The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has ruled that the Maldives Police Service was not culpable for the death of 20 year old Abdulla Basith Zubair whilst in their custody, although it has called for revised safety procedures when holding suspects.
Head of the PIC Shahindha Ismail told Minivan News that a five member independent panel ruled after reviewing evidence, which included medical reports, that police were not accountable for Zubair’s death after he was taken into custody last month for alleged drug offences. The five members of the PIC panel that rule on cases are initially nominated by the president before being put before the Majlis for approval and do not contain any serving police members, according to Ismail.
Zubair was reportedly found dead on the morning of January 14 after he was taken into custody where police said he had tested positive for the presence of illegal drugs in his system.
His death was confirmed after he later was taken to hospital after being discovered by officers who the police service had claimed thought he had been asleep.
Ismail confirmed that although the police were not being held accountable or found to have treated Zubair inappropriately, the case had served to highlight a lack of familiarity and training among officers in dealing with potential addicts or drug offenders when they were held in custody.
“One thing we have noted with some other cases as well, is that special processes are required regarding the handling of drug users in custody,” she said. “We think these suspects need to be hospitalised and not left alone in a cell. Also, at present some officers may not be familiar how to handle such cases.”
According to Ismail and the PIC, the problem represents a wider issue regarding police procedure for holding suspects in custody, as well as ensuring the protection of its officers as outlined under article 19 of the Police Act.
In an attempt to try and ensure officers are better trained and prepared for the challenges posed by holding suspects, the PIC has announced it will be hosting a two day workshop to try and outline minimum standards for holding suspects at police stations and custodial centres from 27 – 28 February.
Along with measures for handling possible drug addicts and users, Ismail claimed the workshop would attempt to outline procedures for a wide array of custodial issues including the administrative requirements of officers on duty.