MDN urges the police to speed up investigations of death threats against journalists

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has urged the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to speed up its investigations into the many death threats made to journalists and to ensure their adequate protection.

In a press statement released on the occasion of UNESCO’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, MDN also expressed its concern over the prevalence of aggressive threats made against journalists.

“Journalists in Maldives continue to receive death threats and other violent messages, some in the public domain through social media. They have been targeted with grave physical harm. It is appalling that these incidents should go without investigation and apprehension of perpetrators,” read the MDN statement.

MDN also voiced their concern over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan who has been missing for 87 days as of today (November 2).

“There has been no progress in finding Rilwan, and allegations of impunity have risen with every passing day,” said MDN.

Rilwan’s disappearance is the first such instance of its kind in the Maldives, although near fatal attacks were carried out on the blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed in 2012 and the Raajje TV reporter Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed in 2013.

Adopted by a resolution in the UN General Assembly last year, the day is used to urge member states to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.

November 2 was chosen to commemorate to two French journalists killed in Mali on 2 November 2013. UNESCO reports that over 700 journalists have been killed in the last decade, with 2012 and 2013 representing the deadliest years.

Following Rilwan’s disappearance in August, journalists from across the Maldives joined to declare that his abduction was a threat to all, and calling for an end to persistent intimidation faced by the press.

“As intimidation of press grows, and attacks against journalists, equipment, and buildings continue, we are extremely concerned over the delays in bringing to justice those who commit these acts,” read the landmark statement.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon also expressed concern regarding acts of intimidation and reprisals to journalists in general, noting that “freedom of media facilities a greater degree of interconnectedness and awareness in the community, and is the cornerstone of any democratic society”.

Last week, the People’s Majilis threw out a 5055 strong petition urging the parliament’s National Security Committee to pressure the Maldives Police Services to conduct a speedy and thorough investigation.

Rilwan’s family also lodged a formal complaint with the Police Integrity Commission accusing the police of negligence in the investigation into the 28-year-old’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, a media official from MPS told Minivan News today that that investigation into Rilwan’s disappearance is going ahead speedily but reported no new updates to the investigation

The media official also mentioned that police security was provided for two journalists after two convicts who were serving life sentences for murder escaped the Maafushi high security  prison in October.

A total of four men have been arrested over Rilwan’s disappearance, although only one man remains in custody at present.

Home Minister Umar Naseer said he believed Rilwan to be alive and promised to return him safe to his family. He has also acknowledged the involvement of criminal gangs in the case.

Last month, MDN released the findings of a private investigation, which discounted theories of voluntary disappearance and suicide, concluding that the disappearance was most likely an abduction by radicalised gangs.

On September 25, a named suspect in the MDN private investigation broke a CCTV outside Minivan News building before two men on motorbikes lodged a machete to the door.

Police arrested the renowned gangster who was caught on footage when he broke the camera only to be released the next day by the Criminal Court demanding the man to cooperate with the investigation and not to cause any further disturbances.

MPS also provided Minivan News with static security outside the building after the attack with one Minivan News journalist receiving death threats in the hours following the attack.

Recently, Amnesty International demanded police intensify their efforts to find those responsible for the numerous death threats and violent attacks against journalists.

Numerous international organisations have criticised the slow progress in the investigation of the case including Reporters without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists.


Letter: Appeal for right to a lawyer

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a member of the Writers’ Bureau of Manchester UK.

Even before the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) was officially recognised by the Maldivian government I was actively involved in trying to promote democracy in the Maldives.

Once we were able to topple the 30 year dictatorship of Abdul Gayoom through the ballot box the MDP was able to rule for three years before we were deposed by the military.

Now I find I am back on top of the persecution list by the government.

About a month back I was pulled in on a drugs charge. At the hearing I told the judge that he cannot ask the police investigative officer to take an oath – with the Holy Quran as witness – as the said police officer had not attended the scene of the crime. He was parroting second hand information supplied by others.

