President releases four Indian prisoners

President Abdulla Yameen has used executive powers to release four Indian prisoners serving sentences in the Maldives.

President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz Ali told local media that the three men and one woman currently detained would be deported upon release. The nature of their offences was not revealed.

“We have an agreement for exchange of prisoners between our two countries. The laws needed to enforce this agreement haven’t yet been completed. Therefore, this decision was taken with the power bestowed upon the president through Article 115 of the Constitution,” Muaz told Haveeru.

He said that the move was intended to strengthen bilateral ties as well as celebrating the recent election of Narendra Modi. The close ties between the two countries will be marked with a 2km friendship walk, starting from the artificial beach at 4pm tomorrow (August 8).

President Yameen also used his presidential prerogative to grant clemency to 169 Maldivian convicts in April.


President announces clemency plan for all prisoners except “extremely serious offenders”

President Abdulla Yameen has announced that he will grant clemency to all prisoners except those convicted for extremely serious crimes, including murder and terrorism.

“On the first of April, I will grant the highest form of clemency possible to all prisoners convicted for crimes other than the most serious ones,” Yameen stated on Wednesday night, speaking at a political rally held in Fuvahmulah.

Yameen stated that his administration wishes to re-introduce youth prisoners into society under a rehabilitation program. The government has therefore decided to grant clemency to all non-serious offenders who are currently in prison, he added.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have described the move as “irresponsible”, and a “political stunt”.

The president did not reveal what particular crimes would be subject to clemency, though the Clemency Act (2010) lists the following crimes as not being applicable for clemency or commutation of sentence: terrorism, murder, crimes punishable by a ‘hadd’ in Islamic Shariah, sexual harassment against children, illegal drug trading, rape, sexual assault and homosexuality.

Asked how this will affect the Ministry of Home Affairs’ efforts to end the abuse of drugs, Minister of Umar Naseer responded that the program will not present any difficulties.

“It will not be a hindrance because the present Clemency Act prevents serious offenders from being released. Furthermore, this process will be monitored by the Home Ministry,” he stated.

“An irresponsible political stunt”: MDP

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy described Yameen’s initiative as “a very irresponsible political stunt”.

“This is a stunt they are pulling off as elections approach – an act without any form or structure. This is a stunt like they used to pull during the Gayoom administration – as every election nears, they’ll let out numerous prisoners and the streets will be teeming with drug abusers. This is a highly irresponsible act on the part of the government,” Fahmy stated.

“There is a huge difference between what this government is about to do, and the MDP’s ‘Second Chance Programme’. The Second Chance program was a structured effort, under which applicable prisoners were released under parole to be under the guardianship of a family member,” said Fahmy.

“They were given trainings in various skills and were provided with employment opportunities. They were monitored constantly and were taken back in when there is a risk of re-offending crimes.”

“Yameen and the people around him were those who most criticised our ‘Second Chance Programme’. And now look at what they are attempting to do. This clemency plan has no structure and will prove detrimental to the society,” he continued.

Fahmy further stated that the incumbent government has also been releasing serious and dangerous criminals, despite the Home Ministry claiming to be working against the drug trade.

“For example, the criminal who goes by the name of ‘Safa’. He is currently roaming about freely in Sri Lanka while authorities like the Anti Corruption Commission have spoken against his release,” Fahmy said.

Second chance

During the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, a clemency program under the name of ‘Second Chance’ was implemented, under which prisoners were reintroduced into society under a parole system.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who served as Minister of Home Affairs during the Waheed administration – shut down the program in March 2012, alleging that the Nasheed government had used it to “release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure”.

Later in July, Jameel blamed a “surge in crime” partly on the ‘Second Chance Programme’, stating that over 200 convicted criminals released under the scheme had been returned to prison for re-offending.

Jameel also published a comment piece in local news website Haveeru in September 2011, speaking against the programme and emphasising the importance of granting clemency in accordance with the Clemency Act.

In its 2013 Human Rights Report, the US State Department described Maldivian prisons as generally meeting ‘most international standards’, while they were reported to be overcrowded.

“The Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) prison system, which had an estimated capacity of 885 prisoners and detainees, had a prison population of 1,050. There were 34 women in the system, as well as 14 boys under age 18. Drug offenders accounted for 47 percent of the prison population,” the report reads.


