UPR report shared with judiciary before submission, says HRCM at Supreme Court trial

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) shared its Universal Period Review (UPR) report with the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) and sought feedback ahead of submission to the UN Human Rights Council, the commission’s lawyer told the Supreme Court today.

The DJA – which functions under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court – did not respond to the request for commentary on the report or object to its content, the lawyer noted at the first hearing of the trial.

All five HRCM members are on trial after the apex court initiated suo moto proceedings in relation to the UPR report, which suggested that the Supreme Court’s control over the judiciary was undermining powers of lower courts.

At the beginning of the hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain reportedly said that the HRCM’s report contained false and misleading information concerning procedural matters of the judiciary.

The suo moto proceedings – which allows the court to act as both prosecution and judge – were initiated to hold the commission’s members accountable under Article 141 of the Constitution, Article 9 of the Judicature Act, and Supreme Court regulations, the chief justice said.

Article 141(b) states, “The Supreme Court shall be the highest authority for the administration of justice in the Maldives.”

Article 141(c) states, “No officials performing public functions, or any other persons, shall interfere with and influence the functions of the courts,” while section (d) states, “Persons or bodies performing public functions, through legislative and other measures, must assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, eminence, dignity, impartiality, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.”

The commission’s attorney Maumoon Hameed explained that each UN member state was required to submit a report for the UPR.

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.

In a press release today, the HRCM said it submitted as evidence information regarding the UPR process as well as commentary received from various state institutions.

“At today’s hearing, the commission requested an opportunity to submit further information and evidence,” the press release stated.

“The Supreme Court adjourned today’s hearing. The commission has not yet been informed of a date for the next hearing.”

The next hearing has since been scheduled for 1:30pm on Sunday, September 28.

Noting that Supreme Court decisions could not be challenged as it was the highest court of appeal, Hameed had, however, asked for five working days to prepare a defence.

Control of judiciary

Less than two weeks before the parliamentary polls in March, the Supreme Court had charged Elections Commission Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz with contempt of court and dismissed the pair under unprecedented suo moto proceedings.

Subsequent changes to contempt of court regulations made in June authorised courts to penalise individuals for any expression, action, gesture, or piece of writing “inside or outside a courtroom” that could be considered contempt of court.

Meanwhile, in a press statement yesterday, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party noted that under Article 27 of the HRCM Act a case could only be filed against the commission regarding published reports following an inquiry which proves components of the report to have been false.

In its UPR report, the HRCM stated that the Supreme Court’s control of the judiciary was weakening judicial powers vested in lower courts.

“Supreme Court issued a circular ordering all state institutions not to communicate to individual courts regarding any information relating to the judiciary except through the Supreme Court. HRCM is facing difficulties in gathering information related to judiciary due to lack of cooperation,” the report stated.

Moreover, the report noted that “due to shortfalls in judicial system, functioning of the judiciary is often questionable on various grounds including independence, transparency, interference, influence, competency, consistency, and accessibility.”

Through a raft of regulations enacted in recent months, the Supreme Court has sought to consolidate control over administrative affairs of the judiciary.

In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, wrote that centralising administrative decisions in the hands of the Supreme Court “has undoubtedly contributed to the strong impression that lower courts are excluded from the administration of justice and decision-making processes.”

The Maldives representative to the UNHRC subsequently accused the special rapporteur of undermining the sovereignty of the country.

Criticism of the Supreme Court’s role in the electoral process by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last October was meanwhile described as “ill-informed” and “irresponsible” by former President Dr Mohamed Waheed.


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.


Polls “free and fair,” Elections Commission well-prepared: HRCM

The presidential election on September 7 was “free and fair” and conducted “impartially” in a peaceful environment while the Elections Commission (EC) was logistically well-prepared, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has concluded in its report on the first round of the polls.

In its report (Dhivehi) made public on Thursday (September 19) following election observation by officials in 11 population hubs as well as prisons, the HRCM recommended that EC officials in charge of ballot boxes should be better acquainted with election regulations as some were “hesitant to take procedural measures.”

“Although problems with the voters registry in boxes observed by the commission were few, existing issues should be resolved to confirm the validity of the voters registry,” the HRCM advised.

“Ballot papers were received in full at all [polling] stations observed by the commission. And, except for two polling stations, the voting booth was placed in a manner that would assure the secrecy of the vote.”