This made the judge so mad he called me into court to begin proceedings of a case dating back almost five years. Apparently five years ago the police had found a small pen-knife with remnants of cannabis. According to a local lawyer, this could get me a 15 year sentence.

I told the judge I was prepared to answer the charges once I was given my legal rights. A Maldivian citizen is entitled to legal counsel by law. I appealed for the state to provide me with a lawyer.

The judge refused. He stated that it was only where high profile cases were concerned that the state provided lawyers. I pointed out that according to the Maldivian constitution that all citizens are equal before the law.

I have a hearing on the 18th of this month and despite what the constitution says, I doubt the state will provide me with a lawyer because at present almost 90 percent of those facing trial are deprived of legal counsel.

I would very much appreciate if Amnesty would do their best to lend me a helping hand in countering the judiciary’s autocratic methods. The judiciary in the Maldives is a remnant from the dictatorship of Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year reign.

Yours truly

Ali Rasheed

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Former President Nasheed presented to court hearing, protesters gathered outside

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has been presented to a court hearing under police custody, following his arrest on Monday on an order issued by Hulhumale Magistrate Court.

Hundreds of protesters are gathered in the area surrounding the court. Protesters claim that the Hulhumale’ court is unlawful and are calling for Nasheed to be freed.

The arrest of Nasheed on the island of Fares-Mathoda by the police followed a decision by Nasheed’s party to ignore two previous summons and a travel ban issued by the court, which the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) contend has no legitimacy under the 2008 Constitution. The matter is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.

Excessive force used in arrest: Amnesty

International human rights NGO Amnesty International has stated that the Maldives Police Services (MPS) used “excessive force” during the arrest of Nasheed.

The statement noted eyewitness accounts of the police vandalising the house of former Minister of Housing and Environment Mohamed Aslam, where Nasheed was staying at the time of arrest. It also highlighted accounts of attacks against supporters outside the residence who were exercising their right to protest peacefully.

Regarding the case against Nasheed, the statement further says that although it is “positive” that the Maldivian authorities are investigating the case, the organisation is concerned that the human rights violations during the 30 year presidency of Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom and those that have occurred since Mohamed Waheed Hassan assumed office in February 2012 were being ignored.

“Investigations into past abuses are always welcome. However, accountability must not be selective – all authorities including former presidents should be held accountable for human rights violations. The focus on human rights violations during only Nasheed’s presidency appears politically motivated,” said Amnesty International’s Researcher on Maldives Abbas Faiz.

Arrest was carried out “very professionally”: police

Police have released a statement claiming that police officers acted “very professionally” in bringing Nasheed into police custody.

The statement says that the police had initially requested Nasheed to hand himself over to the police. According to the police, officers broke down the door of the room Nasheed was in and detained him after he failed to respond to the initial commands. The statemen claims that this is the general course of action used by police in similar situations.

The police denied that any officers used offensive language or that any physical or that psychological trauma was caused to anyone during the arrest.

The statement further notes that from the time Nasheed was brought to the Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre last night, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the Police Integrity Commission have been provided with the opportunity to observe the proceedings of the operation to arrest Nasheed.

Police have also stated that Nasheed is allowed access to legal counsel and family under the arranged regulations.

“No chance of a fair trial”

The MDP has claimed there is no chance of a fair trial in the Maldives for former President Nasheed, and Nasheed’s legal team have complained about the “extraordinary way” the trial is being conducted.

President Nasheed’s legal team said they had not received official notifications from the court about trial dates., and were instead learning this information from local media reports.

“Moreover, in an unprecedented move, the Judicial Services Commission, which includes President Nasheed’s political rivals (such as resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim), have hand-picked a panel of three magistrates to oversee the case, whose names have been kept secret. This is in breach of normal practice and in violation of the Judicature Act,” the party stated.

