MDP concern over stalled Majlis investigation into Ibthihaal case

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has voiced concern over the slow pace in which the Majlis investigation into the death of 3-year-old Mohamed Ibthihaal has been proceeding.

MDP MP Rozaina Adam said that, despite the government oversight committee receiving reports from the relevant authorities a week ago, a meeting has not been scheduled.

“We have been pleading and begging with the committee chair Riyaz Rasheed to schedule a meeting,” said Rozaina. “This investigation is getting stalled because a meeting has not been scheduled.”

The motion to investigate the death of the boy from Vaavu Rakeedhoo-year-old, who was found dead on January 28 with signs of severe physical abuse, was proposed by Rozaina, fellow MDP member Ahmed Falah, and Jumhooree Party MP Moosa Nizar.

Government oversight committee chair Riyaz Rasheed, of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was not responding to calls at time of publication.

He explained last week that the first hearing into the case had been adjourned after most members of the committee requested more time to analyse the recently received documents.

Commenting on the reports given by the police, Rozaina said that the details given consisted only of events which occurred after Ibthihaal’s death, and did not have any details of the events leading up to his death.

Rakeedhoo island councilor Abdulla Rasheed had previously told Minivan News that the council had informed authorities Ibthihaal was being abused prior to his death.

Rozaina also said that the reports revealed police had not informed the Family Protection Agency (FPA) of the case, as required by Article 14 of the Domestic Violence Act, which states that the police shall inform the authority if any member of the police is present at the scene of an incident of domestic violence or when the incident is reported.

She said that the FPA has been facing severe budget constraints as it has not been able to obtain finances, since money was not allotted to the authority by the parliament as per Article 55 of the Domestic Violence Act.

“The PPM majority budget committee did not hold meetings with the FPA. In addition, the FPA has informed us that it is being run by only two to three staff members,” she said.

FPA staff have confirmed to Minivan News that they have only three technical staff members, with Policy and Advocacy Director Aminath Leena Ali saying this was “not even close” to enough staff to deal with the current workload.

She noted that there had been an increase in reports of abuse since news of Ibthihaal’s death broke. NGO Advocating the rights of Children has described the rise in reported incidents as the “tip of the iceberg”.

MP Rozaina went on to accuse the government of negligence, saying that the gender ministry has no parliament-approved minister. The ministry has been headed by Attorney General Mohamed Anil since its creation in July last year.

In addition, she said that the gender ministry’s child helpline 1412 has stopped functioning, and is not picking up calls.

“Ibthihaal’s murder illustrates when the government does not adequately address social issues,” said the Meedhoo MP.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) – who is also conducting investigations into Ibthihaal’s death – released a press statement last night urging media outlets to not publish articles which might hinder its investigations or mislead citizens.

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ARC condemns “systematic flaws” after death of Rakeedhoo toddler

Local child protection NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has condemned “systematic flaws” in child protection systems following the death of a three-year-old boy in Vaavu Rakeedhoo.

ARC called on the state to enhance protection measures without delay after it emerged that authorities had been made aware of the regular abuse suffered by Mohamed Ibthihaal prior to his death.

“ARC remains deeply concerned about the systematic flaws in the child protection system in the country, and that cases of child abuse continue to be neglected and overlooked due to the deficiencies in the legal, judicial and social sectors tasked with the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in the Maldives,” read the statement.

Ibthihaal’s body was found in his home just before midday yesterday (January 28), with locals describing severe bruising to his left ear and genitals.

Police have revealed that the mother has been taken into custody after the Criminal Court produced a warrant. Haveeru has reported multiple island sources as saying that she has confessed to the killing.

Rakeedhoo Island Councillor Abdulla Rasheed told Minivan News that officials from the Ministry of Law and Gender were also on the island, while the victim’s siblings were in the care of their grandmother on another island.

History of abuse

ARC’s statement revealed that it had been unable to receive information from the ministry on the case, though the island council has said the ministry was aware of the mother’s record of abuse.

The gender ministry has yet to release any statements on the incident, though the Family Protection Authority has today denied having any prior knowledge of the case.

ARC has been joined by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon today in welcoming the launch of investigations into the Rakeedhoo abuse case.

Dunya stated that the death of the boy once again underscores the critical need to strengthen the national child protection mechanism and highlights the absolute vulnerability of children in society, read a foreign ministry press release.

“Every child is a precious gift from God who makes our lives joyous and wholesome, and it is our duty to protect and safeguard them” said Dunya.

Never again

ARC called upon the government to update legislation on child protection, noting that the state is obliged under international law to assure the protection of children.

“ARC strongly urges the Government to conduct an assessment of the State’s capacity to respond and react to cases of abuse with a specific view to enhance the child protection system by providing sufficient resources to Family and Children Service Centres (FCSC) in the Atolls, and to establish an effective monitoring mechanism to ensure the safety of children who are removed from their home environment.”

The NGO noted that the existing legislation on child rights was adopted in 1991, calling on the government to submit the draft Child Protection Bill to the People’s Majlis at the earliest opportunity.

As members of the public prepare to hold a rally in support of child protection tomorrow afternoon in Malé, ARC arranged an event titled ‘Break the Silence on Child Abuse’ at the Youth Centre in the capital.

The event – held between 5pm and 6pm – is seeking to raise awareness of the role individuals can play in preventing child abuse.

“In the wake of this horrific incident, ARC invites everyone to attend this event and vow to fulfill our individual responsibility to work together to ensure that never again will such an atrocity be committed against children in our country,” read a statement regarding the event.

The NGO has also called upon media to observe ethical practices by not publishing pictures or personal details of the victim.

Pictures taken of Ibthihaal just weeks ago by a local photographer has been used widely in the coverage of the case (see main picture), but some outlets have today published images of the boy’s dead body.


Related to this story

Body of abused child found in Vaavu Rakeedhoo

State negligence investigated in death of Rakeedhoo child