Police used excessive force against demonstrators, says HRCM in UPR report

Police used disproportionate force against demonstrators during street protests in the aftermath of the transfer of power in February 2012, states the Human Rights Commission of Maldives’ (HRCM) Universal Period Review (UPR) report.

HRCM observed during dispersal of demonstrations [Maldives Police Service] used disproportionate force which was at times discriminatory towards political parties, excessive and disproportionate use of pepper spray at protestors, inconsistency in issuing warnings before dispersal and obstruction of media,” reads the report.

“It was evident that some demonstrators were subjected to torture at the time of arrest.”

In June 2012, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) denied allegations of police brutality by Amnesty International, which had condemned the “excessive use of force” against demonstrators.

Amnesty’s statement followed its investigation of a police crackdown on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest against the dismantling of the opposition party’s Usfasgandu protest camp on May 29 – a crackdown which included “beatings, pepper-spraying, and arrests”.

“Those attacked include peaceful demonstrators, members of parliament, journalists and bystanders,” said Amnesty.

The HRCM meanwhile recommended “action against officers who violate the laws, eliminating room for impunity.”

Last month, Attorney General Mohamed Anil told parliament that five police brutality cases from February 2012 were ongoing at court.

While it had concluded that the transfer of presidential power was constitutional, the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry had found that “there were acts of police brutality on 6, 7 and 8 February 2012 that must be investigated and pursued further by the relevant authorities.”

Anil explained that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) had investigated 45 cases of alleged police brutality and made a recommendation to the home ministry to dismiss six police officers.

After the ministry instructed police to take disciplinary action against the officers, the police disciplinary board sacked one officer.

However, the disciplinary board decided there was insufficient evidence to prove wrongdoing by the other five officers and decided not to dismiss them pending the outcome of a trial.

On February 8, 2012, thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé in a protest march after former President Mohamed Nasheed declared his resignation the previous day had come “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying police officers of the Special Operations (SO).

Following an investigation, the HRCM concluded that the heavy-handed police crackdown on the MDP walk was “brutal” and “without warning.”

Torture and prisons

The HRCM revealed in the UPR report that a total of 304 torture allegations were filed at the commission, “of which 74 allegations have been investigated from 2010 to July 2014.”

“However, none of these cases were sent to prosecution due to lack of enough evidence to prove them in a court of law,” the report stated.

On pressing issues concerning the prison system, the report highlighted “the lack of categorisation, unavailability of rehabilitation and reintegration programs, unnecessary strip‐search and disproportionate disciplinary measures towards male prisoners and minors.”

“In custodials, issue of overcrowding, handcuffing for indefinite periods, extended detention for investigation purposes and failure to collate data in a systematic way are areas suggested for improvement over the years,” the report noted.

“In the only psychiatric institution of state, despite continuous recommendations for change, geriatric patients and patients enduring mental illnesses and [persons with disabilities] are accommodated without proper categorisation. Institution for children under state care is heavily under‐staffed. Inappropriate disciplinary measures against children under de facto detention persist in most institutions sheltering juveniles.”

Gang violence and juvenile justice

The HRCM also noted that gang violence and murders “increased at an alarming rate” in recent years.

“A study shows that many of these gang related violence are linked to politicians or business persons who pay gangs to carry out violent acts. Yet, state has been unsuccessful in effectively addressing this issue. So far 21 murder cases were recorded since 2010, most of which were gang related,” the report explained.

The reasons why youth join gangs include the “search of identity and protection” and unemployment, the report noted.

“With criminal records or inability to exit gang life makes it difficult for youth to find employment, rehabilitation opportunities and remain stigmatised by society,” the report stated.

“Although, human resource, rehabilitation and support programs remain limited for proper functioning of a juvenile justice system; the lack of political will along with resource constraints impacts addressing these issues.”

Referring to new regulations on enforcing death penalty, which allow minors convicted of murder to be executed once they turn 18, the HRCM called on the state to “abolish death penalty for minors.”

“The age of criminal responsibility is 15 years and minors can be held for hadd offence,” the report explained.

“Bills such as Criminal Procedure Code, Evidence Bill and Witness Protection needs to be enacted and state is yet to establish an independent forensic institution to provide accurate information to make an impartial decision on matters concerning administration of death penalty.”

Maldives police, thugs clash with pro-democracy protesters

Riot police, protesters and thugs brutally clashed during demonstrations last night, after President Mohamed Waheed declared he would stay in power beyond the conclusion of his presidential term.

Waheed’s decision half an hour before the expiry of his term prompted people to take to the streets in Male’.

While the majority of protesters were Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, other political parties were also demonstrating to demand the constitution be upheld and Shahid be sworn in as president, a protest participant told Minivan News.