“The coup has not been fully completed,” said MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor. “There is no point bringing President Nasheed down in a police mutiny if he then goes on to win presidential elections 18 months later. To ensure its survival, Mr Waheed’s regime needs to remove President Nasheed from the political equation and that is precisely what they intend to do.”

He noted that the UN Human Rights Committee, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, FIDH, and the Commonwealth had all have expressed concern over the independence and competence of the Maldivian judiciary and called for reform.

Police used force despite Nasheed not showing resistance: Aslam

Former Minister of Housing and Environment, who had accompanied Nasheed on the police boat along with MDP MPs Imthiyaz Fahmy and Ilyas Labeeb, told Minivan News on Monday that Nasheed had not shown any resistance to being arrested, but the police had used undue force in the arrest.

Aslam further said that the police had forced themselves into the house, damaging property in the process. He further said that the police had “pushed around” people inside the house.

In addition to riot guns, Aslam also alleged that police had been carrying firearms.

“We also later on knew that they had pistols. I don’t know what sort of pistols they were. But we saw them packing them away after escorting us on to the boat,” Aslam said.

MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik gave a press briefing following a visit to Nasheed in Dhoonidhoo on Tuesday afternoon, stating that the former president was being kept in detention outside of the normal systems and deprived of his freedoms. He said that he condemned the police treating Nasheed “like a convicted criminal”.

No force used after Nasheed was brought to Dhoonidhoo: PIC

Police Integrity Commission (PIC)’s Vice President Abdullah Waheed confirmed Tuesday that a three member team had visited Dhoonidhoo on Monday night following Nasheed’s transfer to the detention centre.

Speaking to Minivan News, Waheed said that observers had not accompanied the police who had travelled to FaresMathoda to arrest Nasheed, but had stayed at Dhoonidhoo from the time he was brought until midnight.

“During their visit to Dhoonidhoo, our team did not see any force being used against Nasheed,” Waheed said.

“We have not received any complaints from anyone alleging anything was done wrong by police during Nasheed’s arrest,” Waheed said, adding that the commission only looked into matters when an official complaint was filed.

Vice President of Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Tholal confirmed to Minivan News that himself and the President of HRCM Mariyam Azra had made a visit to Dhoonidhoo last night in relation to Nasheed’s arrest.

He said that more information could be provided following a commission members meeting, but did not respond to calls later.


CNI report “turning point for the Maldives to leave the past behind”: McKinnon

The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, has described the report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) as a “turning point for the country to leave the past behind and move forward.”

The report, focused on the events of February 6 to 8, claimed there was no evidence to support allegations by former President Mohamed Nasheed that he was ousted in a coup d’état, that his resignation was under duress, or that there was any mutiny by the police and military. It also urges action be taken against police for human rights abuses committed on February 6-8.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed accepted the report, subject to reservations, but criticised it as leaving the Maldives “in a very awkward, and in many ways, very comical” situation, “where toppling the government by brute force is taken to be a reasonable course of action. All you have to do find is a narrative for that course of action.”

In a statement, McKinnon said “The Commission’s report provides key recommendations on issues that need to be addressed to strengthen democratic practice in Maldives. I am heartened to hear the commitment of the government to take forward key reforms to strengthen democratic institutions.”

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel has meanwhile said responsibility for investigating and taking action against police lay with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).

However President of the PIC Shahinda Ismail has publicly expressed concern over the commission toothlessness.

Article 44 of the Police Act states that any parties handed recommendations by the PIC can choose not to act on them if they inform the commission of the decision in writing.

“[Jameel] is not really bound by the act,” Ismail said, stating that this clause had already resulted in the Home Minister ignoring recommendations forwarded to him.

The PIC chair gave the example of a case involving police officer Ali Ahmed, whom she said had been adjudged unfit to continue to serve by the commission. Shahinda claimed the case had been forwarded to the Home Minister.

“I know for a fact he is still a policeman and was promoted after this incident” she said.

