“Police did not beat them enough,” says Majlis majority leader Ahmed Nihan

Ruling Progressive Party Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan has defended police brutality during a People’s Majlis debate today, accusing opposition MPs of putting up an act using tomato sauce to pretend police beat them up.

“Honorable Speaker, police did not beat them enough. Those who say they were brutalised, came to Majlis the next day in good health with makeup on. Their health is better than before. How can anyone who was brutalised get up on their two feet and speak on this Majlis floor [the next day]?” he said.

“They say they were brutalised, bloodied, and put on a drama on hospital beds, smear themselves with tomato sauce, and take photos and the next day they speak perfectly well at this Majlis and go off.”

Nihan appeared to be referring to police officers brutalizing several opposition MPs during a demonstration following the controversial ouster of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

On February 8, MPs including MPs Mariya Ahmed Didi, Reeko ‘Moosa’ Manik, Eva Abdulla and former MP Mohamed ‘Bonda’ Rasheed were severely beaten.

Nihan’s comments came during a debate on revising clauses in the 2008 Police Act that state the police must forward criminal cases to the Attorney General (AG) for prosecution.

The amendments – accepted by the Majlis today – propose placing prosecutor general (PG) instead of AG in clauses relating to prosecution, as the Constitution of 2008 states only the PG can press charges on behalf of the state.

Nihan said opposition MPs had politicised the issue by digressing from the debate and focusing on police brutality.

Death of officers

Nihan also suggested the deaths of police officers, Adam Haleem on Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo Island in 2012 and Misbah Abdulla in Malé in 2013 were linked to opposition’s defaming of the Maldives Police Service.

Referring to Haleem’s murder, Nihan said: “This is the result of a specific people protesting and calling for attacks on Maldivian police and soldiers during that week and weeks before that.”

Haleem was stabbed to death in July 2012 and several government officials including current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed blamed the MDP for the death. The MDP said the government was politicising the death for political gain.

Abdulla was killed in an accident after a speeding motorcycle hit him while he was manning a vehicle checkpoint.

“In every event, in every discussion, [they say police] are brutal, arresting – were you arrested when you were prostrating [in prayer]?” Nihan said.

“Harassing police is harassing us, playing with our arteries, our blood,” he continued.

Police Brutality

On August 6, AG Mohamed Anil told parliament five February 8 brutality cases involving four police officers are ongoing at the Criminal Court.

At minister’s question time, MP Eva Abdulla asked how far investigations into police brutality – as recommended by the 2012 Commission of National Inquiry’s (CoNI) – had progressed.

“With respect to the administration of justice, in particular concerning allegations of police brutality and acts of intimidation, there is an urgent need for investigations to proceed and to be brought to public knowledge with perpetrators held to account and appropriately sanctioned,” read the second recommendation of the report.

While it concluded that the transfer of presidential power was constitutional, CoNI 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. However, only one officer was sacked, Anil said.

February 8

Thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé on February 8, 2012, in a protest march after former President 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 Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concluded that the heavy-handed police crackdown on the MDP walk was “brutal” and “without warning.”

The HRCM recommended the PIC investigate the “disproportionate” use of force that left dozens of demonstrators injured and hospitalised.

In May 2013, the PG’s Office pressed charges against two police officers accused of assaulting MDP MPs ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Mariya Ahmed Didi during the violent crackdown.

Amnesty International meanwhile warned that failure to prosecute police officers accused of human rights abuses and “serious failings in the justice system entrenched impunity”.

In June 2013, former PIC member Hala Hameed told parliament’s government oversight committee that the cases involving the six police officers were “not disciplinary issues, but crimes,” expressing concern with the home minister’s refusal to suspend the officers.

Moreover, former PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail told Minivan News in September 2012 that a staff sergeant caught on tape kicking a fallen demonstrator “was promoted after this incident.”

In February this year, Shahinda told Minivan News that detainees arrested in Addu City on February 9 were “forced to walk on smoldering coals”.

According to the HRCM report, 32 people filed complaints concerning varying degrees of injuries sustained in the crackdown, while 20 people submitted medical documents of their treatment of injuries.

Two fingers on the left hand of one demonstrator were crushed, the report noted.

Al Jazeera filmed parts of the crackdown, reporting that “police and military charged, beating demonstrators as they ran – women, the elderly, [with] dozens left nursing their wounds”. The BBC meanwhile reported “a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals.”