The Supreme Court on November 9 upheld its earlier ruling from October 7 stating that Waheed could remain in power past the conclusion of his term on November 11, dismissing a parliament resolution passed last week demanding the installment of the speaker after the expiry of the term.

Waheed, who received just 5.13 percent in the annulled first round vote on September 7, had previously declared that he had no intention of remaining in power “even a day after November 11”.

Prior to Waheed’s announcement, Minivan News observed large numbers of riot police assembling in Republic Square. Following Waheed’s declaration to remain in power protests immediately erupted in Male’.

About 100 protesters on foot and motorcycles had gathered in front of police barricades near Majeedia School on Sosun Magu by 11:45pm (November 10), continuously blasting vehicle horns and shouting at the Maldives Police Service (MPS), calling for Shahid to assume the presidency.

After the protesters moved the police barricades and began walking toward the People’s Majlis (Parliament), Special Operations (SO) police responded forcibly, hauling individuals from the crowd into custody, while aggressively forcing protesters back toward Sosun Magu.

Minivan News witnessed SO police pushing two young Maldivian women as well as a female Chinese photographer to clear the intersection.

Meanwhile a group of at least six police officers surrounded a male protester who was retreating back toward Sosun Magu, brutally beat him with their batons and pepper-sprayed his face at point blank range, before taking the man into custody. Another male protester on a motorcycle – who was in the process of turning to head back toward Sosun Magu – was hauled off his bike and beaten by multiple police officers.

Multiple protesters warned Minivan News to be cautious of “drunken thugs” dispersed among the crowd in a bid to incite violence.

A number of protesters alleged that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had hired gang members to act aggressive and violent, to prompt police to crackdown on the demonstrators.

“Everyone says this will continue until [former 30-year autocratic ruler] Maumoon Gayoom dies. He has too much money, power and influence. He does not want to let go,” 28 year-old Ahmed lamented. “And his corrupted family web have tentacles in everything.”

“The mafia keeps holding on to power. Today is a black day because we are going to crush down our own constitution,” said 27 year-old Saeed.

Shortly after being forced from the intersection, demonstrators surrounded and temporarily hijacked two city buses, pushed them toward the intersection and attempted to tip them over. Large stones were then hurled toward the riot police before they charged the crowd and arrested more people.

By approximately 2:00am the crowd had swelled to around 1000, who were primarily gathered near the intersection as well as scattered down the length of Sosun Magu.

Over 250 SO riot police were present and made multiple incursions into the crowd, charging demonstrators before dragging them away into custody. Some protesters near the police line were throwing stones, making a blockade with bicycles, and removing police barricades. However the vast majority were demonstrating peacefully, with a few sitting down in front of the barricades.

During one particularly violent ‘snatch and grab’ operation around 2:30am, Minivan News heard a small explosion before riot police stormed into the demonstration.

SO officers proceeded to rip the clothes off of a middle-aged man while arresting him. The protester had to hold his ‘mundu’ (traditional sarong) with one hand while being led away to prevent being undressed..

Minivan News also witnessed police hitting and trying to drag into custody a former Province Minister who was peaceably protesting; ultimately he was not arrested.

A group of riot police then began shoving photographers and journalists down the sidewalk, in addition to forcing protesters further south down Sosun Magu. The police line moved aggressively and a group of about 20 people were forced to seek refuge in an alley to prevent being trampled or injured.

Minivan News was repeatedly told by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to stay behind police lines or be treated as a protester and risk injury. A photographer for local media outlet Haveeru sustained a head injury while reporting on the demonstration.

Additionally local media outlet Raajje TV claimed to have witnessed police leading away man by the groin.

“They are arresting him so they can go rape him,” two female protesters shouted at the SO as the man was being led away.

Police also grabbed a female protester’s buttocks and were beating old ladies on the side of the road, a protester alleged to Minivan News.

As the police crackdown grew more violent, the protesters’ response escalated, with more individuals throwing stones, while a few set fire to a barricade.

The demonstrators began chanting “money money SO”, and yelling insults at the riot police.

“What is the point in peacefully protesting? That’s what we’ve been doing since the February [2012] coup and nothing has changed,” said a 26 year-old protester.

“Every time [we protest] it’s like a flash of light which enlightens the whole country and then the light goes off for another week or more. It’s been like that since last February. People are feeling hopeless,” he continued.

“We just have a new dictator baghee [‘traitor’] Waheed; he’s Maumoon’s puppet,” he added.

Meanwhile a young boy, who appeared to be about eight years-old, showed Minivan News two stones that he indicated he was going to throw at the riot police. Shortly after, Minivan News learned the boy had been punched in the face and his bloody nose was being tended to by a half-dozen female protesters.

