Man stabbed in Malé

A young man was stabbed in the Maafanu ward of the capital Malé city last night (October 1), reports Sun Online.

An eyewitness told the online news outlet that the victim was bleeding heavily after being stabbed in the back. He was rushed to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) for treatment.

In August, a spate of violent assaults in the capital – which police said was a series of gang reprisals – saw two young men stabbed to death.


Government uses gangs for its ends, alleges former President Nashed

The government is unable to stop gang activities because it employs gangs for its purposes, former President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged.

Speaking to reporters yesterday prior to departing for the UK to attend the Conservative Party conference, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader said the government had the power and resources to clamp down on gangs, but was unable to do so because senior officials have used gangs.

“I am not necessarily saying that senior government ministers used gangs to make [missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed] Rilwan disappear or torch the MDP [office] or sent [death threats via] texts,” Nasheed explained.

“But senior government officials are using gangs for many other things.”

Nasheed’s remarks came after the main opposition party’s office was set on fire Thursday night (September 25) following two consecutive nights of vandalism and numerous death threats sent to the party’s MPs as well as journalists.

Earlier on Thursday, a machete knife was buried in the door of the Minivan News building after a known gangster – clearly identifiable on CCTV footage – removed the security camera.

Several journalist were also sent a text message warning them not to cover “the incidents happening in Malé now.”

“This is a war between the laadheenee [secular or irreligious] MDP mob and religious people. We advise the media not to come in the middle of this. We won’t hesitate to kill you,” read the threat.

Radicalised gangs

Nasheed meanwhile suggested that radicalised gangs were behind the recent “atrocities” in the capital, noting that extremist religious indoctrination of youth was a relatively recent phenomenon in the Maldives.

“In my view, one of the most important reasons the government has to think deeply about this is because certain people are instilling their interpretation of Islam in the hearts of the boys in these gangs,” he contended.

The opposition leader claimed that many young men from criminal gangs were seen in a protest march held in Malé on September 5 with participants bearing the militant organisation Islamic State (IS) flag and calling for the implementation of Islamic Sharia.

Of the approximately 150 participants, Nasheed claimed most were “active in gangs.”

“So youth in gangs are turning to ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] ideology. That activities of ISIS are happening in the Maldives is becoming very clear to us. And while this is happening, the government is unable to stop gang activities,” he said.

The government’s inaction posed a serious danger to the security of the country, he added.

A Facebook page called Islamic State in Maldives promoting IS in the country was discovered last month, which shared photos of protests calling for a ban on Israeli tourists where protesters carried the IS flag.

Moreover, a new site called Haqqu and Twitter account sprang up recently featuring IS-related news and publications in Dhivehi as well as translations of a sermon by self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The site was most recently updated this morning with the news of a Saudi Arabian pilot who allegedly refused to participate in military operations against IS.

Extremism in police and military

Nasheed also reiterated his claim that there were IS supporters or sympathisers in the police and military.

Earlier this month, Nasheed told the Independent newspaper in the UK that the vast majority of Maldivians fighting in Syria and Iraq were ex-military.

“Radical Islam is getting very, very strong in the Maldives. Their strength in the military and in the police is very significant. They have people in strategic positions within both,” he alleged.

Following the MDP’s claim in May that extremist ideologies were prevalent in the security services, the defence ministry dismissed the allegations as both “baseless and untrue” and intended to “discredit and disparage” the military.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) meanwhile issued a press release on September 18 condemning Nasheed’s allegations.

While police estimated that about 24 persons with links to militant jihadist organisations might be active in the Maldives, MPS insisted that none of them were police officers.

“And the police leadership has always been working to ensure that such people are not formed within the police,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, asked about the party’s response to attacks on its office, Nasheed said ensuring safety and security of all Maldivian citizens was the responsibility of the state.

“The MDP could form its own militia or paramilitary, but that’s not the path we want for the Maldives. If we are forced to protect and defend ourselves, we have reached a very tragic state,” he said.


Man sustains head injury in assault

A 25-year-old man was assaulted in Malé around 2:45pm yesterday near the Islamic College in the Henveiru ward of the capital.

According to police, the victim was rushed to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital for treatment of head injuries and has since been released.

No arrests have yet been made in connection with the assault, police said.

In August, a spate of violent assaults in the capital – which police said was a series of gang reprisals – saw two young men stabbed to death.


MDP office set on fire amid escalating tension

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) office on Sosun Magu in Malé was set on fire around 12:45am last night amid escalating tension in the capital.

The arson attack follows vandalism of the main opposition party’s office for two consecutive nights and numerous death threats sent from unlisted numbers to MDP MPs, senior members and dozens of journalists.

Eyewitnesses told local media that petrol was poured into the ground floor of the office through the smashed up windows before a lit molotov cocktail was hurled inside. A second lit molotov cocktail fell outside the door.