The secrecy of the vote could have been compromised in one polling station due to inadequate space and placement of voting booths while there was insufficient light in a second polling station, the report noted.

Officials from the HRCM observed voting in 25 ballot boxes across the country, including Haa Alif Kelaa, Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi, Baa Thulhaadhoo, Male’, Kaafu Maafushi Jail, Dhoonidhoo detention centre, Thaa Thimarafushi, Laamu Gan, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, Fuvahmulah and Addu City.

The HRCM observers found that campaigning and negative campaigning by political party supporters took place on voting day in violation of election laws.

However, the HRCM concluded that there was a peaceful environment for voting as “no violence, unrest or attempts to influence voting” was observed.

While seating arrangements were made for voters waiting in long queues, “some areas were not sheltered from the sun and rain.”

The HRCM report noted that those suffering from illnesses, the elderly, physically disabled persons, pregnant mothers, police officers on election security-related duty, election officials as well as observers and monitors were given precedence and allowed to vote without waiting in line.

The report also noted that police officers active near polling stations followed instructions from the official in charge of the station.

“It was noted that some observers, representatives, and monitors acted in violation of their ethical standards,” the HRCM found.

Moreover, arrangements were not made to provide easy access to polling stations for persons with special needs, the report noted, while the arrangements that were made for the physically disabled were not sufficient to assure their right to vote.

The HRCM also advised maintaining a consistent measure in all polling stations to determine if a person qualified for assisted voting to ensure that “the person who assists is not able to take unfair advantage or influence the vote”.

While vote counting was “conducted well” by election officials, the HRCM noted that in some instances the declaring of ballots as invalid was “questionable.”

At the conclusion of vote counting, the result sheet was announced in the presence of observers and a copy was made public, the report noted.

Lastly, the commission observed that the public was not allowed access to observe polling stations, which it said would have enhanced the transparency of the process.

A total of 35 complaints regarding the election was submitted to the commission, the report revealed, including 13 cases of people unable to vote and complaints concerning police officers active near polling stations, illegal campaigning, registration issues, and the conduct of election officials and observers.

Complaints regarding the voters registry included a person who was not a resident of a home included in the registry under that address and two persons re-registered without their knowledge.

In addition, one person submitted a complaint alleging that his or her name was not in the registry at all.

“Of the 35 complaints submitted to the commission, we note that 13 persons were deprived of their right to vote,” the report stated.

The HRCM report noted that more than 4,000 election officials were involved in conducting the polls while 2,234 observers from political parties, private organisations and individuals as well as 1,642 monitors were registered to observe the voting process.

In addition, 1,344 representatives of presidential candidates and 133 foreign observers were active on voting day.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the September 7 election, the Jumhooree Party (JP) – whose candidate Gasim Ibrahim narrowly missed out on the second round run-off with 24.07 percent of the vote – alleged vote rigging by the EC and sought annulment of the results by the Supreme Court.

However, both domestic and international observers have praised the EC for its conduct of the polls, with Transparency Maldives (TM) last week calling on political parties not to undermine the credibility of the results without evidence.

TM deployed the single largest team of election observers with 400 monitors across the country, which found that “only 0.2% people were turned away because their names were not on the registry” and that there no observed incidents “of double voting, impersonation, underage voting or of indelible ink washing off.”

“In view of the cases submitted and allegations made at the High Court and Supreme Court of the Maldives regarding systematic vote rigging, Transparency Maldives notes that it did not find any evidence that support allegations of systematic election day fraud during the nationwide observation,” TM stated.


Male’ immigration shelter opened as Maldives pressured over migrant rights

An immigration shelter intended to temporarily house unregistered and illegal immigrants is now up and running in Male’ as part of the government’s efforts to provide a more “humane” means of tackling immigration problems in the country.

Authorities have so far declined to provide exact details to media on the capacity or amenities available at the site, which the Maldives government has claimed will help to alleviate problems arising from the number of unregistered workers in the country at present.

With civil society, industry bodies and international experts continuing to raise concerns about the treatment and number of unregistered foreign workers in the Maldives in recent years, the country has come under increasing pressure to safeguard rights of migrants and curb people trafficking.

The Maldives has appeared on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for three years in a row. Should it drop to tier three – the worst category- then the country is expected to face significant reductions in aid and potential travel restrictions on its citizens.