Torture victims require redress, thwarted by institutionalised impunity

Maldivian victims of systemic and systematic torture that has been occurring for decades have yet to find redress, while the legacy of wide-scale human rights violations continues to be perpetuated by state institutions due to institutionalised impunity, government, state institutions and civil society organisations have said.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has confirmed it is investigating three recent cases of detainees being tortured by Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) officers while in the Custodial Reception and Diagnostic Centre (Male’ Jail).

Officials from the HRCM visited Male’ Jail June 2, 2013 after the family of a detainee informed the HRCM on May 31, 2013 that the victim had been beaten by DPRS officers.

In March this year local media reported that the HRCM was investigating allegations of torture in Male’ prison, however due to authorities “not cooperating” with the investigation the HRCM team was forced to visit Maafushi Prison instead.

In response to the allegations, DPRS Commissioner Ahmed Shihan told CNM that thus far no warden was found to have been involved in the torture of detainees and if a prison warden was found to have acted unlawfully, action will be taken against the officer.

“We will keep monitoring to ensure that all wardens act according to the law,” said Shihan.

In May 2011, former Prisons Division Head of the DPRS Isthafa Ibrahim Manik was detained and questioned by police, after disturbing photographs of tortured victims in custody were obtained by the – now dissolved – Presidential Commission and leaked to the media.

While instances of Maldivians in state custody suffering human rights abuses remains problematic, it is symptomatic of a long standing history of torture that has yet to be remedied or seriously addressed.

“It is quite worrying that we keep hearing about accounts of torture in custody. These recent accounts are an indication of the consistence and continuing abuse in custody,” Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)’s Executive Director Humaida ‘Humey’ Abdulghafoor told Minivan News yesterday (July 13).

“There is systemic and systematic abuse of detainees [in the Maldives], therefore the practice of torture is unlikely to just disappear over a short period of time,” she emphasised.

While the HRCM’s national preventative mechanism should protect people from the state committing human rights violations, Humaida believes this mandate has been inactive and not working effectively.

“The HRCM has a national preventative mechanism that legally obligates them to ensure mistreatment of prisoners is prevented from happening in jails,” she said.

“Monitoring and oversight is very important because of the history we have, but this mechanism is not working effectively,” she added.

Given the physical and psychological harm torture victims suffer that “cannot be dissociated”, supportive mechanisms that account for this trauma need to be established for Maldivians, explained Humaida.

“There must be an enabling environment for victims to come forward, which doesn’t seem to be there,” she said.

“Many families and victims are afraid and not willing to talk or report these violations because they feel intimidated [by the state] given the risks of revictimization and possible harassment,” she continued.

“Things on the surface may appear quiet, however that doesn’t mean everything is good,” she noted.

Humaida explained that without an enabling environment for victims to report the human rights abuses they have suffered, there is subsequently a lack of documentation and enquiries that would ultimately identify the root causes and/or perpetrators of torture in the Maldives.

“It is impossible for HRCM to know how this torture is happening without proper documentation and enquiries,” she said.

“The Torture Victims Association (TVA) is the only organisation doing such work,” according to Humaida. “The TVA [also] submitted torture victims’ testimonies to the HRCM February 6, 2012, which the victims were able to provide because they no longer felt afraid.”

“A report [by TVA and international NGO Redress] about ill treatment of prisoners was submitted to the HRCM in July 2012, containing the most concrete evidence produced regarding torture occurring while in detention,” she continued.

“Victims’ testimonies were also presented to the UN Human Rights Committee [July 2012 in Geneva], which made recommendations that the Maldives has not yet implemented,” she added.

Reports that included testimonies of police brutality, in addition to torture and ill-treatment of detainees in jail, were presented during the meeting held in relation the to International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which the Maldives is a signatory.

It has been over a year since the reports were submitted and Humaida cited the “inactivity and apathy of authorities” as a possible reason there has not been any action to redress these past, wide-scale instances of torture.

“I’m very surprised the HRCM has not given updates on how these investigations are proceeding,” she said.

“[Additionally,] while they used to visit prisons regularly and produce reports, that is not something they seem to be doing anymore, which is also a concern,” she added.

HRCM mandate limited

The HRCM mandate specifies that the commission’s focus should be on incidents post-2000, however there is a clause that does allow investigations of past human rights violations if a case is “serious enough”, HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal explained to Minivan News yesterday (July 13).

