Police are investigating 51 new complaints of torture and wrongful imprisonment after soliciting cases from an office in the Velaanage building.
The torture investigation committee led by former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal was formed by Presidential decree to investigate torture allegations against former government, and obtain information concerning prison torture carried out during both the current and former administrations.
The office was opened last week following the release of disturbing photographs of tortured victims in custody, and the arrest of former prisons chief Isthafa Ibrahim Manik, who has since been released to house arrest on order of the High Court.
The photos released so far include images of men tied to coconut palms, caged, and bloodied. One of the photos, of a prisoner lying on a blood-soaked mattress, has a 2001 date stamp.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said some of the complaints concerned “inhumane activities” and violations of human rights within the prison system, while others related to people “who were imprisoned for a long time without trial, or were kept in custody despite a court order [to the contrary].”
“Most occurred a long time ago, 20-30 years,” Shiyam said. None of the 51 complaints selected for investigation referred to incidents in the last two years, he confirmed, although the office was continuing to seek information on recent cases.
The prisons system has been under particular scrutiny following the disappearance in April of crucial files relating to an investigation into human remains found on the site of the former Gaamaadhoo prison.
“People want to see justice for what happened,” a senior government source told Minivan News at the time. “Human remains were discovered and there is a strong reason to believe that something bad happened. However it looks like the investigation has been compromised.”
Police have since claimed that preliminary investigations revealed planned and systemic abuse of prisoners over a long period of time.
Several members of government, including President Mohamed Nasheed, maintain they were tortured in custody under the former administration.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has denied allegations – among others – that incidences of torture occurred during his rule.
“All such allegations of corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds and property are baseless and completely untrue, as are those of torture, repression, and unlawful detention during my presidency,” Gayoom said in a letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron last year, dated October 17.
“Nearly two years after the MDP government assumed presidency, Nasheed and his government have failed to uncover a single shred of evidence to substantiate any of these allegations,” Gayoom said.
Cases of previous custodial torture can be reported to the government’s investigation committee on the 12th floor of Velaanage, by phone on +960 333 0584 or +960 333 0585, or island police posts.