UK Foreign Office to “pressure” Maldives over tackling police abuse allegations: The Guardian

UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Alistair Burt is expected to “pressure” the Maldives government to tackle alleged abuses conducted by police during a visit to the country next month.

The UK-based Guardian newspaper reported today that Burt would be asking the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan about efforts being undertaken to tackle “serious and persistent abuses” alleged to have been carried out by police – claims backed in reports on the country by a number of international NGOs.

These alleged abuses are reported to include: “attacks on opposition MPs, torture and mass detentions of democracy activists,” according to the paper.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press concerning the upcoming UK FCO visit.

However, the government and police authorities in the Maldives have previously questioned findings by a number of international NGOs, accusing their individual authors of acting with bias in favour of former President Nasheed and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Police probe

Reports of Burt’s visit follow The Guardian reporting earlier this week that senior UK government figures were set to be questioned by politicians over the role of a Scottish police college in training Maldivian officers accused of perpetrating human rights abuses.

Police authorities in the Maldives contacted by Minivan News yesterday played down the abuse allegations raised by a number of NGOs such as Amnesty International, questioning possible bias in the data gathered in their reports.

Just last month, the circumstances behind the arrests of then Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Jabir and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor for their alleged possession of alcohol had been labelled “very worrying” by delegates from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

The comments were made following a a three-day mission to the Maldives over alleged human rights abuses.

Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan from IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians said at the time that circumstances surrounding the arrests of Jabir – now an MDP MP – and Ghafoor were concerning and that the delegation found it “difficult” to believe it was not politically-motivated.

Both Jabir and Ghafoor – along with eight others – were arrested on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll for the alleged possession of alcohol and drugs.

The arrests were made days prior to a vote on whether or not a no confidence motion against President Mohamed Waheed could be voted with a secret ballot.

Transfer of power

Since February’s controversial transfer of power that saw former President Mohamed Nasheed resigning from office follow a mutiny by sections of the country’s police and military – a decision he claimed was made under duress – several NGOs have published reports addressing concerns about police conduct in the Maldives.

Minivan News observed violent clashes between police officers and anti-government protesters directly following the change of government. On February 8, Minivan News journalists witnessed Specialist Operations (SO) officers specifically target certain MDP activists by chasing and beating them.

Anti-government protests have continued on and off throughout 2012 resulting in both local and international media coverage of alleged police brutalityattacks by protesters on police and reporters, numerous arrests and the occasional, almost playful stand-off.

Amidst this backdrop, several NGOs have released reports into alleged rights abuses conducted by police.  These reports include findings by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) entitled “From Sunrise to Sunset: Maldives backtracking on democracy” and an Amnesty International publication entitled: “The Other side of Paradise: A Human Rights Crisis in the Maldives”.

FIDH noted in its findings that the government of President Waheed stood accused of a wide range of human right violations, including violent harassment of street protesters, torture and harassment of pro-opposition media as well as legal and physical harassment of the opposition.

“Practices to silence political dissent that had disappeared in the course of Nasheed’s presidency, have once again become prevalent under Mohamed Waheed’s presidency,” said FIDH at the time.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s report recommended that the Maldivian government “ensure prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations into allegations of violence by officials.”

The NGO also called for the de-politicisation of the police, reform of the judiciary and enhanced training of security forces to meet with international standards of conduct.

Amnesty said that several of its human rights recommendations were reflected in the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry’s (CNI) report which was released on August 30. The report concluded that President Waheed’s government had come to power legitimately and that there no evidence of any mutiny by the police and military.

Following the report’s publication, two international advisors to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) – Judicial Advisor Sir Bruce Robertson and Legal Advisor Professor John Packer – criticised what they believed was an “alarming level” of street demonstrating.

“Some would want to call [this] an example of the rights of freedom of expression and assembly. In reality it is rather more bully-boy tactics involving actual and threatened intimidation by a violent mob,” they stated at the time. “This perpetual behaviour is sapping public life and hindering the Maldives’ development as a modern democracy.”

However, the CNI’s findings did nonetheless highlight the need for institutional reform within the country focusing on areas such as law enforcement and the judiciary.

Earlier this month, the Commonwealth announced it would be working with the Maldivian government to push ahead with strengthening and reforming “key public institutions” – issues raised in the CNI report.  The Commonwealth also said that it was reiterating calls for “inclusive and credible” presidential elections to be held next year.

Report “bias”

Following the publication of Amnesty’s report in September, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed criticised Amnesty International for failing to seek comment from the government, accusing it of publishing a one-sided report.

Similar criticisms of the NGO were made by Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz back in April.  He expressed disappointed with what he perceived had been Amnesty’s failure to ask the police for its comments before releasing a report based on its findings.

