The Ministry of Home Affairs has published a list of detention centres four days after a legally-mandated deadline elapsed.
The home minister was required by the the recently passed Anti-torture Act to make public a list of prisons and detention centres where individuals are held in state custody.
The anti-torture law that came into effect on March 22 stipulated that the list must be publicised within 15 days (before April 6).
The document (Dhivehi) released last night (April 10) listed 29 detention centres, including the main prison on Maafushi island, the low-security facility on Himmafushi, the Malé jail, custodial centres in the capital and Dhoonidhoo as well as 18 police stations across the country.
An official from the home ministry told Minivan News yesterday that the delay in publishing the list was due to difficulties obtaining information from other state institutions.
Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) member Jeehan Mahmoud said it was “disheartening to know that the first violation under this act has been by the state.”
A reminder was sent to the ministry in writing before and after the deadline passed, Jeehan noted.
The HRCM would decide on a course of action following a meeting of the commission’s five members, she added.
Overall responsibility for implementing the new law was entrusted to the HRCM, which was legally empowered to take direct action against offences specified in the legislation.
The Home Ministry was also required to compile a report on the detention centres to be submitted to the HRCM within seven days of publishing the list.
Article 23(g)(3) of the act states that the penalty for failing to submit the report would be imprisonment of between one to three years.
Criminal offences specified in the law are to be investigated by the commission and forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office for prosecution.
Jeehan said the commission was monitoring the deadlines and would take action against violations, declining to comment on the possibility of pressing criminal charges against Home Minister Umar Naseer, who is currently overseas.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Eva Abdulla – who submitted the bill to parliament – said it was “not surprising that a government controlled by the Gayoom family would be hesitant, even reticent to implement anti-torture legislation.”
Eva stressed that the law should be implemented on schedule in order to address the resurgence of custodial abuse.
“We are very concerned about reports of ill-treatment and physical abuse in the prisons again. The legislation needs to be implemented on schedule to address this and to address the feelings of past victims. Implementation needs to be flawless,” she said.