The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has confirmed it is investigating three recent cases of detainees being tortured by Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) officers while in the Male’ jail.
The HRCM issued a recent press release stating they were “investigating complaints of brutality” towards detainees at the Custodial Reception and Diagnostic Centre (Male’ Jail).
Officials from the HRCM visited Male’ Jail June 2, 2013 after the family of a detainee informed the HRCM on May 31, 2013 that the victim had been beaten by DPRS officers.
“From the investigations that ensued, [the HRCM] found proof that there were two more detainees who sustained injuries while in custody,” read the statement.
“The HRCM is currently investigating the cases, therefore I’m sorry I cannot be more specific, but I cannot comment at the moment,” HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal told Minivan News today (July 13).
“The HRCM always considers allegations of human rights violations quite serious issues and is quick to react, [which is] crucial when human rights violations occur, because otherwise there is no point,” explained Tholal.
“In cases involving torture, fresh evidence is needed, additionally the torture could be ongoing and taking immediate action is needed to protect the victim,” he continued.
“There must be some sort of comfort and support to people when things fail,” he added.
In situations where there is the prospect that a large number of people have suffered human rights violations, it is part of the HRCM’s public relations strategy to announce that investigations are occurring, Tholal noted.
“This is both to demonstrate to the public that the commission is acting proactively, as well as to encourage other victims to submit their complaints to the HRCM,” said Tholal.
Tholal explained the basic assumption from which the HRCM functions is that ‘things are going ok’, but if the state fails to protect human rights – in cases of domestic violence, child abuse, health, migrant workers, for people with disabilities – even if the violations are not directly perpetrated by the Maldives’ government, the HRCM will still investigate.
“The HRCM is always accessible, if any sort of human rights violation occurs we urge people to report it,” he added.
Systemic and systematic torture
“It is very, very good, I’m pleased the HRCM has made the decision to go public with their investigations. HRCM needs support from us,” the Maldivian Democracy Network’s Executive Director Humaida ‘Humey’ Abdulghafoor told Minivan News today.
“It is quite worrying that we keep hearing about accounts of torture in custody,” said Humaida. “These recent accounts [the HRCM announced they are investigating] are an indication of the consistence and continuing abuse in custody.”
“There is systemic and systematic abuse of detainees [in the Maldives], therefore the practice of torture is unlikely to just disappear over a short period of time,” she emphasised.
Humaida highlighted the need to address the “complete lack of professional standards” within the DPRS and Maldives Police Service (MPS).
“What is the system of accountability within the MPS? Where are the professional standards and oversight?” she questioned.
“It is an indicator of the total unprofessional behavior by the MPS that there are ongoing allegations of torture. It is most despicable, no agent of the state should be involved in abusing its citizens,” she declared.
Minivan News spoke with a Maldives Police Service Media Official, Sergeant Hussain Siraz, however he was not aware of the current HRCM investigation and was unable provide an official comment to Minivan News.
Meanwhile, Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.
Correction: The previous version of this article said Maldives Police Service officers were accused of torturing detainees, however this should have referred to Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services officers. Minivan News regrets the error.