Police Integrity Commission Chair resigns citing institution’s failure to hold police accountable

Former head of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahinda Ismail has resigned from the Commission claiming “major difference of opinion” with other the reasons behind her decision to resign from the institution yesterday.

“For me, the commission is not heading in the right direction – when you look at the commission’s work of late, I didn’t feel it was working towards objectives stated in police act,” she said.

Article 19 of the Police Act charges the PIC with promoting police officer’s respect for law, to independently investigate any unlawful activities, and to enhance trust and confidence in the police.

“I don’t believe that sitting there would enable me to do anything good for this country,” said Shahindha, who questioned whether any of the country’s public institutions were helping the people of the Maldives.

“If police are allowed to act like this – there will never be an end to this,” said Shahindha who expressed her concern that repeated excuses made on behalf of the police will not bring an end to brutality or the abuse of power.

“What I’ve seen in the actions of institutions is that they have been giving a lot of space for the police to act with impunity.”

Shahindha’s resignation comes just days after the release of the second of three reports looking into incidents of police misconduct that surrounded February’s transfer of presidential power.

The recent report into instances of police brutality during the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) February 8 protests, included an addendum with Shahindha’s opinions after she was unable to agree with the conclusions of her fellow commission members.

The main point of disagreement emerged over the legality of the police’s breaking up of the protests, and the extent to which senior officers should be culpable for the ensuing violence.

Shahindha stated in the report that she saw acts of police on February 8 to have been against the law, and that she observed no valid reason for police to have broken up the MDP demonstrations in the manner they did.

She also stated that the Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Fairoosh and then Acting Head of Police Specialist Operations Department Ahmed Shameem must be held responsible for not having carried out the responsibilities of their posts in a sufficient manner.

The remainder of the committee said that the police acted within the contours of the law and that acts of brutality were the sole responsibility of individual officers.

Shahindha stated that she could not understand the reason for these differences of opinion as she had no access to any information that was not seen by the other commission members.

“I really wouldn’t accuse anyone of any political activity or anything specific. People just don’t see things the way I see them,” she said.

The PIC’s Vice Chair Abdullah Waheed was unavailable for comment when called today. Waheed requested to be called back but was not responding to further calls at the time of press.

Waheed told Haveeru today that he believed Shahindha’s resignation was due to her husband’s departure to study in the UK.

“Since middle of July, Shahindha kept saying that she would leave the Commission as her husband was leaving abroad… So her statement to the media that she was resigning due to divergence of opinion comes as a real surprise,” said Waheed.

Shahindha’s husband, Hussein Shameem, confirmed to Minivan News that he had left his post as Deputy Prosecutor General in order to pursue further education in the United Kingdom.

Asked about the timing of her resignation, Shahindha said that she felt a strong responsibility to continue on the commission, despite ongoing problems.

“I waited mainly because this is the most important event ever involving the police. I was there when the incident took place. I played a vital role – I believed it was my responsibility,” she said.

Although she acknowledged problems with the commission before February 7, Shahindha described a more stark change in the atmosphere since February.

“The commission is in dire need of capacity building and I hope the state can provide necessary funding in order for the PIC to bring out sound conclusions. It needs capacity building in terms of its investigations,” she said.

Shahindha had previously expressed her scepticism over the ability of the PIC to handle the magnitude of the investigations following the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.

Despite finding that February’s transfer of power fell within constitutional limits, the report did acknowledge acts of police brutality and called for “assistance and encouragement” of institutions such as the PIC in order to increase “effectiveness and general performance.”

Shahindha stated that the Home Minister, who announced that the PIC would be tasked with investigating the abuses, was empowered to ignore PIC recommendations and had already done so.

Commenting on the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed this morning, Shahindha questioned the prioritisation of his case when cases of murder, rape and child abuse awaited trial.

Former Chairman of the MDP Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail has raised the same issue in a recent blog post, pointing out that there are currently over 2000 cases awaiting prosecution.


PIC report calls for action against rogue police, holds former Commissioner Faseeh accountable

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has published a summary of one of its three reports concerning the February 2012 events on their website.