“This is nothing new. The security services have been acting this violent since Maumoon’s time. At least now you can talk about him without being jailed and tortured,” a former political prisoner and torture victim told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.

By 3:30am the crowd had thinned to around 200 protesters, at which point Minivan News witnessed a group of around six men that appeared to be in their 20’s arrived on motorcycles. The group proceeded to surround an MDP protester, forced him against the wall of a building, violently beat and attempted to stab the man with a large kitchen knife.

Police did not respond to the situation for several minutes – despite observing the attack – and eventually proceeded to take the victim into custody.

“Earlier the victim had been throwing stones at police,” an eyewitness told Minivan News. “I saw a police officer pick up the knife [after the attack], but they did not go after the thugs.”

“These gangsters were probably told who to target by the SO,” he alleged.

It is unclear whether the suspected attacker was taken into police custody or led away and then released, as there were conflicting eyewitness accounts.

SO police then proceeded to form a line and forced the remaining protesters and journalists to clear the area.

“There’s no law here according to the Supreme Court, President and police,” said a 27 year-old protester. “It’s a mafia state run by Maumoon and [PPM Presidential Candidate Abdulla] Yameen.”

Minivan News witnessed police arrest more than 25 individuals throughout the course of the protest.

As of 5:00am, one individual had been admitted for a minor head injury sustained in a fight, an Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) official told Minivan News.

While ADK Hospital told Minivan News that one person was in the emergency room, but could not specify the type of injury.

Police report

Minivan News called Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef today (November 11), who requested he be contacted via the police media line instead of his personal number.

Upon doing so, the officer who answered stated the call had been misdirected to the wrong line and requested Minivan News redial the police media line. After repeatedly redialing the police media line there was no response.

The MPS ran a live blog throughout last night’s protest that stated 24 individuals had been arrested.

23:58: A protester has thrown a stone at and injured a police officer.
00:38: A protester threw a rock that hit and injured a journalist. We have received information that he is being treated at ADK hospital.
00:49: Protesters on Sosun Magu are from time to time throwing rocks at police.
00:49: Police have detained an individual for breaking through police barricades.
00:58: Police have detained 6 individuals, including a woman, for breaking through police barricades.
01:05: Some individuals among the protesters on Sosun Magu have vandalized the traffic lights at Sosun Magu/Majeedhiyya School junction.
01:55: A device that appears to be a molotov cocktail exploded in front of the Naadhee Building on Sosun Magu.
01:59: Police have arrested 6 people for obstructing police duty.
02:05: Police have arrested four individuals for crossing police barricades and obstructing police duty.
02:08: Individuals among the protesters on Sosun Magu have kicked down some bicycles on Sosun Magu.
02:18: Police barricades have been torched.
02:19: We have received reports that protesters are from time to time throw rocks and bottles at the media personnel.
02:20: Police have doused the torched police barricades.
02:24: Police are trying to set back the protesters at Roashanee Building on Sosun Magu.
03:21: Police have detained three women who broke through police barricades.
03:31: Police have started to push back the protesters in front of Majeedhiyya School on Sosun Magu.
03:38: Police have arrested four individuals for disobedience to order as they push back protesters.
04:00: Protesters have voluntarily left the area.


Police call for more responsible demonstrations

Police have today requested that supporters of both the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) respect social standards when conducting political demonstrations.

It was explained in a statement released today that police have written to both MDP Chair ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, and PPM leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to urge the parties to observe the regulations set out in the Peaceful Protest Act.

“The document went on to state that since these were the days of the O/Level exams for many students, the demonstrations and rallies being held all over Male’ with sound systems on pickups or megaphones were disruptive and that the Maldives Police Service has been receiving complaints about the situation,” read today’s statement.

Concern was also expressed regarding the potential disruption to traffic, pedestrians and local businesses. Police also noted that demonstrations outside of individual’s homes was prohibited.

Local media reported that two MDP supporters were detained on Saturday (October 28) as the two parties conducted protests in close proximity to the residence of the Speaker of the Majlis, MDP MP, Abdulla Shahid.

The Majlis yesterday approved a motion to ensure Shahid will assume the presidency should no president-elect be chosen before the the end of the constitutionally specified presidential term on November 11.

The PPM member of parliament boycotted the vote.

Supporters of the MDP occupied the length of Male’s Majeedhee Magu for two evenings following the delay of the scheduled presidential election on October 19 – actions labelled by the police as irresponsible.


The Maldives sits in for democracy

Non-violent sit in protests have swept through the Maldives, with thousands of citizens deprived of their constitutional right to vote determined to shut down the country until elections are held.

