Besieged HRCM renews calls for Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has renewed calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the Maldives, after coming under attack for failing to address the custodial abuse of political dissidents prior to 2002.

During the launch of the ‘Torture Victims Association’ NGO on Saturday night, MDP MP and founder ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik threatened to call for the dismissal of HCRM’s president Ahmed Saleem in the parliament.

“We’ve come out for justice for the torture we went through before 2002. If you can’t do it, why don’t you resign and go home,” he demanded.

At a press conference today, Saleem said that “since we are an institution working for human rights, we will give support to anyone working for human rights – our law compels us to protect and promote human rights, so [the TVA] will get our support and cooperation. But it should not be political.”

Yesterday the DRP accused the MDP of forming the TVA in an attempt to motivate its activists by uniting them against former president Abdul Maumoon Gayoom. Today Saleem emphasised that such an NGO cold only be justified “as long as there is no politics involved, as long as there’s some sincerity in what they’re doing. Already there’s a network of NGOs that we support, so it’s like any other… we will support it if it is genuinely working for human rights.”

However he added that “it’s is not our mandate to look into the type of allegations they’re making – we don’t talk about things that happened before a certain date. The main reason this is happening is, in truth, if there is no democratic system in a country for too long, [human rights abuses] will happen.”

Furthermore, he claimed, “we have to consider national unity, the state of the nation and if it’s the right thing to do. I would say this is a very dangerous time for the country’s future – as a small, homogeneous Islamic nation the Maldives cannot afford such bitter divisions.”

Although HRCM’s mandate did not extend past 2000, he said, the commission could technically investigate human rights abuses before that. But, he said, HRCM had to “consider the consequences of such an investigation.”

Instead, he reiterated his earlier call for a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), “with powers to conduct investigations, take witness statements and issue pardons in exchange for testimony.

“The Human Rights Commission does not have these kind of powers – the two things that are needed most for it are the powers to issue judgements and pardons. We don’t have either of these powers and neither does any human rights commission anywhere in the world.”

A TRC would demand the cooperation and participation “of all political parties, to move beyond the past.”

He added that the commission was concerned about the current unstable political atmosphere and the polarisation of Maldivian society, and stressed that a truth and reconcilation process should not be politicised.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed today said he supported the concept of a TRC, but noted that a “blanket amnesty is illegal under international law.”

“The UN said it would not associate with the Sierra Leone amnesty in 1999. But yes, the notion that we need to address past grievances, find the truth, and through process of finding the truth find redress, is important. I think as the year progresses the idea will develop,” he said.

Three assessments on the human rights situation in the Maldives, produced by the government, HRCM and a coalition of NGOs, will be presented to a UN council in November this year. Shaheed said he hoped the government’s draft would be ready for public review by early February.


18 thoughts on “Besieged HRCM renews calls for Truth and Reconciliation Commission”

  1. Who does this Saleem think he is? Sitting on the high horse and taking the moral high ground as usual?

    Is he feigning Sheikh-al-Azhar? or the twelfth Shii Imam? or Pope Benedict XVI?

    Nobody wants your preachings about the number of fissures that could develop in the country.

    Although I hate to focus on individuals I feel I am forced to do it this time.

    One can never understand the toothless HRCM without knowing who its 5 members are.

    So let me clue you in some of these people in the HRCM:

    Saleem: a longstanding Gayoom loyalist. Handpicked by Gayoom and placed in the first HRCM. Married to Maizan family. (there was a loud maizan voice in the call for justice against Gayoom's Human Rights abuses past week at artificial beach).

    Zahid: A boy scout. I wonder whether he uttered the word human rights before its formation. Definitely one in the social network of Gayoom's loyalists. He must be feeling so happy earning over 35 Rufiya per month.

    Mariyam Azra: If there is an opportunity to go abroad she will always be the first to jump. For more information check immigration records. Very few people can have such an impressive CV as hers. But you hardly hear her voice anywhere. She's quick to put her name down on anything and everything she could lay her hands on though. Married to Gayoom's long-standing secret-service agent, allegedly assigned during the regime with the task of eavesdropping people's private conversations and reporting it to Gayoom.

    Kareem: Fundie. a devout Fundie. No need for more description I presume.

    Majida: I'm tired of this personal stuff so I'll leave her for someone else.

    The main reason why Gayoom was thrown out of power was his bad human right records.

    Now check out HRCM's website. It's telling. In words, colours and shades.

    Have anyone heard or seen anything substantial at all done by HRCM so far?

    I say no. Nothing so far.

