Police stopped election illegally, in violation of constitution: Human Rights Commission

Police blocked the Elections Commission (EC) from conducting the re-vote of the presidential election on October 19 in contravention of the constitution, the Police Act, and the Elections Act, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has said.

The commission said in a press statement yesterday (October 22) that it had replied to a letter sent by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) seeking to clarify which laws the police had violated and whether its claims on local media that police stopped the election were based on an investigation.

Police said on their website on Monday (October 21) that claims of the police acting outside their law enforcement mandate were “misleading” and were made “without considering the truth of the matter at all.”

The HRCM said in its reply that an investigation had been launched “immediately” upon learning that police had obstructed the EC on the morning of October 19 – an hour before polls were due to open.

The commission’s staff went to the EC offices, made inquiries and sought information from the EC secretary general as well as police officers.

“It was established with certainty through the commission’s inquiries that [police] stopped the Elections Commission from taking anything out [of its office],” HRCM said.

Announcing the cancellation of the polls on October 19, the EC said in a statement that its staff were told by police officers that “no document relating to the election can leave the commission’s offices”.

As HRCM deputy chair, Ahmed Tholal, was unable to contact the police focal point until 11:45am despite repeated calls. The commission’s letter dismissed as “false” the police’s contention that the HRCM’s condemnation in the media was made “without any consideration [of the facts].”

The HRCM also revealed that Acting Home Minister Ahmed Shafeeu told the commission that police had “acted upon an order given to them”.

Moreover, the HRCM noted that “the police stand” was made clear in a press conference by Chief Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz on the morning of October 19, in which he said that the police decided not to provide cooperation to the EC as it had not followed the 16-point guidelines imposed by the Supreme Court judgment that annulled the September 7 election.

Following the HRCM statement, former President Mohamed Nasheed tweeted today that he believes the prosecutor general should prosecute Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz for blocking the re-scheduled vote.

Appearing before the parliamentary Security Services ‘241’ Committee on Monday, Riyaz had however denied that police had blocked the election, insisting that the MPS only refused to provide security and cooperation.

Constitution and laws

The HRCM statement meanwhile listed the articles of the constitution and relevant laws that the police violated by obstructing the EC.

By blocking the election, the police “deprived all Maldivian citizens of the right to vote stated in article 26 of the constitution”.

Police also prevented the EC from carrying out its constitutionally mandated duties specified in article 170, which states that the powers and responsibilities of the commission include conducting, managing, supervising and facilitating all elections and public referendums, ensuring the proper exercise of the right to vote, and ensuring that “all elections and public referendums are conducted freely and fairly, without intimidation, aggression, undue influence or corruption.”

Consequently, the HRCM contended, “the Maldives Police Service on October 19, 2013 robbed the Elections Commission of its legal status”.

The commission noted that article 237 specifies the responsibilities of the security services as protecting the nation’s sovereignty, maintaining its territorial integrity, defending the constitution and democratic institutions, enforcing law and order, and rendering assistance in emergencies.

The HRCM argued that the proper role of the police on election day should be “acting upon the advice and consultation” of the EC to prevent the possible intimidation or aggression referred to in article 170.

Relevant laws, MoUs, and Supreme Court guidelines

The HRCM further contended that police violated article 7 of the Police Act (Dhivehi) by obstructing the election and “blocking the basic right of citizens to vote” as the law states that police must respect and protect the fundamental rights of citizens in the performance of duties.

Moreover, since article 13 of the police law states that police powers and discretions are derived from and restricted by the constitution, relevant laws and regulations, and court orders, the HRCM stated that on October 19 police acted “outside the bounds of the law and without a court order to stop the election”.

While police claimed that security and cooperation was withdrawn because the EC breached point five of the Supreme Court guidelines, “as point five of the guidelines does not definitively order the Maldives Police Service to do or not do anything, this commission believes that the police violated the aforementioned guidelines.”

As the Elections Act does not authorise any institution “to exert influence or power” over the EC’s work, the HRCM letter stated that police obstructed the EC in violation of the election law and “in a way that undermines the independence of the Elections Commission guaranteed by the constitution.”

The HRCM also noted that police breached the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the MPS and EC on September 3, which specified the role of the police in assisting the EC with election-related security.

As police were asked to maintain security and provide protection to the EC, the MoU “under no circumstances gave the power to police to obstruct the Elections Commission.”

