Torture Victims Association to seek justice over human rights abuses

Frustrated with the performance of government institutions, a new NGO founded by MDP members, the ‘Torture Victims Association’ (TVA) has vowed to gather cases and take them to international courts in the pursuit of justice, if necessary.

On Saturday night at the first of a series of rallies calling for justice for human rights abuses committed under the former government, TVA founding member and parliamentary group leader of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said those who suffered grievously had waited “long enough”.

“But today I’m announcing, everyone stand up for your rights,” he said.

The rallies were attended by senior officials of the government as well as senior MDP members who spoke of their experiences in jail.

The first gathering on Saturday followed remarks by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on a live radio show where he denied ordering the torture of political opponents.

“No Maldivian citizen was unjustly punished that I was aware of or on my orders,” he said.

At a press conference yesterday, Moosa said the objective of the new NGO was to seek redress for injustices.

“Our main purpose is to bring an end to the torture that has gone on in this country for most of its history,” he said.

Former governments established “a culture of torture” in order to remain in power and suppress dissent, he said.

Moosa said the society was distinct from MDP as it was “100 per cent” comprised of victims and appealed to the media not to “twist” the association to portray it as a political endeavor.

The association plans to contact and enlist the help of international human rights organizations and the UN Human Rights agencies.

A team comprising of “Maizan” Ali Manik, Ahmed Naseem, state minister for foreign affairs, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad, tourism minister and Dr Ahmed Shaheed, foreign minister, were working towards this end, he said.

At the press conference, Naseem said the impetus for forming MDP came from the unjust practices of Gayoom’s government.

Naseem characterised the work of the society as a “national task”because victims of torture have been incapable of speaking about their
experiences.

Torture was “institutionalised” by the former government, he said,and families were destroyed when dissidents were targeted.

“If you walk down the road and meet 100 people, 40 of them would have been tortured at some point,” he said.

Naseem said if Maldivian courts fail to provide redress for injustices, the association would take the cases to international courts.

“Maizan” Ali Manik said the association would gather information and records and find a way to make the history of torture in the Maldives available to the public.

Not political

Naseem also emphasised that the new NGO was not political.

“The idea is to make sure these things do not happen again in the Maldives,” he said. “It’s nothing to do with what the government is doing. Today, young people have no idea what stocks are. At the turn of the century it was commonplace to use these things in the Maldives – they don’t know about medieval torture devices that were banned in 14th century Europe being used very recently in the Maldives.”

Government institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) had proven unsatisfactory and had made a lot of excuses, he said.

“I don’t know if it is a lack of passion, a lack of efficiency or a lack of will,” Naseem said. “Few such government institutions work very well in any country. A government offical will often just work for a salary; they may not have the same passion for their job as a private non government organisation.”

The NGO was “just one way” of addressing the situation, he said, noting that there were “various ways” including court settlements and the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“But there are criminals here who need to be brought to justice,” he said. “People can’t move ahead without justice.”

It was “amazing”, he said, “how people who were tortured by the regime still support it. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome – it’s very difficult for many people to talk about how they were abused. Some are very ashamed. I myself find it hard to speak about what happened to me. Women were raped and will not talk about it public. But many people have said they will speak in recordings, or without their face revealed. Many want [the process] to remain confidential.”

Naseem insisted the investigations “will not turn into a witch hunt. We are just trying to gather information.”

The NGO would seek international assistance and funding, he said, as “we don’t know how to go about these things in the Maldives.”

Opposition reaction

Gayoom’s spokesman Mohamed Hussein ‘Mundhu’ Shareef denounced the TVA as “another voodoo NGO in the Maldives.”

“We’ve seen this before: Moosa gets on a platform to do what he does best – level accusations at Gayoom. His sell by date is up.”

Mundhu accused the MDP of orchestrating the new NGO.

“The MDP needs to boost motivation among hardcore supporters to bring them out of the yellow haruge, and the thing that unites the MDP is Gayoom,” he said. “If you go to the root you’ll find it’s at the second floor of the president’s office.”

If the government wanted to investigate corruption, Mundhu said, “there is a constitutionally empowered body. If the police are overstepping their boundaries, what is the point of funding a body like the police integrity commission if it’s not going to be used? And how can they appoint a state minister like Mohamed Aswan to investigate police reform and expect him to be impartial?”

The DRP “has never had a problem with the police”, Mundhu added. “We’re not the ones complaining and sending letters. When one of our activists was recently arrested for defacing municipality property, when he came out he told me that while the food was not very good, the police treated him very well.”

Mundhu appeared less opposed to the prospect of a TRC, “but I do not believe any mistreatment happened with the direct knowledge of the previous executive.”