Of the three separate reports the PIC has said it will release, the one published today (in Dhivehi) covers the events the investigation carried out to see if the police had committed any unlawful acts during the events of February 6 and 7, which led to the controversial transfer of power in the Maldives.

The report highlights nine different incidents. In five of these, the report states that the commission will further investigate the role of the police and take necessary legal action.

It explains that the investigation was carried out with reference to videos downloaded from the internet, CCTV footage, interviews and phone logs. It emphasises that all conclusions were reached in the light of information uncovered from the above-mentioned means and the existing legislative framework.

According to the report, all conclusions were reached with the unanimous agreement of all five members of the commission.

Regarding the matter of police withdrawing from and returning to the Artificial Beach on February 6, the report states that the order to retreat was given by then President Mohamed Nasheed. It goes on to say that in refusing to obey this command, the police in the area had been acting in accordance with provisions in the constitution and the police act, while concluding that then Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh, Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismail Atheef, Chief Superintendent of Police Farhad Fikry, Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, Superintendent Ibrahim Adnan Anees and Superintendent Ahmed AbduRahman had acted against these laws, namely Article 244(a) of the constitution, Article 6 (8) of the Police Act and the official police oath.

The report states that the commission believes that police occupying Republican Square had made valid and justifiable demands. It details these demands to have been for the Commissioner of Police to meet them, agree to not give them any more unlawful commands, and to provide a guarantee that no action would be taken against the officers for the events of that night.

While highlighting that police themselves have a constitutional right to go on strike, the report notes that it was wrong for them to have remained in the Republican Square after civilians joined the area and the gathering turned into a politically-motivated one. The report notes that it was some among these citizens who called for the resignation of then President Mohamed Nasheed.

With reference to the damage caused by officers to the police headquarters, the report says: “With reference to the videos and accounts reviewed by the commission, we have found that some among the police officers gathered in the Republican Square on February 7  entered the [police HQ] Shaheed Hussain Adam Building, damaged property, broken the panes of a window, took down the police flag, threatened senior officers and committed violent acts against them. These are disciplinary and criminal offences which should not have been seen from police officers.”

It furthermore states that these will be treated as separate offenses and legal action would be taken against those involved.

In contrast to the general account of events, the PIC in its report states that supporters of MDP and other civilians had marched into the area where the police were chanting their mission statement. The report claims that this led to clashes in which persons from both sides sustained injuries. It notes that the MDP were allowed to approach the police because MNDF officials who were tasked with cordoning off the area had retreated.

The PIC further claimed that its investigations had uncovered that police had entered the MDP ‘Haruge’ only with the intention to catch some individuals who had attacked the police at the Artificial Beach, and then run to the Haruge to hide. It also noted that people and property in the Haruge were attacked by both police and “some other persons”, stating that the commission would further investigate the role of the police in the incident, and take any required legal action.

On the issue of the takeover of the state TV channel, MNBC One, by police, military and opposition demonstrators, the report observed that the police went to the channel’s offices under the orders of an unnamed senior level commander. It states that they went to “provide protection to the channel” since it had received information that some civilians had entered and were vandalising state property within its premises.

The report states that police had been able to enter the MNBC premises after two attempts because a group of civilians were attacking them with sticks and stones outside the building. It describes the police entry into MNBC:

“Tear gas was used as police were unable to enter the MNBC premises due to attacks from civilians outside. The gate was locked, so police fired teargas with a riot gun into the premises through an opening in the gate. The police are authorised to use this weapon. Tear gas was fired inside in case there were people inside who might again attack the police. The gate was opened merely by thoroughly shaking and pushing it.”

The report notes that although the police used a “strict attitude” which “checking” the station, they did not commit violent acts against the people there. It also says that the police did not in any way attempt to influence the channel’s broadcasting. It states that the police checked the premises to see if any outsiders were there, and then retreated from the building. The PIC defends police’s actions in this matter by stating they were in accordance with Article 2 and 4 of the Police Act.

As a final point of investigation, the report notes that some police officers were injured in clashes between the officers of MPS and the MNDF. It holds then Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh accountable, quoting negligence, and states that the commission will take legal action against him.