“I don’t see that there has been any investigations done, none of our officers was questioned, interviewed – neither by them nor by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), nor by the Human Rights Commission (HRCM). I don’t think that’s fair,” said Riyaz.

Amnesty International had previously denied it has taken sides compiling its report on the Maldives.

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14 thoughts on “UK Foreign Office to “pressure” Maldives over tackling police abuse allegations: The Guardian”

  1. “I don’t see that there has been any investigations done, none of our officers was questioned, interviewed".

    Look, Mr Riyaz, Amnesty International is a universally respected organisation that has been operating for over 50 years and has reported in countless countries around the world.

    Mr Riyaz must be unaware of the way grassroots organisations such as Amnesty conduct their investigations. They do not have to invite the likes of Riyaz and his officers into plush air-conditioned offices over cups of cafe late!

    Mr Riyaz and Mr Jameel are simply just two very insignificant individuals who are part of a less than scrupulous third world regime. Do we really believe their words or the reports of Amnesty International? I leave the readers to judge for themselves.

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  2. “I don’t see that there has been any investigations done, none of our officers was questioned, interviewed”.

    Furthermore, this is the most ridiculous assertion that I've ever heard. Almost as ridiculous as "police intelligence". Imagine the conversation between Riyaz's beloved officers and Amnesty:

    Amnesty: So, what do you say about torture at the hands of the Maldivian Police Service (MPS)?

    MPS Officer: I deny any knowledge of torture.

    Amnesty: Well, there have been video and photographic evidence that we've seen which leads us to believe that such practices are taking place.

    MPS Officer: Simply not true. The opposition are producing doctored videos and photographs to discredit the integrity of the MPS.

    Amnesty: So, are you saying that all allegations of police brutality, targeting of political opponents and mistreatment of prisoners are total fabrications.

    MPS Officer: Absolutely. They are total fabrications produced by those who would like to introduce religions other than Islam into our country and are funded by Jewish and Christian organisations.

    Amnesty: Thank you for your time.

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  3. "The opposition are producing doctored videos" Maldives police service versus opposition? so professional and not politicized at all........

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  4. Under what UN convention is the UK 'pressuring' the Maldives?

    Does this mean the UK Government admitting in the conventional rout of pressing through UNHCR is redundant and UN id dead.

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  5. UK has no mandate to interfere with the Maldives in any circumstances, we are independent from British Protectorate since 1965. The era of colonization and slavery is over now its 21st century UK is nothing, now its India and China rules the world.

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  6. In India, 20 women are raped every single minute, yet the UK gives 200 Million dollars in aid. Are UK tax payers bothered?

    http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/19/opinion/india-rape-anger-menon/index.html?hpt=hp_c4

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  7. these tortures not only happened during Gayyoom era and waheed current time but also during Nasheed time too.

    Nasheed made an historical tourture and use first time in the history of Maldives a water cannon to disperse the peaceful demonstrators just behind the Stelco ? What you called this ?

    These lam excuses made by Anni will not be believe by international community and they all know that Anni is one of biggest lier in Maldives.

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  8. @mody on Thu, 20th Dec 2012 4:18 PM

    "Nasheed made an historical tourture and use first time in the history of Maldives a water cannon to disperse the peaceful demonstrators just behind the Stelco ? What you called this ?"

    Dude, you really made a complete arse of yourself this time! The use of water cannon is almost universally regarded as the least forceful means of crowd dispersion available! It's used throughout the world for crowd control and dispersion.

    If you think that's "torture", then you need serious help.

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  9. @what?
    What has this news piece got to do with India or number of rapes their? This country is turning into Pakistan - dragging India into everything for comparison and blaming. This is UK putting diplomatic pressure on Maldives govt. Look towards your friends to counter them if you have got any and remember to have some tourism road show in London so that they may visit you and you may earn some forex.
    India is getting aid from UK for various charities and we Indians are thankful to them for that. But do you also know that India is one of the top most investor in the UK?

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  10. The bad bad police. They kidnapped Jabir, Hamid,Zaki and Juha and took them to Hondaidhoo by force. The police secretly took 2 iceboxes of Alcohol from Jabir's Alidhoo Resort and the bad police even produced an invoice for some of the items. The bad police poured the drinks and forced it down Jabir and Hamid's throat even when they were begging them not to do so. How wicked Maldive Police are, secretly giving "hash oil joints" and alcohol to poor innocent Jabir, Hamid, Zaki and Juha without telling them. None of these people ever had alcohol or did drugs in their life. Boo Hoo!!!

    Also please be informed that UK is the largest supplier of arms, munitions,equipment and riot control gear (hand cuffs, batons,pepper spray,tear gas etc.) to the Maldives. Instructors from UK and Australia train the Maldivian Police....the current police force is totally trained and equipped by UK.

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