A team from the fire and rescue service of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) arrived shortly after the incident and extinguished the flames. The damage caused by the fire was reported to be minor.

According to the party, the attack came about 15 minutes after staff left the office in Henveiru Sharaasha.

Meanwhile, around 2:15am, the door of former MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor’s residence was set ablaze. Half an hour later, Hamid received a text warning that he would be stabbed and killed.

The fire was swiftly put out before it could spread. An eyewitness saw a lit molotov cocktail or ‘petrol bomb’ hit the door.

The previous night (September 24), crude oil was thrown on the house of former President Mohamed Nasheed while the opposition leader was at an MDP national council meeting at the nearby Malé City Hall.

The windshield of MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed’s car was smashed with a large rock later the same evening.

Hamid told Minivan News yesterday that attacks against the party’s office and members have been frequent during the past eight years.

“Since 2005, MDP office has been vandalised countless times and each time we get a forensics team doing some investigation but there seems to be no end to these investigations,” the party’s international spokesperson said.

Hamid suggested that the recent spate of attacks might be motivated by Nasheed accusing Adhaalath Party leaders of radicalising and indoctrinating youth to carry out vigilante actions in the name of Islam.

“Don’t do this to our youth. Don’t make them do vile deeds after picking them out individually and leading them astray,” Nasheed appealed at an MDP rally held on Monday night (September 22).

Death threats

In a tweet posted yesterday, Nasheed expressed concern with the evident lack of concern from PPM in response to the repeated vandalism of the MDP office as well as the death threats sent to MPs and senior members.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News last week that death threats have become too commonplace to publicise each incident.

Following last week’s rally, MDP MP Eva Abdulla received a text message threatening a suicide attack at the next MDP gathering. The message also threatened to “kill off” MDP members and vowed to “fight to the last drop of blood.”

Eva revealed on social media last night that she had received a text threatening to kill the children of MDP members.

“Don’t bring out your children on the streets these days. Stabbing season is about to begin. [We] will kill you,” the message read.

Eva noted that the same message was sent to many MDP members while the “govt looks on”.

Several journalist were also sent a text message warning them not to cover “the incidents happening in Malé now”, which yesterday included an attack on the Minivan News office and SMS threats to a staff member.

“This is a war between the laadheenee [secular or irreligious] MDP mob and religious people. We advise the media not to come in the middle of this. We won’t hesitate to kill you,” read the threat.

The text message was sent to journalists from opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV, and state broadcaster Television Maldives as well as other news outlets.

Following the vandalism of the party’s office for a second consecutive night, the MDP put out a press statement yesterday criticising the police’s failure to properly investigate the attacks and apprehend the perpetrators.

The statement noted that Wednesday’s nights attacks came after protection was sought from the police.

“This party believes that the attacks against the MDP leadership, administrative staff, and property are an uncivilised atrocity committed to eradicate opposition political ideology,” the party stated.

The party further contended that statements from government ministers and institutions were encouraging the “atrocities” and increase of serious crimes, condemning the government’s inaction and silence in the wake of the attacks.

“The party assures all Maldivian citizens that despite the attacks on the residences and property of the MDP’s senior leaders, the party’s leadership will not back down a single inch and swiftly carry on with our efforts to establish justice and equality in the Maldives, ensure human rights, and strengthen democracy,” the statement read.


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.”

HRCM raises concern over growing religious conservatism in Universal Period Review

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has submitted its Universal Period Review (UPR) report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), raising concerns over a growing tide of religious conservatism.

“There are roughly 400 children being withheld from attending school by their parents due to religious beliefs,” revealed the report made public yesterday, referring to an estimate from the education ministry in a 2011 assessment by the HRCM on child participation.

In a section titled ‘religious extremist ideologies,’ the HRCM referred to “reports of unregistered marriages encouraged by some religious scholars claiming that registering marriages with the courts are un‐Islamic and unnecessary.”

“State institutions acknowledge this information and raised concerns that children born to such marriages could face serious legal issues. Similarly women in such marriages are bound to face social and legal consequences,” the report stated.

“Conservative beliefs that promote women as inferior to men are being spread at an alarming level. Many women believe that their role in society is to be submissive wives and in raising children.”

In addition to outlining 18 thematic areas, the report provides updates on implementation of recommendations of the first UPR review in 2010, the HRCM noted.

The UPR is a state-driven process that reviews the human rights records of all 193 UN member states every four years, based on submissions by the government, the UN, NGOs and human rights commissions. The Maldives’ review is scheduled to take place in April or May 2015.


Increase in religious conservatism, cultural norms and stereotypical roles depicted by society inhibit women’s equitable participation in public life,” reads the section on women’s rights.

“Women remain under represented in all branches of the state and efforts to secure legislative quotas remain unsuccessful.”

