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.


Recommendations on 13 cases not implemented by Elections Commission: 2012 audit report

The Elections Commission (EC) has not followed through on recommendations of the Auditor General’s Office by taking corrective measures concerning 13 cases flagged in the commission’s audit reports for 2010 and 2011, according to the EC’s audit report for 2012.

The 2012 audit report (Dhivehi) made public on Thursday (June 27) listed 10 cases from 2011 and three cases from 2010 where the Auditor General’s recommendations to hold the responsible officials accountable for illegal expenses were not implemented.

Among the cases highlighted in the 2011 report were expenditure on overseas trips exceeding approved funds after commission members extended their stays, MVR 334,700 (US$21,705) paid to a company contracted to provide sea transportation during the 2011 local council elections for trips not included in the agreement and awarding a contract worth MVR 4.9 million (US$317,769) to a local company to print ballot papers without going through the tender evaluation board.

The 2011 audit revealed that the cost of the extending the duration of official overseas trips between January 2010 and April 2012 amounted to MVR50,438 (US$3,270) for food, incidentals and pocket money.

Other cases from 2011 included MVR 183,238 (US11,883) spent to hire temporary staff and vehicles during the council elections without formal agreements, not seeking quotations or estimates from three parties as required by regulations for procurements amounting to MVR 251,148 (US$16,287), failure to collect or file court cases to recover MVR 469,500 (US$30,447) owed as fines and deposits and MVR 12,999 (US$843) paid to staff in excess of their salaries and allowances.

The cases from 2010 meanwhile included MVR 248,790 (US$16,134) spent to buy 30 mobile phones for senior staff, 13 mobile phones given to select staff as personal property and a senior staff not returning a mobile phone worth MVR 14,195 (US$920) bought in 2008 when he or she left the commission

“In addition to the 13 mobile phones that were given to employees according to documentation at the commission, the records showed that five mobile phones worth MVR 49,135 (US$3,186) were lost,” the 2011 report stated, adding that no employees were held responsible and “compensation in any form was not sought” for the losses.

The 2012 report noted that of the 15 mobile phones given to staff, five have been returned to the commission while the price of one phone was reimbursed by the staff member.

While letters were sent in October 2012 asking staff to return the other nine phones, the audit report noted that the letters had not been replied to as of the report’s publication.

Moreover, of five phones believed to have been lost, the audit report noted that the EC was informed by staff that two were lost while the remaining three were unaccounted for.

Lastly, on a recommendation to identify how nine laptops were lost and to hold responsible staff accountable, the audit report noted that the EC sent letters to two employees in November 2012 without reply, after which no action was taken.

“On June 10, 2012, one employee to whom a laptop was given returned it to the commission’s stock. No action has been taken to seek compensation for the remaining six laptops,” the report stated.

The 2011 audit report had also revealed that the EC made a number of unnecessary purchases, such as a coffee maker for MVR 67,000 (US$4,345) in 2007, a Nikon D200 camera for MVR 233,298 (US$15,129) in 2008, six TV decoders, 16 TVs, 16 shredders, two washing machines, irons, a deep freezer, a mixer, a blender and a gas cooker.

Of 60 fax machines bought by the commission, 50 were kept unused in storage.

Meanwhile, among the cases flagged from the 2012 audit, the report noted that as of March 2013 the commission had not sought MVR 20,000 (US$1,297) owed by political parties in 2012 as fines for non-submission of annual financial statements.

The report noted that the commission has not taken any action concerning the non-payment of fines in addition to sending letters to the parties on August 5, 2012.

In a second case, the audit found that a director at the commission was given notice of termination of employment starting May 2, 2012. However, as the termination chit stated May 6 instead, “we note that the employee was paid MVR 2,468 as salary and allowances for four days for which the office did not receive the employee’s services.”


Presidential candidates’ policy pledges threaten the environment: Environment Ministry

The Environment Ministry has ‘called out’ presidential candidates for making election pledges that threaten the environment, amidst civil society calls for government authorities to support NGOs’ sustainable development initiatives.

Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela noted that no policy on environmental protection has been articulated by candidates despite their numerous election pledges during her speech at the “NGO Forum on Environment and Sustainable Development 2013” held by the Environment Ministry and NGO Federation yesterday (May 5).

“Although all political parties are currently talking about their plans to govern the country for the next five years, none of their manifestos include policies on protecting the environment,” local media reported Shakeela saying.

“When you deeply consider these policies, I certainly haven’t heard of any plans to protect the environment. But on the other hand, we keep hearing of plans that can seriously threaten the environment of the Maldives,” she added.

Shakeela stated that despite the economic benefits which could be gained from finding oil or establishing a mariculture industry, these policies could pose grave threats to the environment, according to local media.

“Sometimes, although these plans gain a short-term gain, or some amount of money, they may cause great damages in the long run. It is very important that we give this due consideration,” said Shakeela.

Shakeela emphasised that civil society must hold the Maldivian government and policy-makers accountable when they “veer off course” and endanger the environment.

“Regardless of who prepares it, if the plans are such that they may harm the environment, it is the role of the civil society organizations to be vigilant over such matters and try to stop them,” declared Shakeela.

She also stressed that civil society organisations must identify the environmental threats posed by such policies on the behalf of Maldivian people.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has pledged to develop a mariculture industry in the country should former President Mohamed Nasheed be reelected in September 2013.