    All this talk about forming a TRC is again to evade their work.

    All that HRCM could do is go round the islands, holding seminars and workshops. Gathering people, taking meals, spending money and documenting. That's all.

    And then, the visits abroad and producing news on their website.

    Their main passion seems to be to write the UN-style reports.

    What is missing now seems only a report after a visit to Male' Fish Market. The bad smell around is definitely a human rights violation!

    The HRCM is fast to bombard the government. Conveniently, what happens in the judiciary and the legislature is beyond their vision.

    Come on Saleem! If your job is to protect the human rights of the country it is your job to move your butt and get the necessary legislation out of the Majilis.

    It is your job to ensure that the judiciary provides justice for the people.

    After that you can go round preaching us about "national unity" as if it is your brand name.

  2. what a sad and immature comment? One person in this country calls for unity among its people, and you come out and lash the person for that? really sad.. heres the reason why the problems in this country cannot be effectively dealt. People like you mocking genuine attempts for peace, order, justice and rule of law.

    i just checked out their website. I think they have done tremendous work to deal with the many issues facing the country. Check out its website, go visit its publications. You will see reports on issues of housing in male'; escalating violence in male'; employment situation in the country. They are here to advice the govt on ways to overcome such problems, they are not the Police to go out and arrest criminals, not the Anti Corruption Commission to go investigate allegations of corruption and so on.

    It is not only the job of Mr. Ahmed Saleem to ensure that the judiciary provides justice for the people. Its the duty of the independent judiciary to provide JUSTICE for its people. It is the duty of the president, the cabinet, the Majlis, the commissions, the police and all such institutions to protect, promote and ensure that such is the case. Personal attacks.. I feel sorry for you to have such a narrow mind and understanding of human rights, justice, law and order.

    Its the duty of the Majlis to work on and pass such laws you referred to. They have been elected and are being paid by the states resources for that. Its also the duty of the ngos and civil society to assist and pressure them to do just that. Is Human Rights Commission the only institution or part of the society that has to do this? You want Mr. Ahmed Saleem to "move" his butt and get the necessary "bills out of the Majlis"? Does that even make sense?

    Wake up people. Its sad to see you like this. They say we are educated. But do we act as if we are? Someone who asks for peace is ridiculed while the rest of the country disintegrates into hatred, jealousy, animosity and revenge.

    Personal hatred just as the one you have shown, is the reason for the disintegration of the very fabric of our society. We saw exactly the same thing when Al Marhoom Mohamed Ameen Didi was battered to death by his own people, Al Marhoom Ibrahim Nasir was forced to exile from his own country. Do we want to add Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to that list too? And by doing so, are we also making a promise to do just the same to President Nasheedh?

    We say we are Muslims. Almighty Allah and Prophet Muhammadh (peace be upon him) preached on forgiveness, tolerance and respect for ur brothers and sisters. Do we see this among us Maldivians who proudly say we live in a 100% muslim nation? Act as muslims.. Act as responsible, educated citizens. Or is savagery a more popular approach?

  3. so husnu suood is also a maumoon loyalist? he too was handpicked to the first human rights commission.

  4. This notion of 'peace' is what is used by all dictators to oppress the population and prolong their power as Maumoon did. This idea is also used to protect certain criminals from prosecution as is been done by Saleem. Saleem do not have a mandate to use his own judgement and decide investigating violation of certain human rights is bad and therefore he won't do it. He is paid to investigate all known human rights violations and help deliver justice to the victims - not "peace" between groups of criminals and their victims. Once justice is delivered and continue to be delivered, lasting peace will find its rightful place in society.

  5. Saleem and Zahid have been doing a consistent and dedicated effort towards promoting Human Rights in the Maldives. The Human Rights Commission has a specific mandate and these two individuals to my knowledge have worked to promote human rights within the context of that mandate. They have called for a Truth And Reconciliation Council, and we need to support that.

    And a Truth and Reconciliation Council would not advocate for a "blanket amnesty," as Shaheed suggests, but rather amnesty for anyone who reveals everything he (or she) has done to violate human rights in the Maldives. An amnesty that will be voided if they lie or withhold information.

    The idea is that they will tell us everything they know, and hand over everyone who may be complicit with them. That way we are able to work up the ladder of official and unofficial authority and find out exactly who knew about the abuse that was going on. We don't need to punish these people, because the truth is far more important. Knowledge is power, and we need to know enough to stop this from ever happening again. We need to make sure that those who were responsible are ostracized by the public and not held up as role models. Most of the senior people involved are all now a part of the country's elite. We don't need to punish them. We just need the truth so that we can heal as a nation and move on.