The HRCM also argued that police contravened the Supreme Court guidelines as the first point ordered the EC and all state institutions to ensure that the first round of the presidential election was held by October 20.


Chief suspect in Afrasheem case changes testimony, confesses to MP’s murder

The chief suspect in the MP Dr Afrasheem Ali murder case has confessed to the crime in Criminal Court today, after previously denying his involvement in the attack earlier this month.

Hussain Humam, of Male’s Henveiru Lobby, told the court today (May 22) that he carried out the fatal attack on Afrasheem with the help of Ali Shan of Male’s Henveiru Hikost, and that the juvenile suspect in the case was also present.

Earlier this month, Humam confessed in court to multiple stabbings, robberies and at least one murder, but denied murdering the MP.

State prosecutors told the court that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA was found on the jeans Humam was wearing that night, local media reported.

During the court hearing today, Humam was given the opportunity to respond to the evidence produced against him.

Humam told the judge that “now that this is very clear I have nothing to say.” When the judge queried as to whether he was confessing, Humam replied “yes”.

The prosecution lawyers produced the statement Humam gave on December 7, 2012, when he was brought before the court to extend his pre-trial detention period, the statement given by the minor arrested in connection with the case, evidence supporting that Humam went to Dr Afrasheem’s house that night, evidences of Humam’s attack and evidence that Dr Afrasheem died of injuries caused to his body from the attack.

The prosecution told the court that the statement given by the minor and the statement given by Humam on December 7 matched the evidence, and told the court that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA samples were obtained from the jeans worn by Humam the night of Dr Afrasheem’s death.

The prosecution also said that there were witnesses who wanted to testify in court that they had learned Humam and a group of people had planned to murder Dr Afrasheem. The lawyers requested the judge keep the witnesses statements closed to the public.

When the judge asked Humam for his response was, he replied that he had already spoken of how Dr Afrasheem’s murder was carried out, and requested the judge to read out his statement given on December 7.

Humam then said that the idea of killing Dr Afrasheem was given to him by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer Azleef Rauf, who he met at the a baibalaa tournament held in 2012.

He said that at the baibalaa tournament Azleef had asked him not to get arrested, and that night sent him to pick up a kilogram of drugs from the airport that were smuggled in to the country by a Pakistani man. He said he dropped the drugs off to the house where a person he identified as ‘Mukkar’ lived.

Humam said he did it because Azleef had told him he would get half of the profit from selling it.

He said he was later sent by Azleef to Velidhoo island in Noonu Atoll to sell drugs, but the drugs they took did not sell and so he took it himself with a group of friends on the island.

Humam said he stayed on Velidhoo for three weeks and came back to Male’ on September 25, after Azleef called and asked him to come back.

According to Humam, after he came to Male’ he was invited to a coffee with Azleef, Javid and his brother ‘Jana’, where Azleef said that “I promise you will get MVR4 million if you murder Dr Afrasheem,” to which Javid’s brother ‘Jana’ replied “yes you will.”

Humam told the court that later he had met with a person called ‘Spy’ and Azleef where he asked them why he had to attack Afrasheem.

He said that they replied that one of the reasons they had to get rid of Dr Afrasheem was the remarks he made the day former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned.

Humam said Azleef had provided him with an identity card and money to buy SIM cards and mobile phones.

According to Humam, during that meeting ‘Spy’ and Azleef told him that they would meet again after Afrasheem had been murdered.

He said that on the evening of October 1, the night Afrasheem was killed, he went near the MP’s house to take a look after Azleef had asked him to do so.

The weapons and tools used in the attack were hidden in the house of a person called ‘Nangi’, Humam said.

He said he called ‘Nangi’ that night and asked him and Ali Shan [the second suspect charged with the murder] to come to his house.

When Shan and Humam went to Nangi’s house he came out with a big black dustbin bag which had jeans, tshirts, gloves, a machete and a bayonet knife.

The three of them went to the Henveiru park, got changed inside the park, and walked to Dr Afrasheem’s house. Humam said he waited inside the house for Shan to signal, who was waiting outside.

He said after a while Shan came inside and told him that Afrasheem was on the way, and 10 seconds later Afrasheem entered the house.

He said he then attacked Afrasheem with the machete and he felt to the ground, and then Shan came and attacked him with the bayonet knife.

Humam said he left the scene with Shan on a motorbike and stopped at the Shaheed Ali Mosque to wash his hands because he had blood on his jeans and tshirt.