“Torture occurs when state authorities function with impunity, which does not produce a society that is respectful toward human rights,” said Tholal.

He explained that the HRCM is coordinating a strategy to holistically approach past human rights violations on a wider scale.

“We have discussed as a commission how to address human rights violations on a wider scale and how to approach cases to systemically root out torture,” Tholal stated.

“It is very important to ensure absolvement of that feeling [state authorities function with impunity] amongst the people,” he continued.

“The Maldivian people need some sort of redress and closure,” he added.

In regard to the accounts of torture submitted to the HRCM last year by TVA and Redress, Tholal explained that if a human rights violation has occurred then the HRCM looks into the issue on a case by case basis and that allegations of torture submitted by the organisations are currently under investigation.

“We are currently looking into the complaints of each victim [from the reports]. However, some information and evidence is hard to come by,” said Tholal. “For example, we are not able to contact the actual people directly, we have to seek their contact information from the organisation. But we are trying to move as fast as we can.”

Institutionalised impunity

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) was given an update on the current human rights situation in the Maldives this past April, by MDN in collaboration with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The brief noted that while some steps have been taken in the past decade to reform institutions and investigate allegations of human right abuses, including torture committed by the security services, limited mandates, a lack institutional will, and senior officials publicly dismissing these concerns has prevented redress.

“A culture of impunity has been institutionalised for perpetrators of past human rights violations that… encourages the security forces to disregard the rule of law and commit further human rights abuses in impunity,” stated the brief.

In September 2012, FIDH released a report detailing the human rights situation in the Maldives, titled “From Sunrise to Sunset: Maldives backtracking on democracy”.

FIDH noted that the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has been accused of a wide range of human right violations, including violent harassment of street protesters, torture and harassment of pro-opposition media as wells as legal and physical harassment of the opposition.

“Practices to silence political dissent that had disappeared in the course of Nasheed’s presidency, have once again become prevalent under Mohamed Waheed’s presidency,” said FIDH.

Police station and prison torture

There are many accounts of the systematic and sustained use of torture within the state’s prisons and police stations perpetrated by military personnel, police, coast guard, and prison officers, according to the Redress/TVA report which included accounts of individuals who allege that they were tortured or ill-treated during former President Maumoon Gayoom’s regime between 1978-2008.

“Most victims were initially tortured or ill-treated during interrogation and questioning, either at police stations or at various detention centers,” stated the report. “Torture and ill-treatment continued in prisons and detention facilities, typically as a form of intimidation and punishment.”

“But until now, the victims of such treatment have not been provided with any justice for what has been done to them. Despite accepting that torture and ill-treatment occurred on a wide scale, the Maldives is yet to address its legacy,” the report noted.

The findings highlighted that “While there was no apparent limit to the forms of torture and ill-treatment used, many were quite specific to the island environment.”

Torture and ill-treatment of detainees was often inflicted outside the prison buildings, and guards appear to have been given free range to use whatever methods they choose, including: beatings, burning, being tied to palm trees, the use of high-pressure hoses, the use of stocks and other painful restraints as well as suspension, near drowning, being restrained and covered in sugar water to attract ants, subjection to noise and sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and sexual humiliation, etc., the report found.

The government of Maldives previously acknowledged that the use of torture was systematic in the country, as stated in its Universal Periodic Review report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2010.

However, current government officials deny torture and ill-treatment of detainees is problematic, and claim that human rights reports conducted by civil society organisations are subject to political bias in favor of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed – a previous torture victim himself – pledged to institute structural changes to reform police and military institutions upon his re-election in September, during an MDP function held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia July 13.

The Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) and Maldives Police Service (MPS) had not responded to enquiries at time of press.


HRCM investigating three cases of alleged torture in Male’ custodial

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has confirmed it is investigating three recent cases of detainees being tortured by Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) officers while in the Male’ jail.

The HRCM issued a recent press release stating they were “investigating complaints of brutality” towards detainees at the Custodial Reception and Diagnostic Centre (Male’ Jail).

Officials from the HRCM visited Male’ Jail June 2, 2013 after the family of a detainee informed the HRCM on May 31, 2013 that the victim had been beaten by DPRS officers.

“From the investigations that ensued, [the HRCM] found proof that there were two more detainees who sustained injuries while in custody,” read the statement.

“The HRCM is currently investigating the cases, therefore I’m sorry I cannot be more specific, but I cannot comment at the moment,” HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal told Minivan News today (July 13).