“We will continue to protest until we can get an election. The protests symbolise that this country has no where to go without an election. Everything has to stop, everyone has to stop and think,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today.

Police arrived at the Elections Commission (EC) in the early morning of Saturday (October 19), forcibly preventing the scheduled election going ahead, in the apparent absence of explicit orders to do so from either the courts or the executive.

Police had also previously obstructed the run-off election which was due to be held on September 28.

Chief Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz told the press yesterday that police had “made the decision ourselves” after “seeking advice” from, among others, President Dr Mohamed Waheed and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, after the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP) had refused to sign the final voter lists.

The Supreme Court’s guidelines issued following its annulment of the September 7 election’s first round of polling said the EC was to hold elections before October 20 with the support of relevant state institutions, EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek has noted.

Non-violent direct action

Once the midday torrential rain abated, Maldivians nationwide spontaneously began staging non-violent sit in protests demanding that their right to vote be upheld on Saturday (October 19).

At around 2:40pm on Saturday 30 protesters gathered outside of the People’s Majlis (Parliament) in Male’, and refused to move when asked to by police.

“Who made you the voice of authority to decide all we do? You can’t tell us where to sit,” protesters told the police. “You stole our vote, we won’t let you take away everything else including our freedom”.

“I am here to ask for our constitutional right to vote,” said Hassan Shah in his early thirties, refusing to budge as a policeman prodded him from behind, asking him to leave the area.

“This country is ridiculous. There is no rule of law, there is nothing but tyranny – by the police, by an unelected coup president, by the corrupt judiciary and every other principle-less person or institute. It’s time we refused to budge. I want my right to vote,” said Ahmed Amir, 29.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters began to gather on Majeedhee Magu – Male’s main thoroughfare – in the late afternoon.

After laying down tarpaulins, people began to set up tables and chairs in the middle of the street. Whilst some played cards, presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid, and MDP MP Mariya Didi sat sipping tea and eating ‘hedika’ (traditional Maldivian snacks).

Meanwhile, a smaller crowd of about 40 people gathered on Sosun Magu – a major thoroughfare perpendicular to Majeedhee Magu – and staged a similar sit-down protest blocking traffic. Signs held my protesters read ‘Where is the voice of the citizens?’, ‘Yameen is a bodu gunda (‘big thug’)’, and ‘Hurry up the election’.

By 5pm Male’ became difficult to travel around, with police and military blocking the area around Republic Square, the Supreme Court and the President’s Office, while MDP supporters blocked traffic as their sit-down demonstration swelled in numbers, blocking more junctions.

Protesters cordoned off the streets with human chains, yellow cords, ‘joalifathi’ (traditional Maldivian seats), tables, chairs, people sprawled out on tarpaulins, and vehicles including motor bikes and trucks.

“I am embarrassed by the Supreme Court. The police are in control of this country. This is a coup. We want the Majlis members to get us our right to vote. There is no hope, but we will keep trying,” said protest participant 33 year-old artist Ahmed Khalid.

By 5:24pm, small groups of people had obstructed nearly every junction on Majeedhee Magu, with tables, with the majority concentrated near Male’ city hall listening to MPs addressing the crowd and offering their encouragement.

Shortly thereafter police attempts to drive through a Majeedhee Magu intersection failed. Protesters surrounded the vehicle, with one even laying down on the road in front of the police car, forcing it to back up and detour.

“You can’t have your way all the time, baghees (traitors),” said one protester. “This is my country too. Ride over us if you dare, or back away,” said another. “You trampled our votes. Let ‘s see if you’ll dare run over us,” said a third.

Meanwhile, a 34 year-old man at the Sosun Magu sit-down protest told Minivan News, “We are sitting in ‘joalifathi’ (traditional Maldivian seats) and blocking the road as there are no more rules according to the police. We can do anything we want now according to them.”

Speaking to supporters on Majeedhee Magu shortly before 6:00pm, former President Nasheed threatened to arrest President Mohamed Waheed, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz. He called on his supporters to continue to block Majeedhee Magu and shut down the city of Malé.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Azim at the sit-down protest urged the public, “Don’t go out to work. Call your family and friends, tell them to stop work.”

Groups of demonstrators began praying on the road during evening prayer times.

By around 7pm protesters on Hulhumale’ had blocked the road to the airport and the island’s main streets, reported Hulhumalé resident Mohamed Haisham. Additionally, boat services from the island had been brought to a stop as part of ongoing peaceful action planned until a new election date is agreed. Around 200 people had gathered at the terminal on Saturday evening in order to bring internal transport to a stop.