The only recommendations in the report are directed for action from the Minister of Home Affairs. The recommendations are that the police institute remain free from political influences, and for the establishment of a working environment where the police could work without bias and with equability and fairness.

“A noble request can be made in an unlawful environment”

President of the Police Integrity Commission, Shahindha Ismail, speaking to Minivan News today expressed concern that some local media were misinterpreting the PIC report.

“The PIC does not collectively call the actions of the police on the 6th and 7th of February constitutional.”

“A very noble request or demand can still be made in an unlawful environment. This is what we are saying. The demand by the police to not give them unlawful commands was within the boundaries of law. But that they had remained there, with civilians, as part of what had escalated into a politically motivated gathering is wrong.”

Shahindha further said that the fact that many of the incidents highlighted in the report called for more investigation and action against police, confirming that the PIC did not endorse police action of the days in question as lawful.

PIC has previously said that it meant to release the reports before the CNI report. Shahindha said that the delay had been due to complications during the in-depth investigation.

President Nasheed’s nominee to CNI, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, when sharing his reservations with the press, had expressed disappointment that the CNI had not received the PIC report during the inquiry phase.


“I am very sceptical of the burden we will have to carry”: PIC chair

Chair of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahinda Ismail has said she is “very sceptical of the burden” the institution will have to carry following the publication last week of the Commission of National Inquiry’s (CNI) findings.

The comments were made after Minister of Home Affairs Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed yesterday said that the PIC would be tasked with investigating breaches of police conduct outlined in the CNI’s findings.

Of primary concern to Shahinda was the CNI’s lack of clarity regarding the cases the PIC was to investigate, as well as loopholes within the Police Act which made it difficult to implement PIC recommendations.

“After the CNI, it’s quite confusing when they have so vaguely blanketed the actions of the police. It would have been clearer to name specific incidents or policemen,” she said

Shahinda has questioned the ability of the PIC to follow through with this mandate after having had almost no contact with, or instruction from, the now-disbanded CNI.

“I was surprised at the dismantling of the CNI. There surely must be further questions from many people,” she said.

“After the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) completed their investigations, they sent a letter to us [to guide our work]. We would like something similar from the CNI,” she said.

Shahinda revealed that, throughout both versions of the CNI, the PIC had only had one meeting and received one letter from the commission.

The meeting involved mainly introductions and talk of future co-operation, whilst the letter from the CNI to the PIC asked only when its investigations into the events of February would be completed, she explained.

Referring to the CNI’s recommendations that the PIC, amongst other institutions, needed to be strengthened, Shahinda responded:

“My question would be – while I don’t claim the PIC is perfect – what information are they working with? Throughout their investigations, they showed no interest. There was no inquiry about specific incidents. To my knowledge, no one was summoned.”

Shahinda explained that the PIC was already investigating a number of incidents relating to February 7 and 8, making the lack of contact doubly confusing.

“They knew we were already investigating specific incidents – that’s what we do,” she said.

Shahinda also outlined what she saw as the weaknesses within the police act that, in certain cases, had allowed the Home Minister the option of ignoring PIC recommendations.

Article 44 of the Police Act states that any parties handed recommendations by the PIC can choose not to act on them if they inform the commission of the decision in writing.

“He is not really bound by the act,” said Shahinda, before alleging that this clause had already resulted in the Home Minister ignoring recommendations forwarded to him.

The PIC chair gave the example of a case involving police officer Ali Ahmed, whom she said had been adjudged unfit to continue to serve by the commission.  Shahinda claimed the case had been forwarded to the Home Minister.

“I know for a fact he is still a policeman and was promoted after this incident” she said.

“It is really upsetting – a huge concern – for me that the police leadership is showing a trend where unlawful officers are acting with impunity. This can only lead to further violence,” added Shahinda.

Dr Jameel was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has recently expressed his belief that around 300 members of the security services were “undermining the public interest of the entire country”.

Following the findings of the CNI’s report, which concluded that Nasheed was not removed from power in a coup, he called for legal action to be taken against implicated officers.