The enforcement of the anti-Domestic Violence (DV) Act was meanwhile hampered by absence of procedures, inconsistencies in application by institutions, and “lack of sensitivity among law enforcement and judiciary”.

The police also failed to meet a legislative deadline on submitting a report to the family protection agency (FPA), the report noted.

“Limited capacity of investigators and their belief that such cases are family matters inhibit victims from getting redress,” it continued.

“FPA with a mandate to combat DV is not provided with necessary financial and human resources. Reporting of DV cases remain low as a result of lack of confidence in the system, fear of intimidation by perpetrators, stigmatisation and inadequate information on protection measures. There is no proper reintegration mechanism.”

Despite reports to the contrary from the state for the mid-term assessment of implementation of UPR recommendations, the HRCM said there were “no strict punishments to perpetrators of DV”.

The report observed that children born out of wedlock faced discrimination.

Paternity testing is not admissible evidence in court and such a child would be denied father’s name, inheritance and child maintenance,” it stated.

While most reported cases of child abuse did not result in convictions, victims often “remain re‐victimized due to systemic failures” including “delays in obtaining evidence and overly strict evidentiary requirements.”

“The legal age of consent, along with societal attitudes to treat child abuse as private matter or to force child abuse victim to deny testimony in court to protect family honour as perpetrator is usually a family member providing financial support are factors that cannot be disregarded,” it explained.

“Moreover, state has fallen short to publish child sexual offender‘s registry. Additionally, overall functioning of victim support system is effected due to a weak child protection system that is under resourced, with inconsistencies in capacity and coordination.”

The report also noted that child marriages were registered in some cases as “the Family Act allows marriage of minors under specific conditions.”

Children were also “involved in commercial sex work,” the report noted.

“Many children migrate to Malé from atolls for education, remain vulnerable to domestic servitude and sexual harassment by host families,” the report stated.

Civil and political rights

The report noted the absence of laws to guarantee freedom of expression despite its assurance in the Constitution.

“Parliament Privileges Act can be used to force journalist to reveal their source, which could undermine the constitutional protection that journalists currently enjoy,” the report observed.

“There have been many reports of death threats to media persons and parliament members. State is yet to take realistic action to address these threats. The recent disappearance of Ahmed Rizwan Abdullah, a journalist and human rights advocate is of critical concern.”

The HRCM also raised concerns regarding the Freedom of Assembly Act, including “provisions of geographical limitations, lack of guidance on control of counter assemblies and requirement to accredit reporters.”

Human rights NGOs have faced intimidation from the state, it continued, while worker’s association perform the role of trade unions.

“Union members face numerous difficulties in exercising collective bargaining, tripartite consultations and work stoppage, as proper legal mechanism is not in place for dispute resolution,” the report stated.


Man stabbed near southwestern harbour

A 20-year-old man was stabbed at the ‘Thih Ruh Park’ near the southwestern harbour in Malé last night by two men on a motorcycle, reports local media.

According to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the victim was recovering after an operation last night.

Police said no arrests have been made yet in connection with the latest violent assault.

Last week, a 19-year-old stabbing victim died as a result of injuries. Doctors had removed his right leg in an attempt to save his life after he was stabbed six times.

Ahmed Aseel was the third victim of a fatal stabbing in recent weeks that have seen a surge in gang violence in the capital.


Government to halt dismantling gang huts, says President Yameen

The government has decided to stop dismantling huts in public spaces in Malé that police said are used exclusively by gangs, President Yameen revealed at a turf opening ceremony in Henveiru last night.

The process has been halted “until a solution could be found after studying the whole problem,” Yameen said, adding that the efforts were undertaken with “good intentions”.

“However, we believe that [dismantling huts] alone would not solve the problem,” he said.

The president’s comments came after Home Minister Umar Naseer – speaking at a separate event – had suggested there were around 30 gangs in Malé, describing 13 of these as “dangerous” criminal organisations.

President Yameen said he did not believe criminal activities would occur “every time youth congregate” in a neighbourhood spot.

Turning to “law enforcement” in all cases was not desirable, he continued, suggesting that youth could resolve problems through “constructive engagement”.

After police began dismantling huts in Malé on August 13 – claiming they were used for drug dealing and storing weapons used in assaults – groups of youth on motorbikes protested in the capital calling for the resignation of the home minister.

“Where are our huts?” chanted the youth groups.

Yameen meanwhile suggested that sports pitches, facilities, and tournaments for youth “could go a long way” towards reducing crime and resolving “stress and strain” among rival neighbourhood groups.

The turf ground opened last night was built by the State Trading Organisation for the TC and Kuda Henveiru groups.

Referring to MPs in attendance at the ceremony, Yameen urged politicians to work “as ambassadors” with “positive engagement” to resolve disputes among youth.

Yameen said Youth Minister Maleeh Jamal informed him that 10 futsal pitches would be completed during September.