“The HRCM always considers allegations of human rights violations quite serious issues and is quick to react, [which is] crucial when human rights violations occur, because otherwise there is no point,” explained Tholal.

“In cases involving torture, fresh evidence is needed, additionally the torture could be ongoing and taking immediate action is needed to protect the victim,” he continued.

“There must be some sort of comfort and support to people when things fail,” he added.

In situations where there is the prospect that a large number of people have suffered human rights violations, it is part of the HRCM’s public relations strategy to announce that investigations are occurring, Tholal noted.

“This is both to demonstrate to the public that the commission is acting proactively, as well as to encourage other victims to submit their complaints to the HRCM,” said Tholal.

Tholal explained the basic assumption from which the HRCM functions is that ‘things are going ok’, but if the state fails to protect human rights – in cases of domestic violence, child abuse, health, migrant workers, for people with disabilities – even if the violations are not directly perpetrated by the Maldives’ government, the HRCM will still investigate.

“The HRCM is always accessible, if any sort of human rights violation occurs we urge people to report it,” he added.

Systemic and systematic torture

“It is very, very good, I’m pleased the HRCM has made the decision to go public with their investigations. HRCM needs support from us,” the Maldivian Democracy Network’s Executive Director Humaida ‘Humey’ Abdulghafoor told Minivan News today.

“It is quite worrying that we keep hearing about accounts of torture in custody,” said Humaida. “These recent accounts [the HRCM announced they are investigating] are an indication of the consistence and continuing abuse in custody.”

“There is systemic and systematic abuse of detainees [in the Maldives], therefore the practice of torture is unlikely to just disappear over a short period of time,” she emphasised.

Humaida highlighted the need to address the “complete lack of professional standards” within the DPRS and Maldives Police Service (MPS).

“What is the system of accountability within the MPS? Where are the professional standards and oversight?” she questioned.

“It is an indicator of the total unprofessional behavior by the MPS that there are ongoing allegations of torture. It is most despicable, no agent of the state should be involved in abusing its citizens,” she declared.

Minivan News spoke with a Maldives Police Service Media Official, Sergeant Hussain Siraz, however he was not aware of the current HRCM investigation and was unable provide an official comment to Minivan News.

Meanwhile, Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.

Correction: The previous version of this article said Maldives Police Service officers were accused of torturing detainees, however this should have referred to Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services officers. Minivan News regrets the error.


Parliament accepts extradition bill

Parliament today (April 16) accepted a government-sponsored bill that would allow for foreign prisoners to be extradited from the Maldives to their country of origin, local media has reported.

MP Riyaz Rasheed submitted the bill, which classifies the types of criminal offences that foreigners can be extradited for, as well as regulating the procedures for international prisoner transfers in the Maldives.

The bill states that only under special circumstances – after a request from the country of origin and a permit from the Prosecutor General (PG) – can a prisoner be extradited. Extradition requests can only be considered if the prisoner is to be tried and serve out their sentence(s) in their country of origin.


Sick Indian prisoners in the Maldives denied treatment: The Hindu

More than a year after India and the Maldives signed an agreement on transfer of convicted prisoners, as many as 14 Indian inmates in the archipelago are losing hope of being transferred to prisons in their country, reports Indian newspaper The Hindu.

“We have no problems. From our side, there is no delay. We welcome India taking back sentenced prisoners,” a Maldivian official told The Hindu last week, when asked about the delay in paperwork.

Just as in the case of 33 Indian prisoners in Sri Lanka, the Indians in Maldives prisons are also at the receiving end of Indian bureaucracy. But unlike in the case of Indian prisoners in Sri Lanka, most of the 14 prisoners in the Maldives are ill and have almost no access to treatment. Access to treatment for most islanders in the Maldives consumes time, energy and money. Vacancies for specialist-doctors exist even in the country’s main hospital, the Indian-built Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Male.

“I do not know what my disease is,” said a woman prisoner who has been jailed in the Central North province of Maafushi, in Kaafu Atoll. “After I have been brought to Maafushi, I have never met a doctor. Every month, they take me to Male and bring me back. Soon after that they take a signature of mine in a paper with something written in Dhivehi [the official language of the Maldives],” said the woman, in a letter to the Indian High Commissioner in the Maldives.