According to President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad, the immigration shelter, which was opened last month on Orchid Magu in Male’, forms part of a strategy to try and clear up the problems associated with illegal immigrants in the Maldives.

Masood contended that illegal or unregistered migrant workers were proving to be a significant drain on the national economy, with the shelter providing temporary accommodation before they can be repatriated.

The President’s Office recommended specific questions on the shelter be forwarded to the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali has confirmed to Minivan News that the site was now operational, but did not divulge any more information at time of press on how it would function or the facilities available.

“We will bring out a statement later,” he said. Minivan News is presently awaiting a response from immigration officials to a request to visit the shelter.

Shelter for undocumented foreign migrants, Orchid Magu, Male'

The government has in recent months launched a special campaign intended to raising awareness of the rights of foreign workers, while also last month ratifying eight “fundamental” International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions intended to bring legislation on employee rights and trade unions in line with international standards.

However, independent institutions in the Maldives have maintained that the country is yet to ratify a core convention on protecting migrant worker rights, while no legislation is in place to punish those involved in smuggling workers though the country’s borders.

The Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office has also confirmed that a lack of legislation has meant no cases have been prosecuted against human traffickers in the Maldives at present.

“Corrupt immigration practices”

Just last month, a Maldivian trade union alleged that corrupt immigration practices and the use of unregulated employment agencies by private and state employers was limiting efforts to curb abuse of migrant workers and prevent illegal practices such as retaining their passports.

The Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) claimed that while companies are not permitted to retain the passports of foreign workers, some hospitality operators – as well as unregulated third party agencies and government ministries – are still keeping employee travel documents without consent.

At the same time, a source with knowledge of the current immigration system told Minivan News that the practice of retaining passports – a long-standing habit of Maldivian employers – was a key contributor to human trafficking in the country.

“This is a common practice seen all over the world. But it creates major problems. If a foreigner wishes to go to law enforcement agencies for assistance, they will be asked to identify themselves with a passport,” the source said.

Third party agencies appeared to want to keep the passports to be able to “manipulate” foreign workers for their own financial advantage, the source explained.


Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has accused state and private sector employers in the country of lacking consistency in their efforts to address human trafficking, preventing “real” change in controlling illegal migration.

Speaking back in February 2013, HRCM member Jeehan Mahmoud told Minivan News that despite attempts under the present government to try and introduce new legislation, the Maldives had made little progress towards improving the treatment and rights of foreign workers over the last four years.

Addressing the current scope of unregistered foreign labour, Maldives Association of Construction Industry (MACI) President Mohamed Ali Janah said an estimated 40 percent of the foreign employees in the sector were thought not to be legally registered.

Considering these numbers, Janah said he could not rule out the involvement of organised crime in certain employment agencies, which supply a large amount of foreign labour to building sites in the Maldives.


HRCM meets two member Commonwealth team

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has said that the commission met with a two member team from the Commonwealth on September 4.

The statement said that the President of HRCM Mariyam Azra, deputy President of HRCM Ahmed Tholal and commission member Dr Ali Shameem attended the meeting on behalf of HRCM while the two members from Commonwealth were Commonwealth Advisor and Head of Political Affairs and Goods Office Rita Yavan Raj and Political Affairs Advisor Alison Pierman.

The HRCM said it had highlighted and thanked the Commonwealth for their close monitoring of the situation in Maldives and the Commonwealth’s efforts to “provide immediate assistance when needed to ensure just and peaceful solutions.”

The Commonwealth team meanwhile noted that “HRCM had been playing a very important role in helping the country ease the ongoing political tensions and encouraged the commission to continue to do so.”


HRCM’s report claims Nasheed’s life was never in danger during resignation

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) in a report investigating alleged human rights violations on February 6 and 7 has said former President Mohamed Nasheed’s life was not in danger at the time of his resignation.

“The investigation did not find that anyone had tried to assassinate President Mohamed Nasheed during the time he spent inside Bandaara Koshi – the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters – on February 7,” the HRCM concluded.

According to the report, the commission was requested to investigate claims that the former president’s life was in danger while he was inside military barracks.  The request was made on April 11, 2012 by the chair of parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee, MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed,

The HRCM report was compiled based on the findings of its own investigations, which included witness statements from the police and the MNDF, media reports, video and photographic evidence as well as eyewitnesses accounts from representatives of all political parties.

