The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has accused police of using disproportionate force when dispersing Friday night’s demonstrations by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
“HRCM is concerned that police have used disproportionate force when dispersing protesters, which caused different levels of injury and damage,” HRCM said in a statement.
The commission noted that male officers had been deployed to arrest female protesters, and had used undue force in making those arrests.
HRCM also stated that police officers had at times “used inappropriate language” during the demonstrations.
Police Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef, while welcoming the remarks of the HRCM, said “We hope HRCM will submit a detailed report, pointing out where and when these things happened, all the details, and then carry out discussions with us on it. We will then look into the issues we feel are necessary.
“However, we believe that we have used proportionate force in all instances during that protest,” Haneef stated.
“Male officers arresting female officers is not prohibited in the Police Act. I do understand that may not be the desired route of action. However, according to the situation at hand, it’s not always logically possible to send officers of the same gender to the scene,” he added.
Children in protests
HRCM also expressed concern that under-age participants were seen at Friday’s protests.
Haneef previously confirmed one minor had been arrested on Friday along with 54 other protesters.
HRCM also alleged some demonstrators acted in a manner which would “create conflicts and harm the peaceful nature of the protest.”
“This commission has also noticed that when broadcasting updates of the protests, some TV channels show news and footage in a manner that distorts the reality of the events that occur,” HRCM said, without naming specific TV channels.
HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal was not responding to calls at the time of press.
“Lots of statements, no action”
The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has recently complained that the government takes no action even when cases of police brutality and misconduct are forwarded to the Home Ministry.
One officer the PIC accused of misconduct and recommended be suspended following its investigation of the events of February 8, 2012, was instead promoted twice.
“We have already seen a lot of these statements and reports. Some have pointed out many acts of police brutality and the use of excessive force. Why is it that no actions are taken against any of these people?” MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said, in response to the statement by the HRCM.
“It must be because all these institutions have failed. We can say that the brutality is encouraged by the failure of the institutions. The police are acting with total impunity. The inaction of the institutions is an endorsement of these vile acts,” Fahmy said.
Fahmy also responded to HRCM’s concerns that underage participants had been observed at the protest.
“When the nation has fallen to the state it is in now, everyone, be they young toddlers or the elderly, must come out and take a stand. An innocent action carries warrant. Everyone must come out now,” Fahmy said.
The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) meanwhile condemned the protests, with PPM MP Ahmed Mahlouf telling local media they were intended to “create chaos”.
“A number of protests were held during last year. We did not seen the police obstructing protesters during peaceful protests,” Mahlouf said.
Former President and MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has been taking refuge in the Indian High Commission since February 13 after police sought to arrest him and present him to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Nasheed’s supporters and MDP members have since taken to the streets in a series of protests, calling on the state to facilitate an “inclusive free and fair election” where all candidates are allowed to participate.