Disruption

Organisers of the TVA rally accused the DRP of attempting to disrupt the association’s event on Saturday night, an action Naseem condemned as “disgusting”.

Mundhu rejected the claim.

“We’re not MDP, we don’t attack and disrupt [rallies],” he said. “At the same time, why is the MDP holding its gathering right outside the DRP office every night – is it designed to stop us holding our own rallies?”

The DRP was also concerned about state broadcaster TVM’s coverage of the event, he added.

“When we saw the live TVM coverage we rang to ask why the giving away airtime, and they said it was a new formula and they would be happy to sell us an hour of airtime for Rf22,000. We don’t have the money for that, but it was nice to know.”

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19 thoughts on “Torture Victims Association to seek justice over human rights abuses”

  1. this is a very good development. victims standing up for their own rights. and perpetrators and their parrots like Mundhu Shareef giving away themselves unknowingly.

    The gatherings take place on a stage at artificial beach, and the DRP office opened there just recently.... do they think they own the entire Henveriu ward or what?

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  2. Mundhu is definitely as skilled as his predecessor was. His openness to a Truth and Reconciliation Council is very heartening and cannot be done through Civil Society. We will never be able to get to the root of everything that happened purely but "witness" testimony because that will not be enough to create concrete evidence. We need members of the police and armed forces to be given immunity for coming forward and admitting to their sins against the people they are sworn to protect. Yes the people, not just the nation.

    This NGO can gather witness information, and create a forum to discuss human rights abuses (which is sorely needed). However, TVM can only provide a first step. It cannot create concrete hard evidence against high ranking individuals of the government. That is not the way the mechanisms of the previous administration worked.

    It is wholly possible that there is no direct evidence linking President Gayoom to direct knowledge of torture (though even the most obtuse person should have known). The point is that he may not have had a legal requirement to deal with the problem he had no "real" knowledge of it. The only way to find out the truth is through a Truth and Reconciliation Council.

    I profoundly hope that DRP continues to be open to such a council. I applaud Naseem, Sawad and the rest are taking an active effort to bring these issues into the open. And have faith that through all the politicking there is hope that we can make progress on this issue.

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  3. Very prominent people were tortured and jailed in Maldives. Some of the victims came out and reformed society, like our present president Nasheed as Nelson Mendela did in South Africa.

    But sadly some of these people in the so called 'Victims Association' are no like this. Some of these people became torturers themselves. Instead of reforming the society with good will, they only seek revenge and political gain. Would anyone one consider some of those guys in the News Conference as victims, especially when they owe money to others..

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  4. when gayoom says that he does not know of any body being tortured i wonder whether he has seen the way that naseem, maizan ali manik was handcuffed and dragged across the streets of male.
    maumoon always has the excuse of saying "I DONT KNOW"
    i fully support the torture victims association and will be part of it. as my family was also tortured by him.
    lot of people were arrested just because he has mentioned gayooms name.
    i know one old lady was arrested just because he said that " mi haaru ge rise akun foneh naara eye". she was over 70 then. isnt this torture. and he says he has never heard of this.
    he should be brought to justice. i would like to see him handcuffed and dragged across the streets of male.

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  5. NGOs should ‘NOT’ be used for political purposes to attack any political parties. Founding members being political parties heads raises questions. The problem with TVA is they are targeting the crimes only committed by the Maumoon Government lead by MDP MPs. Even if they claim to be independent and not being political, it is. Also, NGOs like TVA do not have the authority, power and recognition in the Maldives. However, TVA can document case studies, lobby for advocacy and policy changes.
    A Truth and Reconciliation Commission needs to be established to give credibility to the whole situation. There are crimes and gross human rights violations by previous governments that need to be looked at and addressed. TRC can only have the power if approved by the Parliament to investigate, prosecute, be independent and pass sentences. TRC can look at torture cases, gross human right violations, and abuse of power and authority. These crimes committed by previous Governments need to be looked into. Already the present Government is showing signs of torture, abuse, human rights violations and abuse of power and controlling media. These issues need to be investigated and cleared so that it doesn’t happen in the systems. Maybe former President Maumoon and President Nasheed are innocent but unless an ‘INDEPENDENT’ investigation is conducted, it’s unclear.

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  6. This is a very welcome development. It should have been done long before, in fact, as soon as the new government took over.

    People like Mundhu must be right out of their minds, if they did not realize this was going on in the Maldives, or may be he was just shielded from it all.

    But I truly wonder what he thinks about Maumoon's use by date, if he thinks that Moosa's use by date has expired. Such an interesting and typical comment from him! LOL.