The Male’ City Council then announced on local television that it would stop services until the people’s “fundamental right to vote, a right we get every five years” is assured. Male’ City Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik said that, whilst mosques would be looked after, services such as waste management and the issuing building and birth certificates would be stopped.

At around 9pm, peaceful sit-down protests in Male’ were in full swing, with thousands of demonstrators representing all age groups – from infants to the elderly – and all walks of life sitting, laying down, playing cards, smoking sheesha, cooking food, barbecuing and listening to music across the nearly the entire length of Majeedhee Magu.

Minivan News learned that local shopkeepers and residents had donated all the food for the demonstrators. Protesters named the hotdogs being served ‘Ali Hameed sausages’ in reference to the Supreme Court judge who has been the subject of investigations for his alleged role in a series of sex-tapes.

“We will protest as long as the current judiciary remains. We need to remove all the s**t from their ‘jangiya’ (white underpants), a 30 year-old women explained.

One protester, aged 28, also shared her distress at the election delay with Minivan News, “I’m lost, I don’t think we can trust these coup leaders – this is such a mess.”

Intermittent but heavy downpours appear not to have diminished the numbers of protesters on Majeedhee Magu, with demonstrators using their tarpaulins as umbrellas.

‘Thugs’ beat up peaceful protesters in Male’

Protests resumed with the same calm, festive atmosphere in Male’ Sunday (October 20).

However, Sunday night’s demonstration took an ugly turn after “some gangs came to make chaos” by infiltrating the MDP protesters and acting a ggressively, a 26 year-old eyewitness told Minivan News.

“It was kinda heavy last night. These guys were drunk like hell or on some kind of drug like meth or something. They came into the crowd of peaceful protesters two times,” said the source.

“The first time they beat one guy up, but sadly no one did anything to stop him, the demonstrators just said ‘be peaceful’,” he continued.

“Police didn’t showed up [to stop the protesters from being beaten] because they were having their hired gangs come to heat things up, so they can then show a reason to storm in [to the crowd],” he noted.

“These f**king police are acting like terrorists,” he exclaimed in frustration.

Shortly after these incidents occurred, Special Operations (SO) police arrived arrested five men for allegedly obstructing police while they were trying to open to the roads closed by the pro-democracy supporters.

Police have claimed the MDP supporters attacked them by hurling stones, causing one officer to seek medical treatment, according to local media.

Islanders demonstrate amidst provocation

Meanwhile, from Addu City in the far south to Kulhudhoofushi Island in the far north of the Maldives, islanders have been staging similar non-violent sit-down protests.

This direct action has included ongoing demonstrations in Kumundhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll, Rasdhoo Island in Alif Alif Atoll, Magoodhoo Island in Faafu Atoll, and multiple islands in Laamu Atoll. Protests have also occurred in the Addu City area, Thinadhoo Island in Gaaf Dhal Atoll, and Fuvahmulah Island.

On Saturday (October 19) around 600 protesters on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll began protesting in front of the island’s province offices, explained MDP activist Naeemahtha.

“We’ve padlocked the main gates of this building which has the council offices, bank, and the majority of other service providers in it. We will not budge and do not intend to go home until we are given the right to vote,” she said.

“Police turned up and tried to take away the lorry playing campaign music but protesters wouldn’t give them a chance to do so. They’ve left without the lorry now and [as of 10pm Saturday] the protest was proceeding in full swing,” she added.

Hundreds of people from three islands of Addu Atoll have also conducted a sit down protest in the area connecting Maradhoo and Feydhoo islands, MDP MP Ahmed Adham told Minivan News.

“After a while, PPM activists we recognise turned up alongside SO officers in full riot gear with shields,” alleged Adham. “The PPM activists started throwing stones and tried to provoke us into reacting. Then SO barged into the crowd and roughed up protesters.”

Adham stated that six protesters were arrested and a number of others injured as the SO dispersed, though he noticed protests were continuing in multiple locations.

“The people are determined to continue protesting until we are granted our right to vote,” he declared.

MDP’s motivation

“Now protests have escalated [in numbers] because it is not necessarily only MDP members participating anymore. A lot of people [now] understand that the tentacles of [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s] dictatorship are working against democracy,” explained MDP MP Ghafoor.

“The MDP is not structured like a fighting force, by default we are non-violent. Additionally, former President Mohamed Nasheed is very much an icon and he is very patient and a proponent of non-violence,” he continued.

Ghafoor explained that the demonstrators were seeking to emulate Nasheed’s patience and non-violent approach to creating change and achieving justice.

However, Ghafoor did suggest that there was a chance that, with the JP and PPM behaving like gangs, that peaceful protesters could be attacked leading to violent clashes, Ghafoor noted. “So far we’ve been able to avoid the gangs coming against us [in large numbers] because of the sheer numbers of demonstrators.”

