The Maldives Democratic Party(MDP) has announced its intention to mark 2012’s International Day Against Police Brutality with peaceful protests in Male’ and across the country. The day will be observed for the first time in the Maldives since its inception in 1997.
In a press release, the MDP said, “Since the overthrow of the Maldives’ first democratically elected President, Mohamed Nasheed, on 7th February, the Maldives has experienced a major rise in the frequency and severity of police brutality against peaceful protesters and supporters of MDP”.
Following the resignation of Nasheed, images of the police’s treatment of civilians, including footage of beatings and the widespread use of pepper spray, were viewed across the world.
MDP Chairman Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik’s treatment at the hands of the security forces was particularly well publicised. Interviewed in his hospital bed, Moosa recalled the words of a police officer he says took part in his beating: “We want to kill you. Do not think you can behave like you do and get away. You will have to die today”.
The security force’s reactions prompted retaliatory attacks across the atolls with police property attacked and destroyed. This animosity between the public and the police appeared to have taken on a more personal dimension last week when a police officer along with his two brothers were attacked in Gemanafushi in Gaafu Alifu Atoll.
On March 7, Amnesty International condemned the security force’s use of what it regarded as “excessive force” against protesters in the Lonuziyaarai Kolhu district of Male’.
This marked the second time in as many weeks that the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) had received censure from the human rights group. Amnesty reported that a group of women attempting to march during a speech given by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan on February 26 in Addu were assaulted by MNDF members.
Amnesty’s representative in Male’ Abbas Faiz, said “When police officers act like political opponents towards demonstrators, they erode respect for the rule of law and cast doubt on their impartiality as officers of justice.
Demonstrations prohibited in green zone
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam was keen to stress that today’s protests would be handled peacefully by police providing they are conducted in a peaceful manner: “but if there is confrontation, police will take necessary action.”
When pressed as to what he regarded as “confrontation” Shiyam referred to the prohibition of demonstrations within the security zone surrounding the police and MNDF headquarters on Republic Square. In this instance, he said he could not rule out the use of force.
Demonstrations within this zone on March 6 prompted the use of high powered hoses on women holding a sit-down protest outside the President’s Office.
Again, on March 8, protesters marking International Women’s Day attempted to march through the security area and were held back by police cordons prompting a lengthy but, this time, peaceful stand-off.
Regulations dating from previous administrations prohibit the entry of large groups of people into the area in question, Shiyam has previously reported.
An opposition protest within the restricted zone outside MNDF headquarters, assisted by elements of the police, led to the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed, allegedly “under duress”.
Shiyam stated that the reasons for recent incidents of excessive force were being investigated by the Commission for National Inquiry (CNI) as well as the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).
“If there is any problem with the police, it will be solved” he said.