However, the commission noted that despite repeated attempts, Nasheed refused to cooperate with the investigation, which forced them to compile the report without his statement or account of events leading up his resignation.

The report focused on six areas: the incidents that took place at Male’s Artificial Beach area on the night of February 6; vandalism of the former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Haruge camp or gathering spot by rogue police officers; the attack on private broadcaster Villa TV (VTV); incidents that took place at the Republican Square on February 7; the storming of the compound of state broadcaster Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) by police and army officers; and Nasheed’s claim that mutinying or rebellious officers tried to lynch him inside the MNDF headquarters.

Clashes at artificial beach

On the night of February 6, demonstrators from the ‘December 23 coalition’ of eight political parties of the then-opposition were facing off supporters of the MDP at the artificial beach, following three weeks of opposition protests that saw attacks on journalists of the state broadcaster MNBC and MDP-aligned Raajje TV as well as vandalism of a minister’s residence.

The HRCM report contended that the violence that took place on February 6 at the artificial beach area was triggered by an “unlawful” order directly from President Nasheed for riot police to withdraw from the protest zone.

The commission noted that article 6(d) of the Police Act clearly states that the police must maintain safety and public order while article 6(h) states that police should maintain order at venues set up for public use or gatherings.

The order for police to withdraw from the artificial beach area was therefore in violation of the law and constitutional provisions, the HRCM report stated.

“[…] despite repeated advice given by the police officers on ground that it was not a good move for the police to abandon the scene, the Home Minister and several senior officers from the police ordered the police to leave the area in violation of the aforementioned clauses, which resulted in police not being able to fully carry out their duty,” the HRCM report stated.

The police eventually left the area after MNDF officers arrived at the scene, but the commission’s report claimed that the incoming military officers also retreated soon thereafter, leaving the rival protesters to throw stones at each other for 15 minutes.

“Despite article 7(b) of Maldives National Defence Force Act setting provisions to defend and protect the Maldives’ independence and sovereignty, as well as protecting the national interests of the country, the MNDF officers at the order of the president, left the scene even when it was evident that the tensions between the two protesting group would give rise to violence,” the report stated.

HRCM noted that the MNDF failed to take adequate measures to prevent the violent confrontation.

“Due to this, the protesters were dispersed after several participants got severely injured from the violence that began.  Therefore the MNDF had failed in carrying out their legal duty,” the findings stated.

The report also noted that senior police officials tried to obstruct officers who left the police headquarters at the Republic Square when they heard of the clash between the protesters.

It also claimed that the police did not take any action to confiscate items that the protesters wielded at the time, which could have been used as weapons despite officers having knowledge about it.

The commission, based on the findings, has urged the MNDF, Maldives Police Service and the Police Integrity Commission to investigate and take action against those officers who obeyed the “unlawful” order and also called on the political parties to be more responsible in carrying out their activities.

Vandalism of MDP Haruge

Based on the information collected from the members of MDP present at Haruge during the time of the alleged police vandalism, the report stated that about 30 police officers in Special Operations (SO) uniform entered into premises at a time between 12:00am to 12:30am in the early hours of February 7.

“Police entering into Haruge smashed plates, toppled a bondibai (traditional Maldivian rice pudding) buffet, overturned a pickup truck inside the premises, brought down the MDP podium and attacked one person, while another person was grappled and thrown against a wall, after which he had to seek medical assistance from ADK Hospital,” according to information provided by MDP.

The report also stated that former State Minister for Home Affairs, Mohamed ‘Monaza’ Naeem was attacked by the police, while one person present was pepper sprayed in the face as the police officers present hit another individual on the back with a chair.

The MDP, in the information given to the report, also claimed that the police had smashed the window of the Maldives Media Council office with a baton before they left the area.

Attack on Villa TV

The HRCM in its report, highlighted that private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV), owned by the now government-aligned Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, was attacked by two men who had attempted to set the station on fire.

“On the night of February 6, a group of people attacked Villa TV and set fire on some parts of the building and this instilled fear and chaos within the employees of the station, who had suffered psychologically,” the report stated.

The report noted that the station suffered damages to the building’s structure, as well as the broadcaster’s equipment.