“This is a defining moment, we can’t hold an election with the current executive [President Mohamed Waheed in power],” he declared.

“There are five rogue elements working together to stop elections from taking place: the executive, 200 key people within the MPS and MNDF security forces, the JP and PPM, as well as the judiciary,” he explained. “These five rouge elements have skewed the whole electoral process and stopped elections.”

“[Additionally] the JP and PPM are not fully formed political parties because they have not been able to compete in an election, the result is what they are doing with the Supreme Court. They used this state institution to nullify the internationally endorsed free and fair election on September 7. They don’t work like political parties, they are like gangs. The don’t understand the rules of a multi-party democracy, they don’t even understand the concept of an exit poll,” he continued.

The results of September 7 first round demonstrate that the entire country is yellow, “MDP is what is holding this nation together,” he added.

Police message to protesters

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Service has urged anyone taking part in demonstrations across the country to show consideration to the wider public when conducting their protests.

“Since impeding on the rights of others while attempting to exercise one’s own constitutional rights is not the most responsible course of action, the Maldives Police Service strongly urges all demonstrators to not conduct themselves in such a way,” read an official statement.


Maldives government establishes emergency hotline for expatriate students in Egypt following Cairo violence

The Government of Maldives has expressed concern over the escalation of violence and loss of life in Egypt and has established an emergency hotline for the 84 Maldivian students, and accompanying family members, who currently reside 100 metres from the latest protest site.

Egyptian protesters who were previously gathered near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in east Cairo and dispersed by security forces are now gathering in Nasru City’s Masjidul Salaam mosque area, approximately 100 meters from where the Maldivian expatriates are living, State Foreign Minister Hassan Saeed explained to Minivan News today (August 14).

“Earlier the demonstrations were quite far from the students, however the demonstrators have shifted to near the Masjidul Salaam mosque, which is one bus stop away, or about 100-150 meters, from where the students are located,” said Saeed.

Saeed confirmed that 84 students and their families are currently residing in Egypt.

“We have informed the students to be vigilant and not to stray from home unless necessary,” Saeed told local media.

Although no Maldivians have been harmed in the sectarian violence that has gripped Egypt, if the situation in Nasru City deteriorates causing shops to close, obtaining food and water may become difficult, Saeed explained.

The Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced today that, due to the current chaos in Egypt, any problems faced by Maldivian nationals should be reported via the emergency hotline.

The ministry will advise students and/or their family members how to respond to any difficulties they may face due to the ongoing political unrest.

Saeed also emphasised that the Maldives Embassy located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is continuously monitoring the situation and has also been in contact with the Vice President of the Maldivian Student Association in Egypt. The Embassy will provide support to the Maldivian expatriates in Egypt as necessary, he continued.

Saeed does not believe the situation Nasru City is dangerous at present, though based on tonight’s events the relevant Maldivian government authorities will re-evaluate.

Thus far no Maldivian nationals have requested evacuation and the Government of Maldives will not evacuate them from Egypt unless they request it, said Saeed.

“Sometimes the [Maldives’] government is very eager to evacuate, however when the situation returns to normal students may not have funds to return,” he explained.

“The ministry is making sure there are sufficient funds to send the students back, if they are evacuated,” he added.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tonight, the department expressed its concern with the escalation of violence and loss of life in Egypt and has called on all parties to show maximum restraint and respect for the fundamental human rights of the Egyptian people.

The government has also urged all parties in Egypt to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and association as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 15/21.

“As an emerging democracy itself, the Maldives is familiar with the trials of democracy consolidation. A full and resilient democracy and a culture of respect for human rights can only be cultivated through denouncing of violence, and collaboration and consultation between all stakeholders, including the political opposition.

“The Maldives prays for an early resolution of the situation and for the return of peace and stability to Egypt, as it continues on its path to democracy consolidation,” reads the statement.

The Emergency Hotline number for Maldivians in Egypt who require assistance is +960-779-4601.


Police increase security presence in Male’ and atolls

Police have increased security measures around Male’ and other Atolls in order to main peace and order, local media reported.

The announcement comes after a week of protests carried out by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and supporters of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Police said that Special Operations police, capital police and traffic police are now active during the night in Male’, and that city police have increased their vigilance, according to local media.

A number of demonstrators have been apprehended following the unrest in Male’ and police have reported that multiple officers have been injured following confrontations with protesters.


“Certain actions by protesters could be classed as terrorism”: Police Superintendent

Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz has claimed that certain actions performed by protesters in the recent demonstrations in Male’ could be defined as acts of terrorism.