“So a lot of work is being done to engage youth productively in their free time,” Yameen said.

“Releasing negative energy out of dissatisfaction is not the solution for anything,” he advised, adding that it leads to “bad blood” and “more negative energy”.

Conversely, constructive engagement either through dialogue or sports leaves “everybody better off,” Yameen said.

“I don’t doubt that you will use this facility in the right way and that ambassadors would be created through these sports activities as ‘peace ambassadors’ or ‘engaging ambassadors’ to find some relief for the strain in society,” he said.

“Crime wave”

Meanwhile, speaking at a ceremony held yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Maldives Police Service – which was separated from the military and established as a civilian law enforcement body in 2004 – Home Minister Umar Naseer revealed that police have identified “more than 30 gangs” in the capital with about 50 “gang leaders”.

Of the 30 gangs, 13 were “dangerous” criminal organisations, Naseer said, adding that there were more than 500 members in these groups.

Referring to three fatal stabbings in recent weeks, Naseer said gang violence was “the biggest challenge” facing the police.

Police were the “front line” in a “chain” made up of the Prosecutor General’s Office, courts, and prisons, Naseer said, adding that the National Drug Agency (NDA) was an important link in the chain as street violence was connected to drug use.

“The government has resolved to stop the crime wave in the streets. God willing, in the coming days, we will announce strong measures,” he said.

President Yameen has tasked the home minister with formulating a “broad plan” to tackle gang violence, he revealed.

Naseer said conservative estimates suggested there were at least 10,000 drug users in the Maldives, of which 5,000 were unemployed.

Organised criminal gangs were composed of unemployed drug users, Naseer explained, which carry out assaults and robbery under the guidance of gang leaders.

While cases involving gang members were filed at court, Naseer said that gangs intimidate both judges and eye witnesses to prevent convictions.

“God willing, we are preparing an assault on this whole structure [of criminal gangs], which will come very soon,” he declared.

Four issues needed to be considered ahead of implementing the plan, Naseer suggested, advising a “realignment of our thinking”, with a stricter approach to drug users.

“In my view, all of our institutions should know very clearly that drug use is not a disease but a crime,” Naseer said.

Drug users should be punished harshly instead of being offered treatment, Naseer said, drawing applause from police officers in the audience.

However, he added, offenders would undergo rehabilitation while serving sentences.

“Liberalisation,” “excessive freedom,” and alleged calls for “decriminalisation” from politicians were encouraging youth to use drugs, Naseer argued, which created the impression that drug use was not a crime.

Naseer contended that a soft approach for drug users during the past five years had led to a rise in violent crimes.

“Do we stop this by caressing or through harsh punishment?” he asked.

“We cannot find a solution to the problem of stabbing and murders on the street without stopping drugs.”


Two men and minor stabbed in Malé

Two men and a minor were assaulted and stabbed in Malé around 8:50pm last night in the Dhidhi Goalhi in front of Iskandhar School.

According to police, a 19-year-old, a 20-year-old, and a 13-year-old were injured in the assault and taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) for treatment.

Local media has identified two of the victims as Abdulla Majid, 20, from Azum in Kaafu Guraidhoo, and Aseel Ahmed, 19, from Blueniaage in Thaa Thimarafushi.

Eyewitnesses said a group of masked men stabbed the two men in the back and struck the minor on the head before fleeing on motorbikes.

While one of the victims reportedly lost consciousness and fell to the ground, the other two escaped into a nearby house.

Of the three, Aseel’s condition was reported to be critical. He was immediately taken into the operating theatre at IGMH.

IGMH Media Official Zeenath Ali Habeeb told Minivan News today that the victim’s condition was “serious.” He has regained consciousness after undergoing major surgery, but remains sedated at the intensive care unit (ICU).

Police are meanwhile searching for suspects and no arrests have been made as of the time of press. The case is under investigation by the serious and organised crime department.

A resident of the area told Minivan News that two knives and an axe were found near the staircase of their house after the attacks.

The weapons appeared to be unused and were taken as evidence by the police, who had cordoned off the road.

Residents of the house believe they were stored by the gang for use in the assaults.

Shortly before the incident, a young man had attempted to retrieve the weapons, but found the gate of the house was closed. He had asked a resident to be let in but was refused.

Following a spate of violent assaults in Malé earlier this month – which saw an 18-year-old fatally stabbed – Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeth told the press that police intelligence suggested the assaults were gang reprisals sparked by “a disturbance between two groups.”

Chief Inspector Ismail Naveen meanwhile told reporters that police have confiscated a number of weapons from areas where gangs congregate, including the Henveiru Park, the park on Alifkilegefaanu Magu, and the open area near the State Trading Organisation’s main office.

On August 13, police began dismantling huts and clearing out makeshift dens in open spaces in the capital used exclusively by gangs.