Five police brutality cases from February 2012 ongoing at court, AG tells Majlis

Five cases involving four police officers accused of committing acts of brutality in February 2012 are ongoing at the Criminal Court, Attorney General Mohamed Anil informed parliament today.

At minister’s question time, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) 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.

After the ministry instructed police to take disciplinary action against the officers, the police disciplinary board investigated the cases and sacked one officer.

However, the disciplinary board decided there was insufficient evidence to prove wrongdoing by the other five officers and decided not to dismiss them pending the outcome of a trial.

Four of the accused officers were nonetheless removed from “front line” duty and transferred to different departments, noted the attorney general.

The PIC had also submitted cases involving six police officers to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office to press assault charges, he continued.

Of the cases filed at the Criminal Court by the PG’s Office, Anil said one case had been concluded and has since been appealed at the High Court.

Moreover, he added, cases involving three other officers were sent back to the PIC due to incomplete information with instructions for resubmission.

The PG’s Office also decided not to prosecute three police officers accused of obeying “unlawful orders,” Anil noted.

Of the 45 cases investigated by the PIC, the attorney general explained that the commission decided there was no evidence concerning 14 complaints, while there was insufficient evidence to identify the officers responsible for 11 acts of brutality.

The remaining cases involved procedural violations, he added, concerning which the PIC recommended strengthening institutional mechanisms.

Following the recommendation to the home ministry, Anil said efforts were undertaken to familiarise police officers with laws and regulations as well as to strengthen ethical training, while further courses were formulated and conducted.

Police brutality

On February 8, 2012, thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé in a protest march after former President Mohamed Nasheed declared his resignation the previous day had come “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying police officers of the Special Operations (SO).

Following an investigation, the 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 investigations by the PIC into 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.

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No evidence to prove Corporal Atheef brutalized MDP Chairperson on February 8 says PIC

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has ruled that it had not come across substantial evidence supporting the claims of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik being attacked by Corporal Mohamed Atheef  on February 8, 2012.

Last year on February 8, the MDP backed by thousands of its supporters took to the street in protest following the controversial ousting of the party – led government of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The protest was met by a vigorous and a brutal crackdown by police officers – who the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) stated were “emotionally hyped and charged”.

The HRCM in its investigative report into the events concluded that the police crackdown on the MDP march, which left dozens of demonstrators injured, was “brutal” and “without prior warning.”

Manik who was at the forefront of the demonstration was seen singled out by the enraged police and in videos that later became public showed him being dragged by police unconscious and severely injured.

In another video, he along with ousted President Nasheed and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi were seen dragged out of a ceramic shop in Male’ by the police while Nasheed was heard in the video pleading the police to not to torture the people.

However, in a case report sent to Corporal Mohamed Atheef – whom Moosa alleged was one of the police officers who attacked him – the PIC stated that the commission was not able to obtain sufficient evidence required to prosecute Corporal Atheef.

The local media outlets reported that Coporal Atheef was seen in pictures and videos that had come out in public later.

Corporal Atheef however had denied the allegations.

“On that very day, I was trying to protect Moosa Manik and escort him safely out of the area. I have never tortured a Maldivian citizen even before and even now. I shall never torture anyone,” Corporal Atheef told Minivan News.

Despite PIC’s decision, the prosecutor general had pressed charges against another police officer Mohamed Waheed for allegedly hitting Manik in the head with a metal canister on the same day.

Another officer, Ibrahim Faisal is facing charges for assaulting MP Mariya Ahmed Didi.

The PIC had previously said that it had been looking into complaints of police misconduct especially during protests.

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PIC concludes investigation into “brutal and inhuman conduct” by police during power transfer

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has declared it has concluded its investigation into all cases of police misconduct during the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 6-8, 2012.

On February 7 an anti-government protest led by then-opposition political parties and religious scholars,   led to a mutiny by a segment of both police and military officers against Nasheed, resulting in his premature resignation from office.

The following day, Nasheed along with the MDP and thousands of people, took to the streets in protest claiming that Nasheed was ousted in a bloodless coup d’état.

However the en masse demonstration met a brutal crackdown from both police and military officers during which MDP MPs and members of the public sustained injuries.

During a parliamentary inquiry by the Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC), the PIC claimed that actions by police during the mutiny which led to the change in government were  unlawful and amounted to crimes worthy of prosecution by the state.

PIC Vice President Haala Hameed said during the session that the PIC had identified 29 cases of police misconduct, out of which cases concerning six police officers had been sent to the prosecutor general (PG) for prosecution.

The PIC at the time claimed it had urged then-Home Minister Mohamed Jameel to suspend the officers immediately, however the request was not adhered to, and instead at least one of the accused was promoted.

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,” Hameed said.

However in an interview with local media on Monday, President of the PIC Abdulla Waheed said the commission had investigated a total of 20 cases of police misconduct that took place on February 6,7 and 8.

Waheed said these included cases initiated by the commission itself, and cases investigated based on complaints filed at the commission, out of which only two are pending at the moment.

Out of the 20 cases, 12 cases concerned police brutality during the crackdown on protests and during the events that unfolded, while eight concerned issuance of unlawful orders, obeying unlawful orders and officers failing to comply with the law while on duty, said Waheed.

“There are very serious issues in these cases. They include brutal and inhuman conduct by police officers,” he said.

Waheed also claimed that it had sent cases of four police officers to Prosecutor General (PG) office for criminal prosecution. He added that out of the four officers, three were commissioned officers however he declined to reveal any names.

The PIC Chair also said that while there remained cases filed on allegations lacking any basis, the cases that needed to be investigated had now been completed and sent to the PG while at the same time the commission would also send recommendations to address issues with the police to Home Ministry.

“We will address the issues highlighted in the recommendations made by independent institutions and the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report. There are no cases being investigated regarding the events of February 6 and 7,” Waheed said.

Some police officers are currently facing criminal charges for their misconduct during the events including two police officers who had allegedly assaulted and attacked opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Mariya Ahmed Didi and ‘Reeko’ Moosa.

Police Officer Ibrahim Faisal is currently being charged for attacking Mariya Ahmed Didi on February 8 while another officer, Mohamed Waheed, is also facing criminal charges for assaulting MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa, hitting him on the head with a metal canister.

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