Nasheed’s representative on the commission Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed resigned the day before the report was published, citing – amongst other things – withheld evidence and non-examination of crucial witnesses.

The report’s findings have been welcomed by the United States, India, and the United Nations as well as the Commonwealth, although the MDP has said it will lobby for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to reconsider.


PIC runs breathalyser tests following allegations of drunken police: results negative

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has revealed that a team from the commission recently visited the Maldives Police Service (MPS) headquarters to run breathalyser tests on some police officers involved in controlling the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.

The MDP has been protesting in the streets of Malé for a fifth consecutive day, vowing to continue demonstrating until President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration is overthrown.

The party has alleged that the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 7 was an unlawful toppling of its government and described it as a coup d’état.

The PIC in a statement said that the commission visited the police headquarters following a report alleging that the police were acting in a “drunken” state while controlling the MDP Protests.

“Breathalyser tests are carried out to identify whether a person is in a state of intoxication or not. The report that we received regarding the allegations did not specify a number [of policemen who had consumed alcohol]. We want to release the details of this along with the test results,” said PIC President Shahinda Ismail.

Local media also quoted police media official confirming the PIC visit to police headquarters, but refused to reveal any further details.

“[PIC] are currently doing the tests. The tests are being carried out on 35 officers currently involved in operational level,” he said at the time.

Following the PIC’s breathalyser tests, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz in a statement to local newspaper Haveeru called on the commission to release the details of the tests as soon as possible.

He also told the newspaper that he believed that the commission should have released the results last night following the tests claiming that it was something the commission is “supposed to do”.

Regarding Commissioner Riyaz’s comments, PIC president Shahinda stated in the newspaper that the results would be released after a meeting with the commission members.

“We will reveal the results most likely in a press statement. We haven’t still been able to hold a meeting of the commission,” she said.

The PIC this morning released the results of the tests, refuting the allegations the police were in an intoxicated state during the protests.

The Commission said it had conducted breath analysis tests on all Specialist Operation (SO) police officers, none of whom tested positive for intoxication or alcohol consumption.

Speaking to Minivan News, PIC President Shahinda said the commission carried out the tests following a report saying that the police was “acting drunkenly during the protests” and that there was “the smell of alcohol coming from them”.

“We ran tests on the SO police officers. I think it there were about 37 or 38,” she said.

She also stated that none of the officers tested positive and that the allegations were false.

Asked if there were reports of alleged misconduct of police during the dismantling of MDP protests, she said that the commission had been receiving complaints and would be looking into it as per its daily routine.

She further stated that the commission was currently preparing a press statement asking the general public to provide any information on police misconduct following the events that unfolded on February 6, 7 and 8.

She also added that investigations are ongoing into allegations of police misconduct in Addu City on February 9.

PIC proves we are innocent: Police Media official

Speaking to Minivan News, Police Media Official Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that the MPS welcomed the PIC statement, stating that it had proved their innocence.

He also said that some of the protesters were spreading false information and baseless allegations about the institution, and that the police were saddened to see such actions.

“We have noticed that some of the participants in the protests are spreading false information and making baseless allegations about the Maldives Police Service. We are very saddened to see such actions and we do condemn such actions,” Haneef said.

“It is a good thing that they filed the case with the PIC. That is the way  things actually should be,” he said, regarding the report.

Haneef also denied allegations that the police were targeting opposition aligned media outlets, stating that the police treated all media “equally and fairly”

“There is a cordon when police are trying to control protests. We always ask [media] to stay behind it and we will assure their safety and security. But when they go out of the cordon how can we identify them from the protesters when there are violence going on?” he questioned.

Asked about the issue of lack of coverage of the events if journalists stayed behind the cordon, he stated that the media should look into “alternative” ways of reporting.

“The media should seek alternative ways of covering the protests. We cannot guarantee their security when they are outside the police cordon.  Maybe they could get cameras with powerful zoom capacity to cover the protests from a distance,” he suggested.

Haneef stated that the police always approached the media in a “very friendly” manner and stated that no police officer would deliberately hurt a journalist.

