Custodial abuse sparks Cabinet clamp down on “culture of torture”

Cabinet has appointed a committee to reform the Maldives Police Service (MPS) after allegations that the institution continues to have a “culture of police torture”.

The committee includes the Attorney General Husnu Suood, Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef, and Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad, a human rights lawyer. The Cabinet also elected to appoint Minister of State Principal Collector of Customs Mohamed Aswan as Minister of State for Home Affairs, giving him a mandate to reform the police service.

The decision to form the committee was made following the new government’s first emergency cabinet meeting, held on Saturday shortly after DhiTV aired a story showing six men claiming they had been arrested and tortured in Atolhuvei detention centre. The men, several of whom displayed bruises to the TV station, alleged that police kept them face down, cuffed their hands and feet behind them, tied the cuffs and jumped on them.

The president’s press secretary Mohamed Zuhair said the decision to form the committee was not made “in response to a particular incident”, and was instead an attempt to implement reform after public complaints about the culture of the police force.

“All the cabinet ministers appointed to the committee are lawyers and will listen to any allegations and those made by the police as well,’ he said, adding that the committee would act “as a bridge” by speeding up the resolution of existing complaints.

Clash with PIC

Shahindha Ismail from the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and former head of the Maldivian Detainee Network said she was unaware of why the committee was set up “because the police integrity commission has a mandate to investigate everything the committee was set up to do. They are duplicating our work.”

The PIC had “more powers by law [than cabinet] to conduct investigations,” she said. “I wish the government would give more thought to letting the PIC carry out its mandate. Right now we are stuck because of our financial difficulties, we have to go to the finance ministry for everything. We’ve sent reports on this to the president, because if the government want us to do our job they have to allow us to do it.”

Shahindha said while no one had made a complaint to the PIC, she “has a slight idea” that cabinet’s response was due to six people who were alleging they had been beaten in custody.

“When police took them to the criminal court to extend their detention periods [two] showed the judge marks and bruises on their bodies, saying they were beaten,” Shahindha said.

“My sense is that the beatings were quite severe because the judge apparently ordered them to be released because he felt they were not safe in the hands of the police – upon their release they contacted the media while they were in hospital.

“The original arrests were related to the physical sexual harrassment of women, and these people are no longer in police custody,” she added.

Shahindha said she had asked police for an official report into the matter “but they have not submitted it.”

Police spokesman Sergeant Ahmed Shiyam said the MPS was not commenting at this stage.

“A culture of torture”?

The government’s decision was surprising not only because it risked duplicating the work of the PIC, but because “these [beatings] appear to happen every day. I don’t know what’s special about this incident, I’m guessing the beatings were very severe,” Shahindha said.

Incidents of police brutality were usually confined to a minority of field officers, she said.

“I wouldn’t call it a culture any more. We find during our investigations that senior police are unware of what goes on in the field as to brutality. The problem is that some of the field officers are still carrying it around. It has reduced quite a lot, but now they do it inside and don’t let people see, unlike during the demonstrations when police used to beat people in broad daylight. Now it happens either in police vehicles or detention centres.”

She was positive about the appointment of Aswan to the new role of State Minister for Home Affairs, “although I would like to know more about the committee’s mandate.”

Zuhair said the committee’s aim was police reform following “public complaints about the culture of the force”, and “nothing to do with police integrity.”

For his part, Aswan said he had only just taken up the new post after being on holiday for two weeks and was still gathering information. The appointment was “sudden”, he said, adding that while he believed his law enforcement experience would be very valuable for his new role, he had “mixed feelings” about leaving his customs portfolio.


14 thoughts on “Custodial abuse sparks Cabinet clamp down on “culture of torture””

  1. wtf? is this really appropriate when city is experiencing increasing violence? we really need is an effective and trained police willing to do whatever it takes to bring crime rates down! we dont need a democracy where criminals are getting away with crime. even politicians seems to be hiding behind less important issues, the president specially is not even willing to look into the issue??

  2. This government will be judged on how well it deals with human rights abuses, because it is the principal belief of the democracy movement that toppled the dictator in October 2008.
    Reform has been coming slow in this area.
    You cannot clean 'shit' with more 'shit'!
    That's the thing!
    Dictator Gayyoom taught them how to torture and as long he is running around 'demented' and denying he has never ordered torture or knows about it, we will have this problem.
    Bring his to justice and that will play a huge part in solving this matter!

