Former chief prison warden ‘Isthafa’ Ibrahim Mohamed Manik has issued a statement to the media denying torture allegations made against him by police, after the High Court overruled a court warrant extending his detention.
In the statement, Isthafa said he welcomed police efforts to investigate allegations of mistreatment inside the prison, but said the public had been misled that he had confessed to condoning torture and inhumane activities in the prison.
‘’I regret that police arrested me unlawfully against the constitution and against the laws’’ said Isthafa in the statement. “The High Court’s ruling clarifies that I was arrested unlawfully.’’
Isthafa said that while the state was investigating torture activities conducted in the prisons over a long period of time, “I was in charge of the prison for eight years.’’
“I have never ordered the torture of anyone or acted against the law, and neither did my superiors ever order me to do so,’’ he added.
Police arrested Isthafa over the weekend and took him to the prison island of Maafushi, where the island’s court granted police an extension of detention for 15 days. This was yesterday overruled by the High Court, which determined that the arrest was unlawful and that there were no probable grounds to extend his pre-trial detention period.
Today Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists gathered near the President’s Office, the Justice Building and other areas of Male’ calling for the arrest of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, demanding justice for the prison torture they alleged he condoned.
The activists were holding posters and carrying a coffin, claiming that many inmates had passed away as a consequence of inhumane activities and torturous activities they were subjected to.
Meanwhile the Criminal Court last night issued a warrant on Isthafa, banning him from leaving the country for a month.
The torture investigation committee formed by Presidential decree to investigate torture allegations against former government, led by former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal, has meanwhile established an office inside Velaanage’ to obtain information concerning prison torture carried out during both the current and former administrations.
Police in a press statement appealed for the public to report any information they had to the office on the 12th floor of Velaanage, or to phone +960 333 0584 or +960 333 0585. Outside Male, complaints can be submitted to police posts on the islands.
Police are currently investigating allegations of torture inside prisons under the former administration, claiming that planned, systematic and long-term torture of prisoners had taken place in Maldivian prisons, while records of inmates were incomplete or non-existent.
Allegations of prisoner mistreatment have continued to come from the prisons even after the current administration took power in 2008, and both the government and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) previously expressing concern over a “culture of torture” than continued to pervade many institutions.
On October 14, 2010, Police arrested a 19 year-old man while he was sitting near his house, who later alleged that ‘’the whole duty shift’’ beat him using batons and shoes, before he was taken to solitary confinement where he alleged he was kept in a cross position until his release the next day – without being brought in front of a judge.
On July 21, 2010, a 19 year-old man was arrested in a joint police and Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) special operation to curb crime alleged officers pushed him into a police bus and blindfolded him with his hands tied with clips.
“They took me to a place and removed my silver ear-rings, my bracelets, necklace and sunglasses,” he claimed. “Then they took me to another place and removed the blindfold, and ordered me to remove my clothes. I refused, but I had no other choice so I did, and they told me to bend over. They harassed me verbally and physically.”
A 14 year-old boy arrested the same day near Giyasudeen School claimed that police treated him the same.
“They took me into a small room and removed the blindfold, and took up a trimmer. I asked them why they had to cut my hair, and they said they were getting me into the religion of Islam. I refused them permission to cut my hair, and I looked at the ground I saw blood all over the floor,” he said. “They started beating me when I refused.”
Another 16 year-old boy who was arrested near Ahmadiyya School said the officers blindfolded and handcuffed him, “and told me to sit down,” he said. “I checked with my hands to make sure there was a chair, and when I touched the chair when I turned to sit down they pulled the chair away. Again they hurt my wound and I told them that it hurt.”
He said the officers asked him to show them his wound, and when he removed his shirt they started hitting the wound and asking whether it hurt.
All were released without charge.
One January 24, 2011, a 17 year-old boy was arrested on Boduthakurufaanu Magu before being driven in a police vehicle to a dark spot near Male’s artificial beach, where he was violently beaten by officers with batons.
The 17 year-old said the squad, consisting of “around 22″ police officers beat him simultaneously with their batons.
On December 29, 2010, inside Maafushi prison, inmates and prison officers clashed with one inmate suffering a broken shoulder, another inmate breaking his nose and third suffering injuries to his eyes because prison officers hit and broke the glasses he was wearing, alleged a person familiar with the case.
The clash allegedly occurred after prison officers did not appear when called to respond to the critical health condition of another inmate.
On April 20, 2010, at least 15 inmates were badly injured in a prison riot in Maafushi Prison.
Most of the cases were reported to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) but by far no trial or transparent investigation was conducted into these cases.
Cases of previous custodial torture can be reported to the government’s investigation committee on the 12th floor of Velaanage, or by phone on +960 333 0584 or +960 333 0585.