“It is really upsetting – a huge concern – for me that the police leadership is showing a trend where unlawful officers are acting with impunity. This can only lead to further violence.”

Amnesty International – which has published its own report into police brutality and human rights violations of February 6-8 – echoed Ismail’s concerns. The report was slammed by Home Minister Jameel as “biased” and “one-sided”.

“Government officials have frequently shrugged off their own responsibility to address human rights violations, saying it is the purview of the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) and the PIC,” said Amnesty’s researcher in the Maldives, Abbas Faiz.

“Without an end to – and accountability for – these human rights violations, any attempt at political reconciliation in the Maldives will be meaningless,” Faiz said.

In his statement, McKinnon urged that “Democracy is not just the responsibility of the government, but also of every institution and all citizens. Democracy is not a destination, but a journey. I hope that every institution, political party and individual citizen will make it their business to be part of that journey.”

The Maldives meanwhile remains on the agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the international body’s democracy and human rights arm. The matter is expected to be reviewed at the group’s meeting on September 28-29.


Police deny pepper-spraying Nasheed, “urge MDP to publish statements responsibly”

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) is to investigate the pepper-spraying of former President Mohamed Nasheed by police during a protest on July 14.

A video of the incident shows a riot police officer reaching over a crowd of people surrounding Nasheed and spraying him in the face. Nasheed turns away as the spray hits him, and is taken away by his supporters, but later returned to the protest.

“Maldives Police did not use any excessive force nor was pepper spray directed to anyone’s face,” police said in a statement.

“The Maldives Police strongly denies MDP allegations of directly pepper spraying on individuals eyes at close range, especially ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, and urge the Maldivian Democratic Party to publish statements responsibly,” police said.

Police admitted using the spray to control the crowd during their recovery of barricades removed by the demonstrators, but have denied intentionally targeting the former President.

“Pepper spray was used to halt the charging demonstrators on July 14th night against police barricades set for security reasons. This spraying was never in any case directed to human eyes in close range but into the air to avert possible regulation violations by demonstrators,” the statement read.

“The allegations made by the Maldivian Democratic Party against Maldives Police pepper spraying directly on Ex-president Nasheed’s face is not true. The Maldives Police Service have no intentions on directly pepper spraying on Ex-President Mohamed Nasheed nor any other individuals; however, the incident is currently being looked into and necessary actions will be taken against any officer who uses excessive force.”

Police also appealed the demonstrators “not to rage in violence and not use any loudspeakers as the unfriendly circumstance by the demonstrators went deep into the night.”

Asked to clarify the circumstances under which pepper spray was used on demonstrators, Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef referred Minivan News to the police statement.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have meanwhile condemned the “cowardly” pepper spraying of their leader, alleging that the Special Operations officers sought out the former President and deliberately sprayed him.

“Nasheed is a former president and the security services are legally responsible for his security,” the party said in a statement.

The incident had “further destroyed public confidence in police”, the MDP stated, and was “an attempt to create chaos and incite protesters to violence.”

The MDP’s Parliamentary group leader, MP Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih, said the party would submit the matter to parliament’s national security committee.

“Police should be mindful of maintaining their authority and integrity at a time when confidence in the police institution has been undermined,” Solih told local media.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding at time of press.


Amnesty “deeply concerned” over continued police repression of protesters

Amnesty International has called on the Maldives government to halt the use of excessive force against demonstrators, and urged the international community to continue closely monitoring the situation.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Amnesty said it “condemns the excessive use of force by police personnel and urges the Maldives government to ensure a full and impartial investigation is conducted into such attacks. “

Amnesty urged the Commonwealth and UN “to monitor the situation very closely and press the government to ensure people can fully realise their right to protest freely.”

Amnesty’s statement follows its investigation of the police crackdown on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest against the extrajudicial dismantling of the MDP’s Usfasgandu protest site on May 29 – a crackdown which included “beatings, pepper-spraying, and arrests. Those attacked include peaceful demonstrators, members of parliament, journalists and bystanders.”