    I hope due attention will be paid to those that want to maintain their privacy.

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  7. Well i just hope something gets done this time. Because im sure a alot of us would have hoped that the people who robbed us in bright day light and tortured us be brought to justice sooner. But nothing seems to be happening and they are enjoying their stolen wealth to the maximum.!

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  8. This is good, why should we wait for the Government to establish a TRC... Also even if this Commission is established it would not have the authroity to charge people. Only the judiciary can do that. So fed up with people asking for more Commissions, why doesn't the alreayd established Human Rights Commission do this????

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  9. It is not a wonder why some people cannot accept realities and facts of life!

    During the time of kings and their palaces, inhumane acts and crimes have been carried out and committed!

    Whatever crime or injustice committed or done cannot be written off. But what happened in the recent past especially when victims, doers and facts are available, opportunity should not be sacrificed for personal and political reasons!

    Opportunity to end inhumane acts and crime such as what is said to have been carried out in the recent past ( when the accused are available ) must not be lost!

    Organizations and peoples must use this opportunity! Personal reason relationship and so on can wait!

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  10. why would anyone take Maumoons henchman's word for something like this, wouldnt have it been better to get the openion of a Nss senior official, i for one will swear under oath that mundhood knew i and many others was tortured for peaceful political dissent....

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  11. for Mohamed,s comment. OK, uneducated babrbarians like us from the islands cant handle the truth, great!

    But tell me, or educate me, what does torture means? taking to jail and sodomising? Poor people like us who cant now afford to pay the electricity bills, and family members thrown out from their job, this is not torture? or maybe there is another word for it.

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  12. Ok, now I'm confused. MDP supporters are frustrated with the performance of the MDP led government institutions, so, they form an NGO consisting of and supported by the actual MDP members who are failing the people of Maldives. It's good that MDP members like Moosa are at last admitting their own people's failures but doesn't all this defeat the purpose?

    Moosa why don't you just give us all a break. Using Human Rights as an "excuse" to to get a chunk of important Internation Funding just so you can attack Maumoon yet again and try and make yourself feel important. Come on! The Human Rights Commission was set us to protect the rights of the Maldivian people and have already done what you say your NGO is going to do and have already proved Maumoon innocent. Wasting people's time and money on an NGO that will obviously have no credibility in the country, especially with you being the founder member!

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  13. There is no denying that Maumoon's administration brutally suppressed all political opponents. But be mindful of the end result of this witch hunt - 90% of all who would come out as torture victims will be the scum of this society, not political victims. Most of these will be rapists, drug dealers, murderers, ..you name it. Only a handful of politically motivated tortures would come out. Ask any of these former prisoners whether they have been tortured. The answer would be yes.

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  14. When movie comedians like Reeko Moosa is out to spread hatred, there will be no untiy in this country. Hell! bloody hell, we people are just going down the drain, dont we have any sensible person or persons out there who will simply tell this guy to just SHUT UP and address the real issues.

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  15. hmmm .. there's a problem in this association , the name have to be changed to "Dictator Gayooms's Torture Victims Association" cause the high profile MNDP members like naseem wants to twist the history of maldives, it really is a shame !! and never mentions about Nasir and his regime, cause one of his sister got married to that dictator of all time Nasir, the guy not only tortured he killed more than 100's of maldivians there are living witnesses

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  16. Yet another ploy by the same people, this is getting old and tiring. The same hate mongers treading on and tearing the fabric of our peaceful society for their own gains, to consolidate their power, to line their pockets, enjoy their plush offices. No more I say, because this is just a waste of energy, energy that should be focused on the real issues. Im guessing the MDP bigwigs dont want to address real issues facing our society as they will have to accept defeat and fade away to oblivion as they will find it an insurmountable task. I am all for justice and human rights yet even the people least aware of such goin ons would know that even if, as I am not a judge or jury like most of these lot think they are, if Gayoom is involved and implicated in all this he would still be insulated therofore defeating the whole purpose of such an undertaking, which means that the purpose of all this by people such as Moosa is to make political tremors, what for?? I know, its so that the people would for even a second would forget about the misery brought on by none other than MDP, alrite Moosa so you can atleast give out a sigh of relief and breathe, but look at what these tremors are doin to our society!! Maldivian Disaster Party is what MDP stands for as they cannot still grasp what democracy means, damn hypocrites.

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  17. Gayoom was fully aware of torture and human rights abuses going on during his rule.

    http://maverickmagazine.wordpress.com/2008/09/11/gayoom-aware-torture-maldives/

    http://maverickmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/resist1.pdf

    http://maverickmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/maverick6.pdf

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