The HRCM also highlighted that police, who were asked to ensure the security of the premises following previous requests, were not present when the attacks took place.

“Following the instability in Male’ and with numerous threats received to the station, the company running the station had requested assistance from the police for security and police kept guarding the premises.  However, the police officers who were to be present at the station for security purpose were not there when the attacks took place on the night of February 6,” read the report.

The HRCM requested that the Maldives Police Service and the PIC investigate the matter and take action against those found responsible.

Incidents at Republican Square on February 7

HRCM observed that after vandalising MDP Haruge, the mutinying officers headed back to the Republican Square area of the capital.

“An order was issued to all the police officers who came from artificial beach to assemble in the Republican Square in the helipad area.  Meanwhile officers who were not in uniform and those in working uniform were ordered to be present on the third floor of the police headquarters building by Deputy Commissioner of Police Ahmed Muneer,” it read.

The police who had assembled were told by the Deputy Commissioner of Police Ahmed Atheef that certain officers had disobeyed their orders and therefore should be responsible for any circumstances that were to arise from their action.

“There were claims that the police institution was falling apart because of the ongoing corruption within, including drug issues and other concerns, and that complaints over the issues were retained in the middle management which meant the police officers had to rely on the middle management.  The police officers at the scene decided not follow any unlawful orders and to demand the commissioner of police to not to take any action against officers following their actions,” read the report.

The report claimed that the police officers, when they heard the news that the MNDF were coming to arrest them, came to alert their colleagues and claimed that they were prepared to confront the military officers.

Initially the commissioner of police refused to meet the mutinying officers, but later agreed to meet them at the police barracks in Iskandhar Koshi (IK).

“When the Commissioner of Police (CP)’s secretary came and requested that the officers go to IK to meet him, the police stood up to go, but when the MNDF were instructed to go to there without their shields, arms and riot gear, the police changed their mind and demanded the commissioner of police to meet them at the Republican Square,” the report claimed.

Police who had given information to the report claimed that the officers were exhausted and very hungry after the continuous duty from the night of February 6, adding they could only go to toilet with an authorized officer.

At about 06:08am, President Mohamed Nasheed arrived to Republican Square to talk to the mutinying officers.

The report claimed that Nasheed had told the officers that they had committed a “very despicable act” and to hand themselves over to MNDF, but the officers responded saying “no sir!”

Nasheed later left the area and went inside Bandaara Koshi (BK), the MNDF barracks.

At 8:00am, police in the report claimed while they were reciting the police oath, a group of protesters with metal rods and wooden sticks came barging into republican square chanting “arrest Baaghees (rebels)”.

They claimed that in the group of protesters, MDP MPs including MP Eva Abdulla, MP Ahmed Easa and MP Mohamed Shifaz were present.

“When the group entered into the Republican Square, police confronted the group with their battons and claimed that when the violence arose, confrontations were going on even between civilian groups,” read the report.

The HRCM said the constitution, in article 46, stated that a person could be arrested only if they are found committing a crime; there was valid reason to believe they may commit a crime, there were evidence that a suspect had committed a crime or a court order had been issued approving such an action.

“…but the MNDF under the direct order of the president tired to arrest police officers who assembled at the Republican Square under the order of senior officials of police,” the report highlighted, implying that Nasheed’s order was unlawful.

The report highlighted that the situation escalated because of Nasheed’s alleged unlawful orders and because of it, a lot of civilians and police officers suffered injuries of varying nature.

Raiding of MNBC

At about 6:00am, the HRCM said were rumours were circulating that anti-government protesters were planning on entering the offices of state broadcaster, the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC), to take over the station.

The report claimed that on the night of February 6, a group of civilians with batons and sticks who had previously been in the MDP Haruge area were inside the MNBC offices, claiming to be on guard for an impending raid from the mutinying police and anti-government protesters.

Police officers arrived to the station in the morning of February 7, but were attacked from the civilians present, who were claiming to be handling the security of the station.

“Confrontations took place between police, who came in a pickup truck to MNBC building, and the civilians.  The civilians attacked the police with ground chili and other objects, including wooden sticks and stones, which forced the police to leave,” the report read.

According to the report, the police attempted to take over the station twice, succeeding the third time when they came along with several civilians who were presumed to be anti-government protesters.

