not help itself when it is perceived by the public as largely helping itself rather than the ordinary citizens,” Pangilinan added.
The delegation stressed that the issues raised were an internal matter, and that the IPU could only monitor and communicate with the necessary authorities in the hope that a resolution will come “sooner or later”.
“The outside world is not going to resolve these issues. Instead Maldivians sitting down, ultimately talking to each other to solve the issues of controversy is the only way,” said Peter Lilienfeld.
The murder of Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem was also mentioned, noting that the delegates were happy to hear the authorities are close to completing the investigation, and that justice can “soon be recognised”.
The three-day mission saw the delegates meet with all relevant judicial executive and parliamentary authorities including the Police Commission, the Minister of Home Affairs and the President.
According to Pangilinan, the findings from the mission will be compiled into a report within one month, before being submitted to the IPU committee where it will be reviewed in January.
“We have informed the offices concerned with our findings that should there be any developments between now and January, that we would welcome any information on such developments so we can incorporate it when we meet in January and tackle the Maldives case,” Pangilinan added.