    So that we can treat this infection on our society and come together as a nation.

  6. It is outrages and shameful when a high public figure such as Mr. Saleem refusing to investigate the crimes committed by Gayoom and his gang. Those Gayooms loyalists’ climes that it is hard to find Gayoom has done anything against law and therefore he will never be a criminal. We all know that how Gayoom got all those laws passed by his rubber-stamped Majilis. He appoints Majilis president and vice president on his own. He appoints 8 members and all his ministers to the Majilis. Further more he as a president must reject all the laws, which contradict Islamic jurisprudence and International law and instead of ratifying the laws he should send them back to the Majilis. Has he ever done that in any time of the history? So how can those loyalists say that Gayoom had to follow the law of the country?

    In the Nuremberg trials (1945-1946), tried high Nazi officials for actions committed during World War II that contravened the accepted laws of war. Among the practices condemned were plotting and waging aggressive war, using slave labour, looting occupied countries, and abusing and murdering civilians and prisoners of war. All the accused criminals said the same. “WE FOLLOWED THE LAW” and we did our duty according to German law.

    Hermann Goering, Joachim Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Julius Streicher, Hjalmar Schacht, Martin Bormann (in absentia), and sixteen others were tried one by one for individually specified crimes. All the criminals in many ways criticized the war tribunal even of their legality.

    The tribunal declared verdicts, which included three acquittals and the sentencing of four officers to imprisonment ranging from ten to twenty years, three to life imprisonment, and twelve to death by hanging. The tribunal-rejected arguments from the defendants that the trials were ex post facto and that only the state, not individuals, were accountable for violations of international law.

    This is what history teaches us. So can we still say Gayoom is innocent?

  7. Why does Saleem keep invoking the notion and possibility of an irreconcilable divide if we find the truth about the past? What is undeniable is that a lot of people were wronged in the past, in Gayoom's regime and before. Many were tortured and physically maltreated by the police. Noe we only want to know who did what to whom. The fact that Saleem gets on the defensive whenever this is mentioned is telling. Just like DRP shooting from the him whenever the word 'torture' is mentioned.

    As any self respecting Maldivian would know, the reforms in the country in the past 6 or 7 years have been primarily driven by a sense of injustice, which includes injustice towards many who were physically tortured in Maldivian jails. Now jails are not some entity managed by aliens. They were managed by Maldivian employed by the government, who had a president responsible for all this. The president was also the chief of defense, which in those days included the police also. Now all we need is answers from those who were constitutionally and by law responsible for what went on these jails. Why is Saleem not willing to do this when he admits that if the commissions deems it as appropriate, they can investigate issues dating before 2000 (or is it 2002, as the writer here has used two different dates)?

  8. Dissolve presidential commission and establish truth and reconciliation commission. But i don't think either party has the maturity for that.

    Watching programs like QnA on TVM and seeing each other lie in front of the face of each.. just sick

  9. Why dont HRCM establish this TRC commission and work with TVA and probably an NTVA from otherside of aisle. The fact of the matter HRCM has been giving excuses and doing nothing about these serious allegations. Establishing these association will bring in the necessary documentation, facts and witnesses to proceed with the reconciliation.

  10. wht? hrcm doesnt have the legal authority to establish such a commission. its the parliament that does. my goodness. u people seriously need to be educated on the workings of the legislative bodies, judiciary and independent commissions!

  11. Contrary to what some people have said in their comments, I dont see saleem refusing to look into any allegations. He is just stating what the commission believes is the best way to investigate such allegations, without dividing up the country. Human Rights Commission is not a court. They cant persecute anyone after any found convictions. They are an advising body. Look at all other national human rights commissions. If Maldivians want them to act as a judicial court, then ask the parliament to give them such powers instead of blaming them over something they dont have any jurisdiction.

  12. to moonima, in answer to your question.

    heard of the phrase "innocent till proven guilty"? wait for an investigation and conviction. let the courts decide who is guilty of what.

  13. To Mr. Faiz,

    Yes I agree with you completely. However my argument is in every corner in Male’ now a days you hear Gayoom’s loyalists are saying Gayoom have always acted in the framework of the law. So my point is that, yes he may have acted according those laws, which he him self was involved in making the most suitable way to fit his ruling. Further more many of those (his) laws contradict Islamic jurisprudence and International laws. So it doesn’t mean he is innocent of crimes, which he has committed. That was the case of the Nazis as well. All the accused NAZI criminals said the same. “WE FOLLOWED THE LAW” and we did our duty according to German law. Gayoom must be tried in free and fair court and I am certain he will be guilty of more accounts. That’s what we learned from the history.