He said he then went back to Henveiru Park and got changed again, and went to the Blue Bay Café where he again washed his hands.

Then he went inside the Henveiru Football ground to lie down, where he fell asleep and woke up the next morning when Azleef called him.

He said he walked out of the football ground to the near the State Bank of India, where he was arrested.

Humam said he had not received any amount of money from the murder, but said Azleef told him that he had received MVR1 million in advance.

He said he had seen himself hanged in his dreams and had talked about this to police officers. He also confessed that he had sent notes to Azleef through people released from pre-trial detention, and had tried to produce evidence in his defence.

Humam stated that on Ocotber 1, he spent the whole day drinking alcohol and smoking hash oil and did not go home after 3:00pm. He said that he finished four bottles of alcohol and smoked lots of hash.

He said he initially denied to the charges before thinking about what might happen to his family. But he said now wished to apologise to Dr Afrasheem’s family and repent.

When the Judge asked if there was anything else he would like to say, he said he would like to request the judge not sentence him to death.

MP Afrasheem was stabbed to death on the night of October 1 2012. His body was discovered by his wife at the bottom of the stairs of their apartment building shortly after midnight.

Humam’s next court hearing date has not yet been decided, Criminal Court Spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Manik told Minivan News today.

“A lot of procedures need to be completed prior to Humam’s next hearing,” said Manik. “Afrasheem’s family will be brought in to see what they want [in regard to whether they call for Humam to receive the death penalty].”

Shan’s Criminal Court case has yet to start.

It is unclear whether police intend to make additional arrests in light of Humam’s allegations.

Given that the investigation process is ongoing, the police will “reveal information as it progresses,” a police spokesperson told Minivan News today.

Earlier this May, the Juvenile Court sentenced a minor arrested in connection with Dr Afrasheem Ali’s murder to eight months imprisonment after the court found him guilty of misleading the police investigation.

Police Commissioner Abdullah Riyaz has previously claimed the child “deliberately misled” police by providing false information during their investigation into Afrasheem’s murder. The minor was the “lookout” during the stabbing and subsequent murder of the moderate Islamic scholar, Riyaz had alleged on December 4.

Rauf and Javid were also previously detained by police over their alleged involvement in the case. Both were later released by the court.

Javid spent 45 days in detention in connection to the Afrasheem murder, after which time at the time his lawyer argued his continued detention was unconstitutional given there was no evidence to support keeping him in custody.

On the day of Javid’s release (January 17), his brother Shahin Mohamed was taken away “without any warning” by police whilst waiting with Javid’s family outside of the court. Mohamed was released from police custody three hours after he was taken away by police.

In December last year the MDP accused the police of attempting to pin Afrasheem’s murder on its members, instead of going after those guilty of the crime.

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has previously alleged that the murder of the MP was “well planned” and worth MVR 4 million (US$260,000), the same amount stated by Humam in court.

Humam’s confession closely follows a statement from the UN team in the Maldives calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

At the same time, a US State Department report into religious freedom released earlier this week noted that one of the “more prominent theories” about the murder of moderate Islamic scholar and parliamentarian Afrasheem Ali was “that violent extremists viewed Afrasheem’s very public moderate approach to Islam as apostasy and killed him to send a message to moderate Muslims that a strict interpretation of Islam is the only acceptable approach.”


Comment: “Unprofessional police action” will not turn the tide of public resentment

Former Director of Police Intelligence Sabra Noordeen was arrested yesterday (March 16) upon arriving at Male’ International Airport. She was handcuffed for transportation to Dhonidhoo prison on charges of “inciting violence” against police officers on March 5 this year.

She was then taken to Male’ instead, and released “with no reason given at the time”. Her passport was confiscated. Here she shares her experience and concerns about “intimidation” of members of the public by the Maldives Police Service.

I arrived in Male’ at 9.35pm last night. I made my way to immigration and was glad to see a familiar face behind the counter, an immigration officer who I’d played football with occasionally. I handed over my passport for her to process and she scanned it through.

“I’ve been asked to stop you, it says I have to stop you,” she said to me.

“You’re joking,” I responded. With the recent political upheaval in the country.  I thought she was making fun of me.

She was in fact very serious. Another immigration officer came over, and responded to me about why I was being stopped and which watch list they were referring to. He said they had to confiscate my passport due to a court order, and that it was the Maldives Police Service’s request. He told me I could collect my bag and return to the counter.