Amnesty said that despite police claims to have used “the minimum required force to dismantle the area and arrest unruly demonstrators”, “it is clear that by far the majority of demonstrators were not using violence, and any such incidents cannot be used by police as an attempt to justify the ill-treatment of bystanders and those rallying peacefully.”

“Amnesty International believes that the police response to the demonstrations on 29 May was a clear example of excessive use of force.”

Amnesty’s statement included testimony from a number of protesters, noting that the latest reports “are consistent with many other testimonies Amnesty International has gathered previously. “

“One woman protesting peacefully in Majeedee Magu Street told Amnesty International that police officers suddenly pushed into them, and hit her and other peaceful demonstrators with their riot shields. Police hit them repeatedly on their back, and then pepper-sprayed them, aiming at their face and eyes. She said that police grabbed one demonstrator by the neck, shouted at him to open his mouth, and sprayed directly into his mouth,” the human rights organisation reported.

“Police also beat bystanders who showed no signs of violence. An eyewitness saw a man sitting on a stationary motorbike taking no active part in the demonstrations. Police went for him and hit him on his head with their batons. He lost consciousness. His friends took him to a nearby house where they arranged private medical treatment for him – they did not take him to hospital straight away as they were afraid he would be arrested.”

Mana Haleem, the wife of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem, was among those detained.

“She was walking home with her female friend in Majeedee Magu Street when police stopped them and began beating them repeatedly with their batons on their arms, back and hips before taking them in a van to the police station,” Amnesty stated.

“In her testimony Mana Haleem says: ‘I asked why we were being held, but received no answer. Later, they [police] told us it was because we had not obeyed their orders. We asked them how we could have disobeyed their orders if they had not given any, but they were not interested. I have bruises on my shoulder, my back and my hip.’”

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy was also arrested: “he said police in Dhoonidhoo told him he was arrested for ‘disrupting peace’. The next day, in court, police stated that he had been detained for ‘physically attacking a woman police officer,’” Amnesty stated.

The organisation called on countries supplying police and military equipment to the Maldives, particularly pepper-spray, to ensure that the substance was not being used to commit human rights violations.

“Any country that knowingly supplies police or military equipment to a force that uses them to commit human rights violations is itself partly responsible for those violations,” Amnesty warned.

“Amnesty International is calling on the government of Maldives to halt attacks on peaceful demonstrators including beating and pepper-spraying; bring to justice any police personnel who have used excessive force; ensure that security forces in the Maldives receive comprehensive training on what constitutes human rights violations, which they should not commit.”

In response to Amnesty International’s statement, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza observed that “there has always been a problem with police brutality in the Maldives, during the past three years as well.”

“We recognise the need to improve, but for this we need political stability and the MDP is not providing that,” he said, noting that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) existed to hear such complaints.


Prominent blogger Hilath Rasheed in critical condition after stabbing

Prominent Maldivian blogger and journalist Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed is in a critical condition after he was stabbed in the neck near his house in Male’ on Monday evening.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that Rasheed was stabbed around 8:15pm and was undergoing emergency treatment in ADK hospital.

No arrests have been made, “however there is CCTV in the area and we are trying to get something on it,” Haneef stated.

Police had cordoned off the area around the blood-stained pavement at time of press. There was on Monday evening no indication as to the motivation of the attack.

An informed source at ADK hospital said Rasheed was bleeding but conscious when he was brought to the hospital, and that he was expected to remain in surgery until 2:30am.

“They slit his throat clean through the trachea, and missed a vital artery by millimetres,” the source said, around 11:30pm, giving Rasheed a “five percent chance …  It doesn’t look good.”

Early on Tuesday morning the source reported that Rasheed’s condition had stabilised: “He’ll be in intensive care for a couple of days. He’s breathing through a tube now.”