The recent protests in the capital have seen supporters of former President Nasheed clash with riot police, resulting in multiple arrests and damage to police property.

Nawaz told Minivan News on Monday (February 18) that certain acts performed by protesters over the last few days – including setting fire to a police vehicle – “could be classed as terrorism”.

“It is not that we [Maldives Police Service (MPS)] are directly saying it was terrorism, but more the setting fire to a police vehicle and barricade, as well as threatening phone calls to officers, could be defined under terrorism.

“We always ask protesters not to opt for violence, it doesn’t matter which party they belong to. I personally believe things should not have happened like they have been recently,” Nawaz added.

Superintendent Nawaz, who is also Head of Public Affairs Department, stressed that while the police welcomed peaceful protests, demonstrations over the last three days have not always remained that way.

Asked whether police would have to respond differently to tackle “actions that would be defined as terrorism”, Nawaz said: “From the torching of  a vehicle to protesters throwing stones and bottles at police, of course police will have to act differently depending on how serious the crime is”.

On Saturday night (February 16) a police vehicle belonging to the Police Family and Child Protection Department was set on fire while parked in Male’.

Police also claimed protesters set fire to a police barricade in the early hours of Sunday (February 17) morning.

Following the recent protests, a statement from MPS released today announced that the Criminal Court had issued warrants for the arrest of 16 individuals allegedly involved in the “unrest and mob violence” in the recent protests of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

A police press briefing revealed that a total of 84 people, including two minors and four females, had been taken into police custody following the unrest.

Out of 61 individuals later presented to the court, 16 were allowed to remain in police custody in order to continue with the investigation.

According to the statement, Nawaz said police will also continue investigations into those who have also been released by court order.

Officers injured, harassed on the street

Speaking at the press briefing Nawaz said that in the last four days of the protest, 14 police officers and one Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) security officer had suffered injuries from protesters throwing bricks and glass bottles into police lines.

Nawaz said that the recent protests could be described as peaceful assembly adding that the protest “is rather believed as an act to impeded police duty and terrorise the capital city Male’”.

According to the statement, “Police officers of different ranks have received threatening calls and text messages from unknown numbers from abroad”.

The statement specifically notes an incident whereby a police officer on the street was harassed with inappropriate language in front of his three-year-old child, “who has since suffered from psychological trauma”.


Opposition condemns “arbitrary arrest” of 15 protesters during anti-government demonstration

Police on Friday have arrested 15 Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists at the party’s protest site ‘Usfasgandu’, during an anti-government demonstration.

Police said the demonstrators were arrested on charges of “breaking the police barricades” and “obstructing police duty”.

The police had previously cordoned off the party’s protest site  after the High Court ordered police to repossess the area until it delivered a verdict in an ownership dispute between Male’ City Council (MCC) and the Housing Ministry.

Over a thousand MDP demonstrators took to the streets of Male’ on Friday, calling for President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to immediately step down along with other government figures including Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz.

The demonstration was led by senior figures of the party including former Chairperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi and several ministers of the former government, who repeated the call for a caretaker-administration prior to scheduled presidential elections on September 9.

“The Maldives Police Service on strictest terms condemn the act of obstruction of police duty while this service was executing the order of High Court to cordon off the area,” read the police statement. Police said that out of the 15 arrested, two had been female protesters.

Speaking to Minivan News, police media official sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said police had only arrested protesters who broke through police lines.

“We only arrested the people who broke the police line and entered the area. We did not target any political figures nor did we see which party the arrested individuals belonged to,” he said.

The arrested demonstrators were presented to court this afternoon, which extended the detention period of the protesters by five days.

Minivan News understands that among those currently in police custody include Male’ City Councilor Mohamed Falah and MDP Youth Wing President Aminath Shauna.

A protester who was present at the time disputed police allegations that demonstrators broke through police lines.

“We were just standing behind the barricades when they came in, we didn’t even move or run. We just stayed there, we didn’t even call them ‘baaghee’ (traitor) but we kept on telling them they should give a proper reason for arresting a person, they just can’t take people for no reason,” the protester told Minivan News.

Demonstrators kept questioning the police as to why they were making the arrests when none of them had crossed the police line.

“We kept on asking what the [the arrested protesters] had done. After taking in a few protesters, they came towards us and took Shauna. They came towards her and said she had to come with them whether she liked it or not. Two to three of us were holding her when they took her,” she added.

Meanwhile, the MDP in a statement called for immediate release of its members claiming the activists were arrested for their “illustrious work to defend freedom of assembly and freedom of expression” in the country.

“The MDP condemns in the strongest terms the police swoop into the rally as a politically motivated and premeditated illegal incursion to arrest a specific target list of highly dedicated party workers.