Read more


Amnesty International gave imprisoned activists credibility as political refugees: Zuhair

The world’s largest human rights NGO, Amnesty International, celebrated its 50th anniversary over the weekend, marking half a century since a British lawyer named Peter Benenson campaigned for the release of Portugese students sentenced to seven years imprisonment for toasting liberty.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation counts three million supporters, members and activists in 150 countries and territories all over the world, and produces 400-500 reports on human rights every year.

Amnesty adopted current Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed as a prisoner of conscience in April 1996 after he was sentenced to two years imprisonment on charges relating to his activities as a dissident journalist.

“Amnesty International considered his detention to be politically motivated and was concerned he would not receive a fair trial,” Amnesty said at the time. “Mohamed Nasheed attended several court hearings but the court did not come to a decision. Amnesty International is very concerned that despite release, Mohamed Nasheed’s ‘sedition’ charges have not been withdrawn “

In 2008, Amnesty issued a statement welcoming Nasheed as President of the island nation, and urged him to “make human rights a central part of his presidency.”

“The legacies of human rights abuses such as politically motivated arrests, torture, and unfair trials, will mar the Maldives’ human rights record if legislative reforms are delayed,” Amnesty noted, particularly the draft penal code which remains stalled in the parliament to this day.

“The new government must now end decades-long legacies of abuse of political power with no accountability for human rights violations such as politically motivated arrests, torture, and unfair trials,” Amnesty added, observing that human rights violations appeared to have “decreased significantly” in the last two years of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year administration.

Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said today that Amnesty’s campaigning on behalf of the then political activist was vital in establishing his credibility with embassies and other international organisations, such at the UN’s Refugee Agency, which subsequently issued temporary travel documents to five Maldivian activists.

Amnesty’s campaigning on Nasheed’s behalf became especially invaluable after the office of the then opposition-in-exile in Colombo was raided by the Sri Lankan police, Zuhair explained.

“There was information sent by the Maldivian government that the MDP was storing illegal firearms in Colombo seeking to transfer them to the Maldives,” he said.

“Our office and houses were raided and I was roughly handled in front of my wife and children. The Colombo CID interrogated me about reports that we’d apparently been talking to pilots about doing the job, and at last these were proven to be false.”

Following the raid, four of the five political activists expressed doubt over their continued safety in Colombo and sought asylum in the UK. Of the five, Zuhair elected to remain in Sri Lanka “because I had faith in the Sri Lankan legal system, which was later [justified].”

Nasheed was detained in 2001 days after being elected to parliament, Zuhair noted, “on charges brought against him for petty theft from the demolished home of the former president, Ibrahim Nasir. These were mementos that were being thrown out as garbage, but he was thrown in jail on the pretext. The Minister of Home Affairs later acknowledged that nothing of value had been taken, after we argued in court that a price be fixed to the items.”

Nasheed was detained “on and off” 12 times, Zuhair said, and like many prisoners at the time, fell victim to institutionalised methods of punishment.

“He was handcuffed to his shins, and placed in a pillory (a series of hinged wooden boards locking the head and limbs from movement). He was also handcuffed to a hot generator for 14 days. In one instance, the guards mixed shards of glass into his food,” Zuhair claimed.

The credibility given by Amnesty to Nasheed as political prisoner allowed the opposition to organise outside the Maldives, Zuhair recalled, and pressured the introduction of greater human rights in the country.

“We are very grateful to them,” he said.

Amnesty’s current entry on the Maldives, last updated in May 2010, acknowledges ongoing concerns about parliament’s delay in enacting the draft penal code, and concern over the use of flogging as a punishment.

“An 18-year-old woman received 100 lashes on July 5, 2009 after being accused of having sex with two men outside marriage. Local journalists reported the woman fainted after being flogged and was taken to hospital for treatment,” Amnesty wrote.

“The woman, who was pregnant at the time of sentencing, had her punishment deferred until after the birth of her child. The court ruled the woman’s pregnancy was proof of her guilt. The men involved in the case were acquitted.”

In July 2010, Amnesty chided Nasheed’s government for the extra-judicial detention of opposition People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdulla Yameen – Gayoom’s half-brother.

“The Maldives Government’s proposed reforms do have the potential to improve human rights protection, but this does not give them the right to arbitrarily detain opponents of those reforms. Instead, the government should seek international assistance to resolve this impasse,” Amnesty said at the time.