It was then that I contacted my family about what was happening. I had been on the same flight as three lawyers and the head of [private broadcaster] Raajje TV. I requested their assistance from the arrivals terminal, and they immediately joined me at the counter, with the immigration officer and a police officer who was on duty at the airport.

The police officer said I had to accompany him to the Tourist Police station at the airport. At the station, they only had a court order to hold my passport. As we were getting ready to leave the station, we were told that a court order for my arrest was on the way, and we were asked to sit down.

When I was given the court order for my arrest, I think I laughed. The reason for the arrest was “inciting violence against the police and obstructing police duty”, on March 5 on Majeedee Magu.

They had also managed to incorrectly state my gender as male!

This very thorough court order was issued based on the evidence of a Police eyewitness and a Police officer’s statement.

I was told that female officers from Male’ were on their way to the airport to arrest me and escort me to Dhoonidhoo detention centre. We waited for 45 minutes. Despite the ‘change in leadership’ at the MPS, it seemed there were still only two functioning speedboats in Male’ atoll.

Two female Special Operations officers arrived in blue camouflage uniforms – both were without name tags.

I was handcuffed and made to walk through the airport to the jetty where the Police vessel was yet to arrive.

My loyalty to the institution that is the Maldives Police Service is hard to get rid of.  This is despite the direction that rogue officers forcefully took the institution in with the Police-led mutiny and coup d’etat on 7, February 2012.

One of the officers told me that it was procedure to be handcuffed while on the vessel on the way to Dhoonidhoo. I protested, trying to remember the procedures I had read while working in MPS.

They did not uncuff me, even when they put on the life jacket, which resulted in the life jacket not being fitted properly.

It was placed around my shoulders with the handcuffed arms awkwardly placed in one of the sleeves. I said to her, ‘if something happens, there’s no way I’ll survive like this’.

“We’ll save you,” the female officer replied.

Needless to say, I was not reassured.  On the boat, I was told that I was now being taken to MPS HQ in Male’ instead of Dhoonidhoo and that they were apparently going to release me. There was no reason given at the time.

I was taken into the waiting room in HQ. I was uncuffed, and asked to wait until my release chit and summons for questioning were prepared.

My release chit stated, that they no longer believed I needed to be kept under arrest. My summons to appear for questioning on Monday afternoon was also handed over to me.

I asked why they felt it was necessary to arrest and handcuff me when they could have just served me the summons, without all the dramatics the next morning at my home. I was not given an answer.

I quit the Maldives Police Service on 8 February 2012 with a profound sense of sadness for the institution and the colleagues I left behind. I do not believe that everyone in the MPS was involved in the mutiny or the coup and I do not believe in blaming everyone in a Police uniform. Many will disagree with me.

However, I do believe that MPS cannot fully gain the confidence of the public they claim to ‘protect and serve’, nor guarantee free and fair Presidential elections without significant reform.

This includes the dissolution of the Special Operations (SO) unit, holding all police officers accused of committing acts of police brutality and misconduct accountable for their actions. The removal of Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, Deputy Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Phairoosch and many other Commissioned officers who have disgraced the service is also needed right now.

Until then, unprofessional police action carried out purely for the purposes of intimidating members of the public that the political and politicised leadership of MPS feel threatened by is not going to turn the tide of public resentment against the police.

Sabra Noordeen was former Director of Police Intelligence during the Nasheed administration

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]


Police Commissioner challenges Parliament Committee to Supreme Court battle

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has declared that police officers will appear before parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) only if the Supreme Court orders police to do so.

Riyaz made the remarks in an interview given to local newspaper Haveeru.

On Tuesday, ]Riyaz sent a letter to parliament stating that he will not appear before the EOC – which has an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) majority – claiming that he had received advice from Attorney General Azima Shukoor not to do so.

In the letter, the commissioner contended that it was not in the mandate of the committee to hold police accountable. Instead, this was the responsibility of parliament’s National Security Committee – known as the 241 Committee – established under article 241 of the constitution.

Riyaz repeated his claim that the parliamentary committee was attempting to discredit the police. He alleged that the committee members were employing ‘bully-boy’ tactics rather than holding the institution accountable.

He also expressed disappointment over the committee’s decision to summon the police officer who struck a fleeing suspect on a motorbike, that led to the death of bystander Abdulla Gasim, 43.