It also claimed that the civilians who entered into the premises used foul language towards the employees of the station, with one civilian quoted by the report stating; “you’ve spread enough lies”.

The report claimed that the first person to enter the newsroom was a civilian with a metal rod, who entered the room and ordered all the staff to leave. However, the police later entered and told staff that they were present, but not to attack any employees.

People who entered into the MNBC offices then ordered staff to change the station’s feed to private broadcaster VTV’s feed.

“A person who claimed to be the representative of the vice president, along with a person representing the opposition came to the station and said that ‘from now onwards there will be no MNBC and the station would now be called TVM,’ and the name was changed following the demand,” read the report.

The HRCM, in the report, requested that police and the Police Integrity Commission look into the unlawful actions carried out by both the civilians and the police officers.

Alleged attempt to lynch Nasheed

Following remarks made on April 11 during a parliament committee meeting held with the members of HRCM, several MPs posed questions to the HRCM to determine whether they had knowledge that the opposition had plans on “lynching” Nasheed on the day his government was toppled.

Following the remarks, the HRCM in its report stated that it had questioned the police, the MNDF and Nasheed’s bodyguards.

The report also claimed that it had analysed statements that Nasheed gave to media after his resignation, however it said that no information from Nasheed was included in the report as he did not provide a statement.

Nasheed’s bodyguards in the report claimed that there was no threat posed to Nasheed’s life or any of his family members.

“When people call for the resignation of the president, it is not deemed to be a threat to his life, and it was not a situation where any extra measures have to be taken and if he had wanted to go out, it could have been arranged.  If the president sees a threat posed to him, the people whom he should first inform are his bodyguards, but the president had never said anything about a threat,” read the report.

The report added that the president had asked the MNDF officer if his family were safe, to which the officers replied that the family was safe and bodyguards were with them for protection from any impending harm.

“When Nasheed went to the Presidents Office from the MNDF barracks [to resign], there were a large crowd of people gathered near the car chanting disapproval of him, and some of the people in the crowd threw cigarette butts towards his car but despite how bad the situation was, Nasheed would have been easily transferred safely to anywhere he wished to go, and the MNDF officers had made way within the crowd gathered for his car to safely pass,” it read.

The report also stated that some military officers who had rebelled had “smacked” his car while he was being taken to the President’s Office on several occasions, but it was still a safe situation.

It also said that the President’s Office, when Nasheed arrived, appeared to be calm, with no signs of unrest inside the building at all.

“The commission finds in the investigation that following the obeying of orders given by President Mohamed Nasheed against the constitution, the international conventions, the police and military act by senior officials of the MNDF and Police, the chain of command among the police and military was broken, several MNDF and police officers and civilians got injured and large amount of public property was damaged.  Several rights were also compromised.

“The investigation also finds that there was no threat posed to President Mohamed Nasheed while he was in the MNDF Barracks on the day of February 7,” the HRCM report concluded.


Police deny Amnesty International reports of “excessive force” against demonstrators

Police have refuted “in the harshest terms” allegations of police brutality by Amnesty International, after the human rights body released a statement on June 11 condemning the “excessive use of force” against demonstrators.

Amnesty’s statement followed its investigation of the police crackdown on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest against the dismantling of the MDP’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.”

In a press release yesterday, police insisted that “the minimum required force” was used to arrest 52 protesters on May 29, which included those who “obstructed police from performing their duty” and “disobeyed and resisted orders” as well as others taken into custody “on suspicion of attempting to inflict physical injury on police officers” and “for behaving in ways that cause loss of public order.”

Minivan News however observed one protester sustain a head injury after he was hit in the head by a baton, and was rushed to hospital in a pickup truck refueling at the nearby petrol shed.

Local daily Haveeru uploaded video footage showing violent confrontations between police and demonstrators during the arrests.

Minivan News also witnessed a cameraman from local TV station Raajje TV being pepper-sprayed by police while he was attempting to film police arresting a demonstrator.

Police brutality

“Incalculable damage”

The police statement noted that a report on the day’s events by a monitoring team from the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) “stated in very clear terms that excessive force was not used to arrest those among the demonstrators who threw objects at police, used obscene language and tried to obstruct police duties and that no physical harm was caused by police.”