  3. hahahahah its not surprising that brutality and torture in the blood of the NSS staff, they have been training to have no feelings and be as inhuman as possible, saying its part of the tactics of war and aggression against the enemy and tactical method of controlling the enemy psychosocially. They misunderstood the prisoners of war and antisocial elements from the society! you better train your NSS superiors follow to the lowest staff even the staff who feeds the prisoners. In the view of every Maldivian everyone is guilty until proven innocent"

  4. why Government are letting dhem to do wat ever they want,,public are woried ,,,due to their(police) currupted management>!!!!!?????

  5. @ friend- Obviously the president wants to look into the issue, if not why would he appoint a committee to look into the matter.
    @bappa - It is the POLICE not NSS.
    If the commissioner of police cant handle his staff, why dont he resign?
    By the way, this committee's aim is police reform and NOT their integrity which i am sure is not under PIC's mandate.

  6. shahinda, what would you know about maldives police force?, your telling us about the senior officers, how do you justify all the crimes that ocure daily in male and this country can you compare this country and any other country on crimes while we have 300,000 population?
    what about their incompetence in bringing this small country a peaceful place? shahinda, it's not only about brutality, i think you'll only understand it when your dragged on the road by some thief to snatch your hand bag .. mugging, robbery, drugs, killing, gang violence, what else do you need shanhinda are you guys doing your work? do you know that ultimate responsibility lies on presidents shoulder .. to bring peace to this country where people can enjoy freedom of movement .. shanhinda, do you know the problem with us? the problem is we try to show people we know everything by giving false impression to people but actually we know nothing ..

  7. Looks like the chickens are coming to home to roost, this is the culture MDP created to destroy every institution in the country before they came to power. They called them Golhaa force, why do you expect Golhaa force to salute them today.

  8. Why not everyone stop acting Tom & Jerry, and why not everyone allow set up a good governance system?

    This is not a culture MDP brought or created! It had been there every since time immemorial.

    Police brutality, especially in the 3rd world countries have been seriously focused upon by many communities. This is a fact.

  9. The funny thing is that these culprits were arrested for allegedly victimising a woman to fulfill their sexual desires. It is sad that they were beaten under police custody. However, it is more worrying when they eventually became the "victims" and were released into the society.

    Even more disturbing is that nobody is talking about what happened to the woman or her rights.

    Seems like the human rights of some so-called torture victims are more important than that of a sexually-molested innocent woman. Way to go with democracy, human rights and above all, rights of women!!! Anni is a real champion! (I don't know of what)

  10. Someone who knows very well about what happens inside the Police Integrity Commission has told me about them. It seems the members come to office around 9 and do not wait there even for a couple of hours. They do not even care to look into the cases. Instead walk around only yelling at the staff there.

    How can such an institution be trusted with fulfilling its duties? What all the fellows at these commissions do is just take the fat salary (by Maldivian standards) and sleep. They expect to be given a wide mandate with huge powers. The sad part is that they are well below the expectation of the people.

  11. Kalo, I agree with you. So little is said about the irresponsible action of the judge by releasing these 6 into the community.
    No one seems to be bothered about accountability of all these institutions/individuls of institutions that have obviously done wrong.
    a) PIC...for not being on top of what they r supposed to do.
    b) Police Commissioner & the force for the torture they seem to continue to do.
    c) the judge who without so much as a second thought releases 6 ppl who r being investigated.
    d) the media for not focusing on the fact that although the torture shud not have happened, the accused shud not have been released either..
    and lastly the govt...for making committees after committees for doing hte same thing, without asking the PIC why they r not doing their job...

  12. This is all because of Anni. He thought only Gayoom, and Adam Zahir were the culprits. He needs to change some of the crooks who are in police. If you can roll some heads, we will see better results. I am getting tired of commissions without any teeth investigating government agencies. Anni must wake up from his la la land dream and get to the bottom of it. The situation in the country is going bad to worse and DRP will instigate and exploit this tot he maximum. Anni please wake up, your international stint is now over.

  13. I wonder, what this administration is capable of doing, rather than making big media headlines every day. Every where we look things are going worse than ever.

    Of course you can blame last administration for everything, but still we have a life to live, if things are not getting better than yesterday. Its the responsibility of the administration in power today. If they cannot take the responsibility vacate the administration and resign.

  14. I agree with Dhivehi Observer Points " we cannot clean the shit with more shit"
    as most of you have commented that police intergity commision is just doing nothing they have told and as they have learned from the past 30 years. no work and just take fat money. i fully support what the goverment have appointees and new changes have implementing ...


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