Government bars Nasheed from MDP

The government has barred ex-president Mohamed Nasheed from the Maldivian Democratic Party he co-founded by using its parliamentary majority to pass a law banning prisoners from political party membership.

Nasheed will lose his leadership and membership of the MDP because of a terrorism conviction this month relating to the detention of a judge during his period in power.

He was jailed for 13 years after being found guilty of terrorism in a case that his party says represented a politically-led campaign against him by the government of President Abdulla Yameen.

MDP MPs did not take part in the vote, but protested on the Majlis floor as deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik announced the vote, using megaphones and sirens to make his voice inaudible. The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives has a strong majority in any case.

The law was passed by 42 votes in favour, with just two against.

Speaking to the press, MDP chairperson Ali Waheed said the party would not accept the amendment and would choose its own leader. Nasheed remains the MDP’s presidential candidate, the party has said, despite his jail sentence.

“The government, because they have absolute power, is trying to wipe out all political rivals. Note this, they will eventually try to disband the MDP. But how can they get rid of what is in our hearts?” Waheed said.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla said the party would not accept the government using the Majlis as “an extension of its tyranny to strip us of our democratic rights.”

“No amount of backtracking can strip him of the fact he formed the first political party in the country and became its first democratically elected leader. Or the fact that those who vote for this amendment today would not be in a political party if not for the hard work of this man to win them that freedom,” she told Minivan News.

Eva said the Majlis was being conducted unconstitutionally as standing orders prohibit sittings from going ahead without order on the floor. The MDP has been protesting on the floor at every sitting since March 2, and has said it will not stop until the government releases Nasheed.

The bill was never debated in parliament due to opposition protests, while PPM MPs were not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

The two MPs who voted against the amendment to the 2013 Prisons and Parole Act are Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem and Nolhivaram MP Hussein Areef, who recently resigned from the PPM.

The Adhaalath Party this month withdrew support for President Yameen’s administration, saying he was acting to eliminate political rivals, and instead formed an alliance with the MDP.

The amendment also bars prisoners from holding membership or leadership in non-governmental organizations for the duration of their prison term.

At an MDP protest outside the Majlis, Aminath Rasheedha, 47, said: “Yameen’s corrupt and unlawful government cannot decide who our presidential candidate is. That is for us to decide. Our president and leader will always be Mohamed Nasheed.”

MDP parliament protest

Separately, the ruling PPM has also submitted an amendment to the law on privileges for former presidents stripping any president who resigned – as Nasheed did, although he said it was under duress – from army protection and financial privileges.

Tensions are high in Malé, with the opposition’s daily protests now entering their seventh consecutive week. The police last week threatened to crackdown on protesters, claiming they were inciting violence and assaulting police officers.

Observers including the UN and Amnesty International have condemned Nasheed’s trial. Amnesty called it a travesty of justice, while the UN said it made a mockery of the constitution and international treaties.


President Yameen institutes parole board, appoints commissioner of prisons

President Abdulla Yameen yesterday instituted an eight-member parole board under the recently ratified Prisons and Parole Act – he also appointed a commissioner of prisons.

The members appointed to the parole board were Fauziyya Ali from the Education Ministry, Mohamed Rasheed from the Health Ministry, Deputy Counsel General Khadeeja Shabeen from the Attorney General’s Office, Mohamed Shah from NGO Irama Youth Association, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Ahmed, Dr Ahmed Ziyad from the Islamic Ministry, Dr Mohamed Habeeb to represent the medical community, and Dr Shanooha Mansoor as a psychiatrist.

President Yameen also appointed Moosa Asim, of Henveiru Dhiyadhoo, as the commissioner of prisons at the Maldives Correctional Service.

Asim previously served as deputy superintendent at the now-defunct Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service.

Additionally, President Yameen also appointed Abdulla Ahmed, of Dhevinage in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, as a deputy minister at the Ministry of Home Affairs.


Majlis passes landmark Anti-Torture Act, Prisons and Parole Act

The People’s Majlis voted unanimously today to pass the landmark Anti-Torture Act, and the Prisons and Parole Act.

The Anti-Torture Act declares freedom from torture as a fundamental right, penalises torture, ensures respect for human rights of criminal suspects, and prohibits torture in state custody, detention in undisclosed locations, and solitary confinement.

The act further declares any statement obtained through torture to be invalid in a court of law.

Speaking to Minivan News, MP Eva Abdulla said she had proposed the Anti-Torture bill to “ensure we do not carry forward the legacy of torture” inherited from Maldives’ authoritarian past.

The Prisons and Parole Act specifies rules for the management of jails and procedures for incarceration, rehabilitation and parole as well as rights and benefits due to inmates. It also provides for the establishment of an independent Maldives Correction Service to oversee jails.

The Anti-Torture Act passed with the unanimous support of the 53 MPs present and the Prisons and Parole Act passed with the unanimous support of the 54 MPs present at the time of voting.

The UN Human Rights Committee in July 2012 said incidents of torture in the Maldives “appear systematic and systemic” and expressed “grave concern” over the low number of cases that have undergone investigation.

Freedom from torture

Eva said the bill had been formulated based on international human rights conventions the Maldives had signed on to, including the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

The act defines torture as any action committed by a state official, or committed with the orders, consent or knowledge of a state official to cause physical or psychological pain to obtain information or a confession or to inflict punishment or to threaten or humiliate an individual.

The act guarantees freedom from torture as a fundamental right of every individual even in circumstances of war or imminent war.

Physical torture includes but is not limited to beatings, kicking, applying heated rods, inflicting electric shock, restricting daily meals, and forceful feeding of rotting food, another individual’s excrement or substances unfit for human consumption.

Pouring heated oil or acid on a person, waterboarding, rape, forceful removal of teeth or nails and subjecting a person to drops of water at a consistent rate are also noted as methods of torture.

Acts of psychological torture includes – but is not limited to – blindfolding, threatening to harm family members, solitary confinement, long and continuous interrogation, public humiliation, physical abuse of family members in front of detainee, stripping, shaving hair, and branding skin.

Officials who torture people to death or cause insanity, memory loss or infertility will be imprisoned for 25 years.

The act further penalises those who use rape as a method of torture, or cause insanity and loss of memory with a prison sentence between 15 and 20 years.

Imprisonment between 10 and 15 years is set for causing loss of speech, hearing, sight, sense of taste and damage to the backbone.

In prosecution, a person who orders, helps, or assists in committing an act of torture will be treated the same as the individual directly responsible for the act of torture.

The act also affords victims compensation and mandates rehabilitation for perpetrators, torture victims and their families

The act mandates the state declare all detention centers in the Maldives, and submit monthly reports of detainees and inmates at detention centers specifying reasons for detention.


The Prisons and Parole Act proposed by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Rugiyya Ahmed was vetoed three times by former President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

According to MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik the bill was drafted after “thorough research” including visits to jails in Sri Lanka, Australia, and Singapore.

The act mandates the state allow inmates to pray, exercise, food, do laundry, meet family and provide reading and writing materials.

According to the act, subsidiary regulations must be compiled to ensure good food and basic medical services are provided. Jail buildings must have adequate light and ventilation and amenities.

Men, women, and children must be incarcerated separately and the state must ensure proper documentation of all inmates.

The act establishes complaint mechanisms, but also penalises offenses carried out by inmates during their incarceration.