The Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights has rejected accusations by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) that two minors were locked up in Maafushi prison, and has threatened legal action against the institution.
On January 17, HRCM issued a statement calling for the immediate release of two teenage girls living in Villingili orphanage, who were being held in Maafushi prison after being arrested by police.
Responding to the HRCM’s allegations, the Gender Ministry denied the two minors were kept in cells with other prisoners. The ministry also claimed that a HRCM team that went to meet the minors had forced one of the girls to speak about her past.
The statement added the Ministry was “very seriously” considering taking legal action against the HRCM for forcing one of the two minors to speak to the commission about her past. The Gender Ministry said it strongly condemned the HRCM’s conduct in the matter, which it claimed could undo its efforts to help the girls recover from their past issues.
‘’The HRCM officials asked one of the minors about her past and she first refused to talk about the matter in the absence of her case worker. The HRCM officials forced the minors to talk about it,’’ read the ministry statement.
The HRCM has responded to the Gender Ministry’s criticisms with its own statement, claiming that members of staff who met the minors were all highly qualified to do so.
The commission also denied allegations made by the ministry that it had forced the minors to speak about their past. It noted that no representatives from the Gender Ministry had met with the two minors since they were arrested.
The HRCM claimed that the commission was very concerned over the issue over the minors’ alleged detention, adding that two state institutions should not be disputing such a matter.
The commission also continued its calls for the two girls to be transferred to a safe place rather than keeping them in Maafushi prison.
Local media has alleged that the two girls, aged 15 and 16, were arrested on December 28, 2012, after escaping the orphanage in the middle of the night to fraternise with some boys.
A source familiar with Maafushi prison confirmed to Minivan News that the two minors were kept inside a cell in Unit 1 of the prison. According to the source, Unit 1 is the area designated for female inmates and contains women sentenced for all sorts of crimes.