The HRCM monitoring team however observed a police officer chase two demonstrators and strike them with his baton on the night of May 29. After protesting behind police barricades at the Usfasgandu area, MDP supporters began to gather at the intersection of Chandanee Magu and Majeedhee Magu in the centre of Male’ around 8:45pm.

The police statement explained that force was used to disperse the crowd at the Chandhanee Magu junction after protesters began throwing rocks at police officers from a construction site in the area.

“While six police officers sustained varying degrees of injury during the disturbances that day, two police vehicles were severely damaged,” reads the statement.

It added that police have concluded investigations of five demonstrators taken into custody on May 29 – including MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’ – and forwarded the cases for prosecution.

Police also noted that “very few complaints” were lodged concerning alleged misconduct and brutality by police officers.

A complaint by Maimoona Haleem, wife of former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, alleging excessive use of force in her arrest was being investigated by the police professional standard command, the statement revealed.

According to the Amnesty statement, ‘Mana’ Haleem was “walking home with her female friend in Majeedee Magu Street when police stopped them and began beating them repeatedly with their batons on their arms, back and hips before taking them in a van to the police station.”

“In her testimony Mana Haleem says: ‘I asked why we were being held, but received no answer. Later, they [police] told us it was because we had not obeyed their orders. We asked them how we could have disobeyed their orders if they had not given any, but they were not interested. I have bruises on my shoulder, my back and my hip.'”

However, the police statement claimed that in addition to a complaint filed at the HRCM by a detained demonstrator alleging the use of obscene language during his arrest, no complaints were lodged at the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), the oversight body for police.

The police statement slammed Amnesty for not reporting the “incalculable damage caused to police officers and property” during the MDP protest.

“Maldives Police Service calls on Amnesty International to clarify information from the relevant authorities and state the facts impartially and without bias when issuing such reports in the future,” the statement reads.

The statement concluded by urging “anyone with a complaint regarding police conduct” to formally lodge complaints at independent institutions.

In previous reports highlighting human rights abuse by police, Amnesty has noted police response denying the allegations and its recommendation that victims complain to HRCM.

“HRCM has told Amnesty International that they have serious limitations in terms of trained investigative staff and dealing with human rights issues in a highly politicised environment is an overwhelming challenge for them,” Amnesty has previously noted.

“By referring cases of police abuse of power to the HRCM, when it is clear that such investigations are beyond its capacity, the government is in effect forfeiting its own responsibility to enforce respect for human rights within the police force,” the organisation noted.

“Minimum force”

In its statement on the May 29 incidents, Amnesty had said that despite police claims to have used “the minimum required force to dismantle the area and arrest unruly demonstrators”, “it is clear that by far the majority of demonstrators were not using violence, and any such incidents cannot be used by police as an attempt to justify the ill-treatment of bystanders and those rallying peacefully.”

“Amnesty International believes that the police response to the demonstrations on 29 May was a clear example of excessive use of force.”

Amnesty’s statement included testimony from a number of protesters, noting that the latest reports “are consistent with many other testimonies Amnesty International has gathered previously.”

“One woman protesting peacefully in Majeedee Magu Street told Amnesty International that police officers suddenly pushed into them, and hit her and other peaceful demonstrators with their riot shields. Police hit them repeatedly on their back, and then pepper-sprayed them, aiming at their face and eyes. She said that police grabbed one demonstrator by the neck, shouted at him to open his mouth, and sprayed directly into his mouth,” the human rights organisation reported.

“Police also beat bystanders who showed no signs of violence. An eyewitness saw a man sitting on a stationary motorbike taking no active part in the demonstrations. Police went for him and hit him on his head with their batons. He lost consciousness. His friends took him to a nearby house where they arranged private medical treatment for him – they did not take him to hospital straight away as they were afraid he would be arrested.”

Amnesty called on countries supplying police and military equipment to the Maldives, particularly pepper-spray, to ensure that the substance was not being used to commit human rights violations.

“Any country that knowingly supplies police or military equipment to a force that uses them to commit human rights violations is itself partly responsible for those violations,” the human rights organisation warned.

“Amnesty International is calling on the government of Maldives to halt attacks on peaceful demonstrators including beating and pepper-spraying; bring to justice any police personnel who have used excessive force; ensure that security forces in the Maldives receive comprehensive training on what constitutes human rights violations, which they should not commit.”