“There are fundamental flaws in the Maldives criminal justice system, leading to unfair trials. There is no unified definition of a criminal offence in the Maldivian law, which consists of acts of parliament, Shari’a edicts, and regulations passed by the ministries.”

The Maldives has since ascended to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Yet human rights concerns remain in the country about the efficacy of the criminal justice system, the prevalence of human trafficking – resulting in the country being placed on the US State Department’s tier two watch list – and an ongoing “culture of torture” the government has at times acknowledged continues to pervade both the police and prisons system.


Are the Former Guantanamo Prisoners a Security Threat?: Speigel Online

“Are the two men [being resettled in Germany] a security risk or are they desperately in need of assistance? Will they be welfare cases or seek vengeance?” ask four writers for the German news website Speigel Online.

In both cases, the German host states are preparing to provide extensive assistance to the men. “To the best of our knowledge, special security measures are not necessary,” says Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Bruch.

The assistance for the two men will apparently consist primarily of psychological counseling, language courses and intensive integration assistance. The goal is to enable the former inmates to live undisturbed in Germany, reports Speigel.

German authorities are determined to prevent the two men from receiving the same treatment as Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish-born resident of the northern city of Bremen. After his release in 2006, he arrived in Germany in chains.

Read more


US thanks Maldives while DRP continues opposition to Gitmo decision

The US State Department has thanked the Maldivian government for agreeing to accept detainees from Guantánamo Bay, but opposition parties are still saying they were not informed of the government’s decision.

Spokesman for the US State Department, Philip Crowley, said yesterday: “The United States welcomes the Government of Maldives reaffirmation that it intends to accept detainees from Guantánamo Bay. The United States is grateful to all countries that have accepted detainees [and] for their willingness to support US efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.”

Jeffery Anderson at the US Embassy to the Maldives in Colombo said they embassy could provide no further information on the detainees being transferred to the Maldives.

President Mohamed Nasheed said yesterday: “It was very clear back then that people were arrested [and put] in Guantánamo without proper checks. People were just taken from all over and incarcerated. Today, when the jail is being dismantled, and the Maldives is among the few 100 percent Muslim countries in the world, if we can’t care about them, where is the example we are showing to the international community and other people of the book [Jews and Christians]?”

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said he believed the detainee being transferred was a Palestinian man from the West Bank.

“According to the US Department of State, he is not capable of planning or executing a crime,” Zuhair noted.

He said the man belongs to the Tabligh sect of Islam, and added, “that is not criminal behaviour.”

Zuhair said the man was chosen because he was “the least controversial” prisoner and had not been charged with a crime. “This man will have complete records with him,” he said, adding all consultations about his past were held by the US government.

“He did not have a fair trail,” Zuhair noted. “Actually, he did not have a trial.”

He said the Maldives had chosen to take a former prisoner of the detention centre because the Maldives is “one of many interested in closing Guantánamo Bay and the repatriation of the remaining prisoners.”

Zuhair said bringing a Guantánamo detainee to the Maldives would give the country “prestige” and “honour.”

“The [Maldivian] population is devoutly Muslim and this will translate to more prestige and honour and better sentiment towards the Maldives,” he said. “It will have a positive effect all the way.”

Humanitarian action

State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, said it was still premature to talk about how many detainees will be sent from the controversial prison, who they are or when they will be brought to the Maldives.

“It has not come to that stage yet,” he said, “but we have certain ideas of who [will be brought].”

He added that the prisoners still have to be interviewed and many legalities are still being examined.

“We also need to know why these people were arrested,” Naseem noted, emphasising that “we are not bringing any terrorists to the Maldives.”

“Not everyone who was arrested is a terrorist or a criminal,” he said, referring to the Maldivian national Ibrahim Fauzee, who was taken to Guantánamo in 2002 and brought back to the Maldives in 2005.

“His apartment happened to be formerly occupied by Palestinian terrorists and he was taken by police,” Naseem said, noting that Fauzee was later released with no charges.

Fauzee, who is president of the Maldivian religious NGO the Islamic Foundation, said he did not wish to comment on the issue.

Naseem noted that “everybody knows” there were many wrongful detentions made by the USA after the 9/11 attacks, “similar to arrests during Gayoom’s regime.”

He said the nationality of the detainees did not matter, since this is “a humanitarian issue.”

“A lot of Muslims have been affected by this,” he said, adding that as long as the resettlement was within the Constitution and laws of the country, there should be no problem in resettling former Guantánamo Bay prisoners.