Minivan News also tried contacting Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz but he had not respond at time of press.


PIC investigating police handling of MDP protest

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) is investigating police handling of a ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest on October 20 outside the Supreme Court that spread to the residence of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Speaking at a press conference today, PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail revealed that four people lodged complaints with the commission after the disturbances outside Gayoom’s residence Endherimaage.

“While protests around the area of the Supreme Court are definitely prohibited, I believe that police failed to carry out their responsibilities by allowing people to gather there,” she said.

In a press statement last week, the PIC questioned whether police had done enough to control the protest and prevent damages to private property. The commission said it would investigate the events of the day and recommend legal action.

After a wooden plank allegedly thrown from Gayoom’s residence critically injured a 17-year-old, MDP activists threw rocks at the building, clashed with Gayoom supporters blocking the entrance and tried to knock down the door of adjoining residence Maafanu Endherigas.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam explained last week that demonstrations in certain areas, including courts and army gates, are prohibited by the Regulation on Assembly, put in place by executive decree under the previous government.

“Members of the Maldivian Democratic Party and Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) have both gathered in these areas though, even though we have requested them not to. Some of them have gone to the army gates and the President’s gate as well, so occasionally we have to address the issue,” he said.

Police meanwhile issued a press statement last night defending its actions on the day of the MDP protest, claiming that “some people are trying to blame police and relentlessly spreading misinformation to mislead the public.”

Prior to the protest, which was announced to begin at 3.30pm, the statement noted that police put up security lines and road blocks at 2.45pm around the Supreme Court and cordoned off the area.

“The area was closed off to prevent people from gathering there and to ensure there was no hindrance to the hearing to be conducted at the Supreme Court,” the police statement said.

However, while police made way for MP Mohamed Musthafa to enter the Supreme Court, “others entered into the cordoned area saying they had registered for the hearing.”

“As police had not been provided with information about those authorised to observe the hearing, while they entered the area others who had not been registered also came in,” police said.

As the Supreme Court had requested security and police believed that attempts to arrest protesters and disperse the crowd could have led to disturbances and affected the hearing, “police tried to control the protest and prevent more people from coming into [the cordoned area] until the hearing was concluded.”

The statement noted that in similar circumstances police used its discretion to restrain from using force to ensure that “the work of state institutions are not disrupted.”

When the crowd marched to Endherimaage after Musthafa emerged from court, police officers remained outside the Supreme Court.

Police officers were dispatched to the area around Endherimaage shortly after clashes erupted, the statement noted, and the officers were able to control the disturbances and disperse the crowd.

Minivan News journalists at the scene noted that police arrived after several MDP activists attempted to knock down the door of Endherigas and Endherimaage. Some protesters had briefly entered Endherigas but were kept out by a young man wielding a metal cone.

Police officers however blocked the entrance of both houses after they arrived at the scene, some 10 or 15 minutes after the violence erupted.

The police statement meanwhile criticised the PIC for putting out its statement last week allegedly without clarifying the matter with police.

“As the Police Integrity Commission is a commission formed to investigate with fairness complaints against police, this service deeply regrets [the commission] releasing such statements based on false information being spread in the media by political parties for political reasons without completing its investigation and unlike how it acts in similar cases,” it reads.

The statement alleged that individual police officers were facing intimidation from politicians, which was “unacceptable.”

At today’s PIC conference, Shahinda however denied that the commission acted any differently in the wake of the controversial MDP protest.

The purpose of the statement was to assure the public that it was investigating the incidents, she continued, noting that the four complainants were not all political parties with a political motivation.

“We have released statements regarding other serious cases as well where we wanted to appeal to the police,” she said.

Asked if police were subject to undue political influence, Shahinda said she could not comment on the present case before the inquiry was over, “but generally I don’t believe there is political influence over police.”

Shahinda also said that the police explanation for not dispersing the crowd was not a valid reason.

“After people had already gathered, not dispersing the crowd saying the hearing could be affected is not an acceptable excuse,” she said. “I don’t believe people should have been allowed to gather there in the first place.”