A coalition of NGOs have condemned the performance of the judiciary and the State for its treatment of criminal cases, especially those concerning rape.
Maldivian Detainee Network, Trasparency Maldives, Rights for All, Maldives Aid, Madulu, Democracy House, Maldives NGO Federation and Strength of Society issued a statement “condemning the increase in serious crime and the failure of the state and responsible authorities to convict those responsible for these crimes.”
The statement referred to statistics on crimes such as murder, child abuse, assault with sharp weapons, and threats to journalists and others in the media, comparing these with the number of crimes investigated by police, the number sent to the Prosecutor General’s office and the number tried in the Criminal Court.
The NGOs said the blame for the “failure to deliver justice” should not be placed on the new democratic system or human rights safeguards, “but rather [on] the unsatisfactory implementation of these systems and safeguards.”
They “note with great concern that there is not a single case of ‘rape’ in the statistics maintained by either the PG or the Criminal Court.”
Information provided by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to Transparency Maldives states that in 2009 ten cases of rape were reported to police, eight of which were investigated and five sent to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said in the instance of these rape cases, the three that had been labelled as ‘finished’ by police but were not sent to the PG were still “being checked” by police before being sent to the PG’s office.
“Sometimes we check and update information,” Shiyam said, “and there could be other documents being collected.”
Information gathered by the coalition of NGOs from the Criminal Court show zero cases under ‘rape’ were prosecuted in 2008 and 2009.
But Senior Judge at the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed said the Criminal Court had processed six cases of rape during the year.
Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem said the discrepancy was “a misunderstanding of technical terms.”
“If consent is lacking, regardless of whether or not there was intercourse, the case would fall under sexual misconduct,” he said.
Shameem said when the PG’s office received cases from the police, they decided whether or not to prosecute it depending on the evidence.
He added that the statistics from the police might “not give a clear idea” of the number of cases, as the PG’s office might prosecute for a different offence.
“For example, if police investigate a case for rape, and within the document we find evidence for battery and assault, we would prosecute both charges.”
In the document provided by the Criminal Court, 37 cases falling under the category of “sexual misconduct” are shown as being received by the court.
Of those, nine were dismissed due to lack of evidence while fourteen were tried.
Aishath Velazinee from the Judicial Service Commission said the remaining fourteen cases did not appear asdismissed or tried because they were still being processed by the court.
She said that “because rape is not a crime under the current Penal Code” cases of rape would fall under the category of “sexual misconduct”.
“The existing Penal Code is not adequate,” she noted, adding that under the new Penal Code (which is still tabled in the Parliament) rape, including spousal rape, would be considered a crime under its own category.
Rising concerns, rising crime
The coalition of NGOs said “lack of communication between the [State] authorities” was one of the “main reasons behind the recent failure to convict criminals.”
They called upon the State to “comprehensively study and identify the causes for the recent rise in crime, in particular, identify why convicted criminals are able to offend repeatedly.”
The Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM) has also recently condemned the rise in crime.
In their 2009 annual report released on 9 March 2010, they claimed the crime rates in the country had risen, and communities in the Maldives have reached a state of fear, mainly because of “failure to enforce sentences for convicts.”
The United States 2009 annual country reports on human rights, published on 11 March 2010, also expressed concern for increased violence against women in the Maldives and lack of convictions by the judiciary.
The report cited that “In 2008 the Ministry of Gender and Family released data showing an increase in the reported cases of violence against women, although NGOs believed that most cases remained unreported.”