Sub-Inspector Haneef said a second individual was stabbed in the back at 11:00pm near Male’s garbage dump and had been taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in a critical condition. Local media reported that the victim was believed to be a Bangladeshi national.

Second attack

Rasheed, a once outspoken blogger against extremism and former editor of newspaper Haveeru, was previously attacked by a group of men on December 10, 2011 – Human Rights Day – while attending a protest calling for religious tolerance.

A group of men attacked the protesters with stones, and Rasheed was taken to IGMH with a fractured skull.

He was subsequently arrested by police for questioning over his involvement in the protest gathering, and jailed for over three weeks.

Amnesty International declared him a ‘prisoner of conscience’, and said it was “dismayed that instead of defending Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed, who has peacefully exercised his right to freedom of the expression, the government of Maldives has detained him. Moreover, the government has taken no action to bring to justice those who attacked the ‘silent’ demonstrators, even though there is credible photographic evidence of the attack.”

The Foreign Ministry subsequently called for an investigation “by relevant authorities” into the attack on the protest.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned both the December 10 attack on Rasheed and his arrest, noting that he was not only one of the country’s leading free speech advocates, but one of the few Maldivians bloggers to write under his own name.

“The Maldivian constitution bans the promotion of any religion other than Islam but guarantees freedom of assembly and expression as long as it does not contravene Islam. Rasheed professes to be an adherent of Sufism, which emphasises the inner, spiritual dimension of Islam,” RSF stated at the time.

Censored blogger

Rasheed’s popular and controversial blog,, was blocked in November 2011 by the Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The Ministry made the request on the grounds that the site contained anti-Islamic material, CAM confirmed at the time.

Hilath claimed he was being censored for expressing his version of Islam, and called for more freedom of interpretation within the faith.

“I call upon all concerned to amend the clause in the constitution which requires all Maldivians to be Sunni Muslims only,” his statement read. “‘Unto you your religion and unto me my religion,’ and ‘There is no compulsion in religion’,” he said, quoting Qur’an 109:6 and 2:256.

Hilath claimed at the time that the blocking of his website had a political edge: “If Sunni Muslims are the conservatives, then the Sufi Muslims are the liberals,” he told Minivan News. “I think this is a conservative attack on the site. They think if you’re not a Sunni, you’re an unbeliever.”

Following the blocking of his blog and his attack in December, Rasheed became less outspoken on the subject of religion and withdrew from the public spotlight.

On May 12 he tweeted his intention to stop blogging altogether, and stated that he had “repented and am now a Muslim. But a very tolerant one at that.”


Amnesty condemns use of excessive force on demonstrators, following police raid on protest

Amnesty International has condemned the use of excessive force by police against 300 Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters in the Lonuziyaarai Kolhu (tsunami monument area) early on March 7.

The MDP yesterday accused police of attacking demostrators and vandalising the ongoing protest, after they pursued a group of youths to the area suspected of vandalism and threatening police.

During the raid on the MDP camp, “at least six protesters were injured, some seriously, when combined police and military officers attacked around 300 MDP protesters – part of a wider pattern of attacks, documented by Amnesty, on supporters of the political party of the ousted former President Mohamed Nasheed,” the human rights group said in a statement.

One of the victims told Amnesty “[the police] grabbed hold of my hair and pulled me up, shouting they would teach me a lesson for demonstrating against the new President.”

Among the six protesters injured was a 16 year-old boy who was placed in the custody of the Child Protection Unit, said Amnesty. The organisation was refused permission to visit him.

“People who were peacefully exercising their right to protest were beaten on the head with batons, kicked and sprayed with pepper spray. This use of excessive force violates human rights standards,” said Amnesty International’s researcher Abbas Faiz, who is documenting the human rights situation in Maldives.

“The Maldives authorities must clearly announce, and demonstrate, that they do not tolerate retaliatory raids by the police against protesters. Police and military must not act outside the law,” Faiz said.