A leaked CCTV footage showed a police officer stepping in front of the speeding motorcycle and appearing to hit the rider on the head with a baton.

The driver loses control and collides with Gasim sitting on his motorcycle just in front of the Justice Building entry, causing both to fly off their vehicles. The police officer retrieves an object from the ground and wanders away, as other police and a military officer rush to the scene. Gasim died of his injuries.

The initial police statement made no mention of police involvement in the crash.

Speaking to Haveeru, Riyaz questioned as to why the negligent officer should be summoned when Riyaz had appeared before the committee on his behalf.

“I have already appeared before the committee and had answered all the questions on behalf of the police, and even the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has released its report on the incident. What is the purpose of summoning the officer who used the baton?” he questioned. “The purpose is very clear. The purpose, I believe, is to discredit the police institution. They can’t do that under my watch. I am sorry,”

Riyaz claimed that the decision not to cooperate with the parliamentary select committee was made after he observed members of the committee using “foul language” towards police, calling them “unpleasant names” and asking them “unnecessary questions”.

He added that  advice from the attorney general was sought after the committee had turned itself into “a platform to harass the police”.

“After we got the advise from the attorney general, myself and other police officers have now decided not to appear before this committee. If [the committee members] want to change that, they would have to go to the Supreme Court,” he claimed.

Riyaz stated that if the Supreme Court ordered police to appear before the committee, they would adhere to the order.

“My responsibility is to assure the safety and protection to the people. That responsibility falls onto the shoulders of the police. I will not give the opportunity to anyone to harass and intimidate police officers of different ranks. That is why we sought a legal mandate to not appear before the committee,” he explained.

Meanwhile, chair of the EOC Ali Waheed said that even if the commissioner had decided to boycott the committee using the attorney general’s advice as an excuse, the committee did not feel obligated to seek counter-advice.

The Thoddoo MP noted that the Supreme Court had previously ruled that  parliament committees can summon anyone and that until now, Riyaz and other government officials had accepted this fact and attended parliament committees as requested.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled both the Police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) should be answerable to parliament and its National Security Committee whenever requested.

The Supreme Court in the ruling stated that, according to article 99 (a) and (b) of the constitution, it was clear that parliament was obliged to supervise every action of the security services and ensure their actions are within the constitution and law.

Article 99(a) of the constitution states – “[The People’s Majlis or any of its committees has the power to] summon any person to appear before it to give evidence under oath, or to produce documents. Any person who is questioned by the People’s Majlis as provided for in this Article shall answer to the best of his knowledge and ability”.

Article 99(b) states – “[The People’s Majlis or any of its committees has the power to] require any person or institution to report to it”.

However, the police commissioner contended that the Supreme Court’s ruling stated that the police should only appear before a “relevant committee” and he did not believe that police could be summoned by “just any committee”.

Speaking to Minivan News, EOC member MP Ahmed Easa dismissed Riyaz’s claims, stating that police had already lost the public’s respect and the confidence once held in the institution, and that there was “no point Riyaz talking about it now.”

“The police lost credibility among the public the day they came out on the streets, toppled an elected democratic government and brutalised the people they were supposed to defend and uphold,” he said at the time.

He also contended that the EOC had the mandate to summon any individual from the executive branch for questioning, and that this was very clearly mentioned in the parliament’s regulations and the constitution.

“If he does not believe what has been clearly set out in the laws of this country, that means he is no longer fit to be commissioner of police,” Easa said.

Abdulla Riyaz’s number was temporarily disconnected when Minivan News called for comment.


Police Commissioner says postmortems can be performed in Maldives before year’s end

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has today announced that postmortems for suspicious deaths will be carried out in the Maldives before the end of the year, reports Haveeru.

Previously, the bodies of those who died in suspicious circumstances have been sent to Sri Lanka for such procedures.

Riyaz said that conducting postmortems does not incur hefty costs and that it was only some additional equipment that was needed in order to begin conducting the procedures in 2012.

Haveeru also quoted a representative of the Islamic Ministry who confirmed the procedure’s compatibility with Islamic law.

“If the death is a suspected murder or if a person has allegedly died from a criminal act, to achieve justice a postmortem can be carried out. That is to check how the victim has sustained their injuries. But consent from the heirs is important when doing so,” Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem told Haveeru.

The announcement comes days after the brutal killing of prominent lawyer Ahmed Najeeb, the sixth murder in the country this year.