Defence Minister Nazim rejects allegations of police misconduct on Feb 8

Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim has rejected accusations that police officers committed criminal or “inhumane” acts against members of the public on February 8, 2012, instead blaming opposition party supporters for violence on the day.

Nazim was reported by newspaper Haveeru as claiming that police and military figures should not be held accountable for injuries sustained by members of the public during protests held over a three-day period between February 6 and February 8, 2012.

On February 7 last year, then President Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office. He subsequently alleged he had been forced to do so under “duress” on the back of a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

Speaking to private broadcaster DhiFM this week, Nazim rejected claims by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) that some officers should be prosecuted for criminal behaviour due to how they dealt with protesters at the time the government changed.

Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) was told by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) on Thursday that certain police officers should be prosecuted for alleged “unlawful actions” they committed in the build up to, and following, last year’s power transfer.

Parliament’s EOC is currently reviewing the report produced by the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), which looked into the events leading up to February 7, as well as its aftermath.

The CNI report, which was published in August last year, concluded there had been no coup, no duress and no mutiny during the controversial transfer of power that saw President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik sworn into office.  The report did however call for investigations into “acts of police brutality”.

The CNI findings were also welcomed at the time by the US State Department and the United Nations, but have continued to be branded a “whitewash” by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Opposition “offence”

Nazim told DhiFM broadcast that injuries received by members of the public during protests held on February 8, 2012, were a result of confrontations with police.

He maintained that the “truth” of the day, which he claimed had been wiped from public memory, was that supporters of the opposition MDP had carried out an “offence” by committing acts of violence that served to reverse national development by 20 years in certain cases.

Police stations and court houses in six southern atolls were torched during February 8 last year after police violently cracked down in the capital Male’ on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) march where thousands took to the streets in support of former President Nasheed.

In August last year, terrorism charges were pressed against over 40 people accused of setting the Seenu Gan police station on fire on February 8, including Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Rasheed and Addu City Councillor Ahmed Mirzadh.

According to local media, Nazim alleged this week that senior figures in the MDP had requested that the archives and history of islands across the country be set on fire along with courts houses and police stations.

While the defence minister added that police had taken part in unspecified, “unprecedented acts” during the transfer of power, he said that law enforcement and security officials were not at fault for violence during and after the transfer of power, and that former President Nasheed should take full responsibility.

Injuries sustained by members of the public between February 6 and February 8 last year were a result of confronting police officers, Nazim said, and had not been sustained “from being at home”. He maintained that a probe into the clashes was ongoing.

Defence Minister Nazim was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press. Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz’s phone was also switched off.

Prosecution calls

PIC Vice President Haala Hameed said earlier this week that the actions of some police officers during the controversial transfer of power amounted to crimes and should be prosecuted by the PG.

She claimed that the PIC had identified 29 cases of police misconduct, out of which cases concerning six police officers had been sent to the PG for prosecution. Furthermore, the PIC revealed that it had urged Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed to suspend the officers immediately.

Hameed said the commission had failed to identify the police officers in five of the remaining cases, while 11 other cases lacked supporting evidence. She also said the PIC was still investigating seven cases of police misconduct during the transfer of power.

“These are not disciplinary issues, but crimes. Aside from sending cases to the prosecutor general, we also recommended the Home Minister suspend these officers, because of the delays in prosecution. We believe these officers should not be serving in the police,” she said.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz disputed Hameed’s claims at the time, suggesting that the actions of police officers did not amount to crimes but were “disciplinary issues”.

“I am not deterred or afraid of carrying out my duty. I am not influenced by anybody. By the will of God, I will continue to carry out my duty. I would have sent cases to court if there had been sufficient evidence needed for a successful prosecution,” Muiz said.

The PIC has said that it had investigated officers involved in alleged abuse as criminal cases rather than as disciplinary matters.

Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed responded in local media at the time that cases involving police officers whom the had PIC recommended be dismissed had been sent to the police disciplinary board.

Jameel said the Police Act and the regulations made under the act were very clear as to how a police officer could be dismissed or disciplined. He claimed that he would uphold the law and would not violate the Police Act.

“The PIC is an institution formed under the Police Act. I can’t simply remove a police officer simply based on a recommendation by the commission. That is why I sent the cases to police disciplinary board as soon as I got the [PIC]’s letter,” he told Haveeru.

Jameel also said it would be an unfair dismissal if the court acquitted a police officer who had been dismissed prior a verdict being reached.

Dr Jameel was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

International pressure for a thorough investigation into allegations of police abuse has continued.

The UK government earlier this week called for the government and other parties to work towards institutional reform in areas such as the judiciary, as well as “to fully investigate all allegations of police brutality, as recommended in the CoNI report.”