Naseem said the US State Department had carefully chosen several countries around the world and had asked them to take in prisoners who were cleared of charges in their bid to close down the detention centre.

“They [USA] has confidence in the Maldives, in our human rights record, and know the [detainees] will have their rights [here].”

He noted the US “will have an obligation” to take into consideration the living expenses for any detainees sent to the Maldives.

“But those details still have to be worked out,” he added.

Naseem said this is “purely based on human rights” and the only reason it was becoming such a big issue locally was because the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) had obtained official papers “and are having a field day with this.”

He added that the decision to resettle the detainees been public knowledge since December last year when President Nasheed announced his intention to bring in detainees during his radio address.


The Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP) has been especially vocal in its opposition to the resettlement of Guantánamo prisoners.

They wrote in their website: “There is no reason that a small country like the Maldives with limited resources should accept such convicts when a country like America won’t accept them.”

DQP believes the president does not have the Constitutional authority to “transfer convicts” into the country, adding that such an actions would “make expatriates working in the country as well as visiting tourists more unsettled.”

They are planning on filing a case at court and a bill at the next session of Parliament prohibiting the transfer of foreign prisoners to the Maldives.

The party added the government was “not making any effort” to repatriate Maldivians in foreign jails.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said he thought the move would be dangerous to the country, claiming, “I do not believe this will make any betterment to the country. It is putting our country in danger.”

He said DRP MP Ali Waheed had sent a letter to the Majlis’ National Security Committee on the issue, but the sitting has been postponed. He said it would hopefully take place in the “coming weeks.”

“We are asking to get more details. No one knows what the government is trying to do,” Nihan said. “We’re totally in a dark place.”

He said his party had an issue with the lack of transparency, noting that they knew nothing about it until “some papers between the President’s Office and some ministries were leaked.”

“The government has already made a binding agreement. Members of the Majlis hope to know about serious matters like this.”

He said resettling Guantánamo convicts in the country is “a serious issue” and could have “serious consequences. If anything happens in the wrong direction, we’re in a serious situation,” he said, referring to the geographic location of the Maldives and the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“If the government is genuine about this,” he said, “we would already have had negotiations between the government and the Majlis.”

Nihan added that President Nasheed’s remarks to the media yesterday, particularly his dismissal of the opposition’s outcry, was “total rudeness. It was like a comment from George Bush.”

He said he could not speak for his entire party, but said that regardless of whether the government was careful about who they were bringing into the country, “I cannot agree on this.”

History of Guantánamo

Land in Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay in the Oriente Province, the south-east of the island, was rented out by the United States in 1903 to set up a naval base. It was originally used for monitoring illegal migrants trying to enter the United States through Florida and other ports in the Caribbean.

Starting in 2002, prisoners accused of terrorism were sent to a detention centre in the base, after George W. Bush’s administration began capturing “enemy combatants” from around the world following the September 11 2001 attacks.

From its inception the detention centre has been surrounded by accusations of torture and of withholding the rights of prisoners under the Geneva Convention, which would guarantee them a fair trial.

Since 2002, many detainees have been released without charge after years of imprisonment, like Britain’s “Tipton Three,” who were repatriated to England in 2004 after two years of wrongful imprisonment.

In 2009 the White House reported that since 2002, approximately 800 individuals were imprisoned as ‘enemy combatants’ and detained at Guantánamo. Around 500 of those prisoners were either transferred or released, whether to their home countries or to a third country.

Additionally, they note “the Department of Defense has determined that a number of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo are eligible for such transfer or release.”

In January 2009, US President Barack Obama ordered the closing of the Guantánamo detention centre within a year, and assigned a special task force to “consider policy options for apprehension, detention, trial, transfer or release of detainees.” He also banned the use of “harsh interrogations”.

The order states that all prisoners not eligible for transfer must be prosecuted, or the state must “select lawful means…for the disposition of such individuals.”

On the transfer of prisoners, the president’s order reads: “[The Special Task Force] will also look at rendition and other policies for transferring individuals to third countries to be sure that our policies and practices comply with all obligations and are sufficient to ensure that individuals do not face torture and cruel treatment if transferred.”

Crowley added yesterday that “since 2009, the United States has transferred 59 detainees to 24 different destinations; 35 of these have been transfers to third countries.”