The Maldives Police Service has labelled the recently commissioned private investigation into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan as “irresponsible” and “politically motivated”.
The findings of a Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) commissioned report by private investigators from the UK were intended to deceive the public, read a police statement yesterday evening.
“That the report publicized profiles of individuals violates their human rights, undermines their dignity, incites hatred against them and poses risks to their security,” said police. “We will investigate the process by which the report was compiled and take action against those involved.”
Responding to the police statement today, the MDN has defended the report and denied it had breached the rights of any individuals or organisations.
“The information in the report contains what is already in the public domain. We have simply acknowledged the elephant in the room. It is questionable now whether the police are too afraid to address it themselves,” said MDN’s Shahindha Ismail.
Police have argued that the report was “based on baseless information” intended to lead people into thinking Rilwan was abducted.
Rilwan was last seen 46 days ago on the 1am ferry to Hulhumalé shortly before neighbours reported seeing a man forced into a car outside his apartment.
The report concluded that the disappearance is likely to have been an abduction involving local gangs. It named a number of individuals, some of whom have since submitted complaints with police.
Police said today that those named in the report – conducted by UK security firm Athena Intelligence and Security – have reported intimidation since its release. Threats to “disappear” Shahindha and Rilwan’s family’s lawyer Mushfiq Mohamed have also been posted online in the past 24 hours.
Shahindha told Minivan News today that MDN had previously contacted police, offering to bring in outside experts to assist, without receiving any response. She noted that the work commissioned was “in no way a criminal investigation” and was intended to assist rather than obstruct police.
She did, however, question the police’s awareness of the fundamental rights, protected under Article 16 of the Constitution.
“MDN is of the opinion that MPS need further awareness on fundamental rights, constitution and especially the Article 16 of it. MDN is a longstanding organisation which has worked to promote and protect human rights, regardless of whether they are of offenders, and we are well aware of the fact that we have not infringed a fundamental right of an individual or organisation.”
“We are extremely concerned that the MPS is focusing on defending people who have been alleged been involved in criminal behaviour such as stalking and threatening, rather than looking into these allegations. These are crimes under the Gang Act (17 and 18 / 2010),” she said.
Despite repeated urges from family, friends, and international groups to expedite the investigations, police have yet to offer conclusive theories or evidence explaining the disappearance.
Last week they police noted that no “concrete evidence” could be found between Rilwan and the reported abduction outside his apartment shortly after his last sighting.
Rilwan’s family – which has been at the forefront to hold authorities accountable for the apparently stalled investigation – is described by police as having been used by certain groups to obtain information regarding its investigation.
“We do not believe such information should be publicized” said Tuesday’s statement, suggesting that its release is avoided by police as it jeopardises peace and order
Police concluded the statement by noting that it’s officers are trained throughout the world – including the US, the UK and Australia – and are capable of investigating the smallest of incident up to larger crimes such as terrorism.