“Eyewitness reports have established that today’s foray also was characterised by high-handedness and needless force typical to the Police Special Operations squads in the clutches of a usurper police commissioner and usurper government,” read the statement.

The party also condemned “false reporting” of the incident by some local media outlets, who claimed that protesters “had breached police lines”, which the party alleged were “outright lies”.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy suggested the arrests were a result of lack of a mechanism to hold the police officers accountable for arbitrary arrests.

“There is absolutely no way to hold the police accountable,” he said. “They know that everything will be settled once they take the protester to court. The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC)’s failure to hold the officers accountable means they can take full advantage of their impunity.”

Fahmy also dismissed claims made by police that those arrested had broken police lines.

“While I was there a group of police barged into the protest and randomly arrested a few people after looking at their faces. We did not break the police line. That is an outright lie,” he added.

If police can be held accountable for their actions, Fahmy said such arrests would not take place and freedom to carry out peaceful political activities would not be compromised.

After weeks of quiet in Male’, the MDP resumed their protests against the government on January 22,  led by former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed during the demonstration called on parliament to create an interim, caretaker administration “which can lead the country towards a genuinely free and fair presidential election in which all candidates are able to freely compete.”

MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News at the time that the party planned to hold more assemblies and protests in next coming months around Male’.

“The MDP have been off the streets some time, we have taken a break. Now we are back. We have too many options and ideas opening up and people need to know what’s going on,” Ghafoor said.


CoNI coup cover-up concerns fuel anti-government demonstrations: MDP

Evidence presented to parliament by former security officials concerning February 2012’s controversial transfer of power has given renewed impetus to anti-government demonstrations in Male’ this week, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.

Minivan News yesterday (January 26) observed several thousand people taking part in an MDP demonstration around Male’, calling for a caretaker government to be installed ahead of fresh elections. The party continues to allege the transfer of power was a “coup”, with Nasheed being forced from office under duress.

The MDP claimed more than 4000 people took part in yesterday’s gathering as part of efforts to communicate its concerns about the legitimacy of the present government to both the local and international community.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor added a petition had also been presented at the People’s Majlis by the protesters, though only the party’s elected representatives were allowed admission to parliament.

“Protesters were not being allowed into the Majlis, so our MPs had to present the petition,” Ghafoor said.

The government-aligned Adhaalath Party alleged the MDP protesters verbally abused its supporters and vandalised promotional materials at a membership drive held at a school.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has meanwhile called for government personnel and institutions “to be vigilant of a system that would ensure a just, fair and equitable governance in the Maldives.”

During his speech – made during a tour of Miladhummadulu Atoll – President Waheed claimed that good governance could only be achieved through listening to the demands of the public.

Renewed impetus

Ghafoor claimed the party’s protests had been given renewed impetus after senior military and police intelligence figures recently gave evidence to the Majlis’ Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) alleging that the transfer of power on February 7 “had all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat”.

“Several of these figures including chief of staff and military heads have confirmed what we all knew. They have all said [former President Nasheed] resigned under duress,” he added.

Ghafoor alleged this same information had purposefully not been included in the final report of the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) that last year concluded there was no mutiny by police or the military.

The CNI also ruled that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation was not made under duress, but did highlight a need for reforms in key institutions like the judiciary and security forces.

Protests by the party this week are the first large-scale demonstrations through the city since the Freedom of Assembly Bill was ratified by President Waheed earlier this month, imposing a stringent limitations on street protesting.

Adhaalath Party member drive

The government-aligned, religious conservative Adhaalath Party alleged that people participating in yesterday’s MDP protest yelled obscenities at its members during a membership drive being held at Ghiyasuddeen School in Male’.

The party also claimed MDP protesters ripped up the party’s banners at the school that were temporarily put up as part of the membership drive.

Responding to the allegations, MP Ghafoor claimed that while the MDP did not encourage such behaviour towards government-aligned parties, he said he would not be surprised if some supporters had ripped up banners during the protest.

“These allegations are beyond belief. [The Adhaalath Party] has blatantly been involved in a coup against a democratically elected government. There is no love lost between our parties and we do not believe they are even a religious party,” he claimed. “All we see from them is xenophobia and nothing else.”

Ghafoor contended that protesters tearing down a few posters should be seen as a very minor issue compared to wider issues taking place in the country.

“Ripping up a banner is nothing. People do not respect [the Adhaalath Party].  When our supporters walk past police headquarters and yell out ‘baagee’ (traitor) at them, the Adhaalath Party are no different as far as we are concerned,” he said.

Ghafoor added that after the MDP planned to hold demonstrations every Friday to try and ensure maximum turnout from its supporters in the capital.