  14. faiz, care to state the dhivehi saying of the notion "innocent till proven guilty"? There never was such a notion in Maldives in the last 30 years so why would you think Maldivians should have heard it.

    The notion is only applicable to civilised forms of justice systems. How could a dictator be found guilty of laws he make up for himself? How could we label someone found guilty under a system so arbitrary and secretive?

    Perhaps we should use our own intelligence rather than just believing some notion heard in overseas societies.

  15. to miss moonima,

    we maldivians elected a new special majilis and brought together a better, stronger and more rights friendly constitution. Its the parliament which made those laws. y not lodge complaints against gayoom if people believe him guilty of atrocities? the courts are far more independent than they have ever been. maldives has come a long way since the sleeping parliaments and courts of the 80's and 90's. i believe independent and non-baised proceedings can be held at the courts today. if not the courts, a truth and reconciliation commission would be an ideal way to go forward with such proceedings.

    to HassanK,
    the dhivehi saying of the notion of "innocent till proven" is kushe saabithuvumuge kurin kuveriye gothugai nudhekun. our own intellgence comes from other countries and societies which has under gone similar transitions and experiences. Democracy itself is a notion we heard from the overseas societies. So do we have anything to lose by learning lessons from countries that has gone through similar expriences and came out of it much stronger?

  16. as a history student i have to say accusing Gayoom of being in the same league as the Nazis is very wrong and way out of context. True, he had a firm grip over the country for a very long time. However, he never committed such hedious crimes of ethnic cleansing as the holocaust and he did not use nationalism as an instrument to wash out our brains. Mixing up information and presenting them in a wrong way will confuse a lot of people and make one guilty of defamation. all of us have a duty to our society to be honest and responsible citizens.

  17. What is history?
    What is your definition Gayoom was different then Nazis?

    In the Nuremberg trials (1945-1946), tried high Nazi officials for actions committed during World War II

    1- The accepted laws of war.

    2- Plotting and waging aggressive war

    3- Using slave labour

    4- Looting occupied countries

    5- Abusing and murdering civilians and prisoners of war.

    The case of Gayoom

    1- Gayoom accepted and ratified hash laws against his countrymen (some of which contradicts Islamic jurisprudence and International laws.

    2- Gayoom has often plotted and planed aggressive arresting of his opponents. (In the case of Namoona Dfhoni, according to Gayoom’s order police and the army brutally broke the houses of the accused with firearms, in the middle of the night and in front innocent wives and children they have handcuffed the accused people.

    3- Gayoom used salve labour against Masodi Naseem and co.

    4- Gayoom has looted the whole wealth of many innocent families of Maldives. (To name one I would include again Masodi Naseem’s family.

    5- On Gayoom’s order jail guards have murdered so many innocent people on many occasions. To name one I would include jail riots after Ivan’s brutal death in custody. Gayoom publicly agreed that he ordered the shooting but later he denied that

    6- Gayoom was fascist and a brutal dictator that he also ethnically clinched his countrymen. In 1980s he signed and ratified a law, which was the most hashed law ever introduced in humane history. Island people must take a visa to visit to Male’ even though the most basic rights of the people were not provided on the Islands.

    7- Until the end of his brutal rule the accused criminals were not allowed take lawyers in their cases in the court. However very Maldivian law allowed this right.

    Should I continue?

    My fellow countryman History student; Gayoom was much worse then the most of the NAZIS. I don’t know if Gayoom will be ever tried in a court of law. Peoples like your self must be ashamed trying to hide the reality.

  18. Chill mooniima. I said Gayoom cannot be described in the same levels as Nazis ever. Gayoom was an opressive ruler, but he was not a facist or a nazi. I would consider him with the likes of President Mahathir and President Husni Mubarak. They all were good to their ppl in terms of economic, educational, health, development policies. Their only problem which i do not support and agree that was very bad for our ppl was the inability to accept freedom of politics. However in the case of nazis and facists, everything was controlled. Every simple aspects of life was dictated. now this is not the case for the ppl of maldives, malaysia and egypt under the political leaders i mentioned before. thats the reason why i expressed my views that Gayoom cannot be held in the same league as Nazis or Facists ever. Do a little bit more research with an open mind. Maybe then you will realise the truth. Having formed a particular personal opinion towards a person fails a person to look into things impartialy without prejudice.


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