In a report in May 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul warned that there could be more instability and unrest unless serious human rights violations of Maldives’ authoritarian past are addressed.


Police Commissioner violated Police Act with political tweet, determines PIC

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz violated the Police Act by posting a letter on Twitter urging police officers not to vote for former President Mohamed Nasheed, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has determined, recommending administrative action against the police chief.

The PIC said in a press statement today that an investigation was launched following media reports of Riyaz’s tweet on August 20. The case was already under investigation when the Elections Commission (EC) forwarded a complaint regarding the letter, the police oversight body said.

The PIC found that the police chief violated articles 7(a)(3) and 69(b) of the Police Act as Riyaz admitted to posting the letter on his official twitter account, which the commission determined to be declaring “support for the content of the letter” despite it first appearing on another twitter account.

Article 7(a)(3) of the Police Act stipulates that all police officers must act impartially and without bias in performing his or her duty while Article 69 of the Police Act states, “It shall be illegal for any police officer to commit any of the following acts even in his or her personal capacity, a) Committing any act or participating in any activity that obstructs the performance of an officer’s duty without bias or partiality b) Committing any act or participating in any activity that could create doubts among the public concerning the performance of an officer’s duty without bias or partiality.”

Based on its findings, the PIC advised the Home Minster to take “administrative action” against Riyaz under article 67(a) of the Police Act.

The types of administrative penalisation provided for in the law include counselling, requiring completion of special training, providing special counselling to improve capacity, transferring to another post, placement under close supervision, demotion and termination.

In a dissenting opinion noted in the commission’s statement, PIC member Ali Nadheem contended that in addition to recommending administrative action, the case against Riyaz should be forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office for criminal prosecution.

“Overtly political”

Following media reports of Riyaz’s tweet, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik told local journalists last month that he imagined the tweet had been posted in the commissioner’s personal capacity.

The letter posted by Riyaz called on police officers to “say no” to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate just as they had on February 7, which the anonymous author described as a “jihad.”

Former President Nasheed resigned on February 7, 2012 in the wake of a violent mutiny by police officers of the Specialist Operations (SO) command, who disobeyed orders and broke the chain of commandassaulted government supporters, ransacked the MDP Harugelaunched a protest at the Republic Square, clashed with the military and stormed the state broadcaster.

In the aftermath of the police mutiny and clashes at Republic Square, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz – a civilian at the time – was among three senior ex-servicemen under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who went inside military headquarters to relay the protesters’ demand for President Nasheed’s “unconditional” resignation, after which they accompanied Nasheed to the President’s Office where he announced his resignation at a live press conference. Riyaz and current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim were seen taking Nasheed’s resignation letter to parliament.

However, Nasheed’s insistence that his resignation was “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” orchestrated by the then-opposition working with elements of the security forces loyal to Gayoom was later rejected by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), while also calling for action against unlawful acts committed by the security forces.

Commissioner Riyaz meanwhile posted an interview on the police website in July this year asserting that police would refuse to follow any orders deemed “unconstitutional.”

“Whichever individual becomes president tomorrow can no longer just change the constitution, the existing law. That individual, holding the presidency, can only bring such big changes with a parliamentary majority,” said Riyaz, challenging the MDP to confirm or deny the authenticity of a leaked document purporting to be the party’s policies for reforming the security services.

Following Riyaz’s tweet last month, the MDP released a statement expressing “grave concern over the overtly political actions taken by Abdulla Riyaz, appointed Commissioner of Police by Dr. Mohamed Waheed following the overthrow of the Maldives’ first democratically elected government in February 2012.”

“The MDP notes that this is unfortunately not the first instance where Mr. Riyaz, appointed in dubious circumstances, has used his position in a blatantly politically manner. The MDP would like to draw attention to Mr. Riyaz’s role in the February 7, 2012 forceful overthrow of government, subsequent police brutality, impunity and lack of accountability, politically motivated detentions, unconstitutional barring of Raajje TV from Police Service events, the refusals to accept summons by parliamentary select committees and the extensive interview he recently gave on a policy which was alleged to be the MDP’s,” the statement read.


Parliament accepts police bill

Parliament on Wednesday accepted legislation proposed by Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed Nasheed, to revamp the existing Police Act.

MPs voted 24-19 with one abstention to accept the bill and sent it to the National Security Committee for further review.

Presenting the bill to parliament on October 31, Nasheed said the new law was intended to “bring fundamental, revolutionary change” to the police institution.