“When police officers act like political opponents towards demonstrators, they erode respect for the rule of law and cast doubt on their impartiality as officers of justice,” he added.

Amnesty called on police to make public the number of people who had required medical treatment following their arrest.

“Credible sources have told Amnesty that the police and military arrested more than a dozen people during their raid on the MDP rally. They arrested some more people in the hospital after they had gone to receive medical treatment for their injuries. The detainees were taken to police detention centres in Malé, and were later transferred to Dhoonidhoo, an island close to Malé which is the main detention centre.”

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam yesterday told Minivan News that police had pursued a group of young men armed with knives, who had vandalised police stations and threatened officers before retreating to the MDP protest area.

Police stopped at the edge of the open area and requested backup, but by the time it arrived word had spread that police were about to raid the protest site and MDP supporters had arrived to protect the area.

“When police entered the [camp] to arrest the suspects forcefully, everyone in the area became hostile to police. There was a huge confrontation,” Shiyam said added.

“This was a very serious thing and we are sad that it happened,” Shiyam said. “We have no interest in doing anything [to the MDP camp], and we don’t want to have a confrontation. But people are coming out of the area, committing acts of violence, and going back there to hide, which is not something to be accepted.”

Elements of the police and military were complicit in the ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who contends that he was forced to resign by security forces “under duress” in a bloodless coup.


Amnesty condemns violent MNDF attack on a group of “peaceful women protesters” in Addu

Amnesty International has condemned attacks on a group of women in Addu Atoll by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), after obtaining testimonies from victims of a crackdown on demonstrators at a rally during the recent visit to the MDP stronghold by new President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“The 20 women were ahead of a crowd of about 70 when the police stopped them, saying they had been ordered not to allow Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters in. The women wore the yellow headbands usually donned by MDP members,” Amnesty reported,  in a statement published on Tuesday.

“The demonstrators halted their march and began to chant slogans against President Waheed, who was making his speech a couple of hundred metres away.

“They were then attacked by an army contingent which has been deployed alongside police in recent weeks.

“Army personnel arrived from a side alley behind the women, who were then caught between them and the police line.

“Separated from the rest of the demonstrators, the 20 were charged by soldiers who wielded batons and used pepper spray, pushed them around, and kicked them on their legs and ribs.

“Detailed testimonies from the [group of 20 women] revealed no evidence of the [female] protesters being involved in any act of violence.”

A woman with a sprained arm

“As the rest of the protesters ran away, army and police personnel chased them, allegedly beating anyone they caught.”

Security forces clashed with other demonstrators during the chase and a policeman was reportedly injured by a thrown stone, Amnesty noted.

Security personnel reportedly then entered the MDP office in Hitadhoo, where more than a dozen other women protesters had run for shelter.

“They chased the women into the storage room of the building and began to beat them,” Amnesty reported.

“Amnesty International learned that one woman had her arm twisted and sprained when MNDF soldiers grabbed her. They then took her glasses off, forced her to open her eye and sprayed it with pepper spray. She said they pressed her against the wall and kicked her with their boots.

“Another woman said that they began to beat her on her breast, repeatedly shouting they would see to it that she does not breast feed again.

“A third woman showed her badly bruised arm where she said that soldiers had severely and repeatedly beaten her.”

Amnesty noted that both sides had blamed each other for promoting violence, and that human rights in the Maldives “have become heavily politicised.”

“During clashes between the MDP supporters and security forces on 8 February, up to 10 buildings, including police headquarters and a court building, were burnt down in Addu city, an MDP stronghold,” Amnesty observed.

“The government has blamed MDP supporters for the destruction. Scores of people were detained in Addu following the 8 February clashes and were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in custody.”

“Police have continued to deny torturing the detainees or using excessive force against MDP protesters.”

In a press statement following the attacks, police dismissed the allegations as “lies” and said that the police only stopped the demonstrators who attempted to break into the area blocked by the security forces.