The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has condemned the government’s use of “threats and intimidation” against civil society groups.
HRCM officials have also met with the Maldives Police Service to discuss allegations of the misuse of strip searches following recent demonstrations.
Writing to the Home Ministry, the commission reported that it had “condemned the infringement of the right to freedom of association as [an] expression of these two organisations”.
The letter also called upon the ministry to refrain from “unlawful sanctions” and activities that prevent such groups from working for the protection of human rights.
The HRCM pointed to Article 2(c) of the Human Rights Commission Act, which obligates it to support and protect these NGOs in the their work.
State Minister for Home Affairs and the Registrar of NGOs Abdulla Mohamed last week declared that the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) and Transparency Maldives (TM) were under investigation for “unlawful acts” and warned NGOs that organisations acting outside of law would be dissolved.
The Maldivian Democracy Network has also condemned the minister’s remarks.
Transparency has publicly called for the Supreme Court to respect the constitutionally mandated election schedule, after it noted no significant issues during its extensive observation mission covering the first round of presidential polls.
TEAM – an industry body representing some 5000 resort workers – has threatened prlonged strikes, saying that the Supreme Court order “destroys the principles of democracy we have embraced and voids articles of the constitution.”
Transparency Maldives – an affiliate of Transparency International – states its mission as improving “transparency and accountability in all sectors” as well as increasing awareness of “corruption and its detrimental effects on society and development”.
The HRCM has also met with the police after being made aware of allegations that strip searches were being used in an unnecessary and discriminatory manner following the arrest of protesters.
Allegations of arbitrary and frequent use of pepper spray, beating, strip-searching, frisking, handcuffing and drug testing of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters were heard during the Parliamentary Privileges Subcommittee this week.
During the HRCM’s meeting with police, it stressed its belief that strip searches were a “degrading and inhuman treatement” that was to be avoided whenever possible.
The HRCM urged the police to obtain the detainee’s consent and the authorisation of a senior officer before conducting such a search, as well as ensuring that those carrying out the search are adequately trained.
In a statement issued on Wednesday (October 2), police said they were authorised to frisk and conduct strip-searches under Articles 32-36 of the the Police Powers Act.
The articles state that police are authorised to use such procedures if they have reasonable grounds to believe the detainee may hold an object to harm themselves or another, or an object for intoxication, or an object to commit an illegal object.