The potential for developing a domestic oil industry was launched as a campaign issue during a January 14 speech by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential prospect, MP Abdulla Yameen.

Leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, has also vowed to find oil in the Maldives should he be elected president.

NGOs issue government recommendations

The NGO forum was held to facilitate environmental protection discussions between civil society organisations, as well as implementation of sustainable development methodologies and policies.

“This is the only forum of this kind. Civil society did not previously get the opportunity to come together and discuss these issues,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News yesterday (May 6).

Many NGOs work on environmental issues at the island and national level – particularly conducting advocacy and awareness programs – however they do not conduct adequate work on environment and sustainable development, according to forum participants.

Participants highlighted ongoing issues that narrow the opportunities available for Maldivian NGOs, which include legal challenges as well as government administrative procedures. NGOs also lack access to resources, such as well educated people and finance.

Given these limitations, the 15 participating civil society organisations presented a list of recommendations to the government, in line with the forum’s theme of enhancing NGO engagement in environmental governance and management.

The forum recommended the government provide NGOs with equal opportunities and “reveal their stand” to the organisations.

Participants also recommended the Environment Ministry establish a separate focal point to engage with NGOs and provide a common room for civil society organisations within the “green building” currently under construction for the ministry. Research grants for NGOs and environmental studies students should also be provided.

Organisations further recommended the government include NGO representatives in all delegations from the Maldives attending environmental and sustainable development meetings. These organisations also requested the government provide Maldivian NGOs opportunities to participate in environmental and sustainable development projects.

“Minister Shakeela’s response to the recommendations was very positive. She pledged to do everything possible to implement the recommendations,” said Nizam.

“However, she also said certain things might not be possible to implement immediately due to budget and planning constraints,” he added.

Nizam explained that the NGO Federation plans to take the discussion forum to a “different level” by ensuring dialogue and collaboration on environmental protection and sustainable protection continues.

He emphasised that the NGO Federation aims to hold conferences annually or biannually and will continuously seek improvement and additional NGO participation.

The Maldivian NGO Federation held a follow-up workshop today on NGO capacity building for advocating environmentally sustainable development, a project funded by UNDP’s Global Environment Facility, Small Grants Programme.


UN Human Rights Committee calls for widespread institutional reform in the Maldives

The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has urged the Maldives to guarantee citizens’ right to democracy, permit freedom of religion, reform the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), abolish flogging and the death penalty, and deal with human trafficking, among other recommendations.

The  Committee has issued concluding observations regarding the Maldives’ commitment to universal human rights, following the country’s defence of its record in Geneva on July 12-13.

The Maldivian delegation to the UNHRC was headed by Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel, a former Justice Minister during the 30 year rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and co-author of a pamphlet entitled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’, published in January 2012.

Dr Jameel was accompanied by State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dunya Maumoon – Gayoom’s daughter – as well as the Maldives’ Permanent Representative in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam.


A core concern of the committee involved the Maldives’ reservation to Article 18, concerning freedom of religion, the validity of which was questioned by the committee on the basis that it was “not specific, and does not make clear what obligations of human rights compliance the State party has or has not undertaken.”

Particular concerns included the tying of religion to citizenship, prompting the UNHRC to call on the country to revise its constitution, and abolish the crime of apostasy in legislation.

The committee also expressed concern about the clause in the constitution enabling the limitation of rights and freedoms “in order to protect and maintain the tenets of Islam”, challenging the broadness of the clause and warning that such a provision could be “invoked to justify the failure by the State party to fulfil its [human rights ] obligations”.

Concern was also raised about the criminalisation of homosexuality, and the “stigmatisation and marginalisation of homosexuals in [Maldivian] society”.

For its part, during its defence, the Maldives’ delegation stressed that the country was a homogeneous society and spoke one language and followed one religion, adding there was therefore no debate in Maldivian society regarding the removal of the provision relating to freedom of religion.

“This is not dogmatic government policy or preference, but rather a reflection of the deep societal belief that the Maldives always has been and always should be a 100 percent Muslim nation. Laws, like government, should be based on the will of the people,” Dunya told the panel.

Controversial transfer of power

The Committee noted in particular “the legal and political circumstances” under which the Feburary 7 transfer of power took place, and called on the government to ensure a citizen’s right to self determination – “ which lies at the core of democratic government based on the consent of the people.”

The report called on the Maldives to ensure that the Commission of National Inquiry was able to function “in conditions guaranteeing its complete independence and impartiality”, and called on the government “as a matter of urgency” to protect individuals who had provided information to the inquiry.

Torture inquiry commission

The UNHRC called for the government to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate “all human rights violations, including torture that took place in the State party prior to 2008 and provide compensation to the victims.”

The Committee should further investigate all allegations of torture that took place at the time of the demonstrations of February 8, 2012, in Malé and Addu, prosecute those responsible, and provide compensation and rehabilitation to the victims. The State party should implement the findings of the Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate events that took place during the political transition period.”

The committee also expressed concern at the composition of the police integrity commission, which was “hampering its independence”, and said it was concerned at the low number of cases relating to torture and ill-treatment received by the Commission as well as at the low number of police officers sanctioned.”

Legal reform

The composition and the functioning of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) was “seriously compromised”, the UNHRC observed, a state of affairs which was affecting the independence of the judiciary “as well as its impartiality and integrity.”

“The Committee is concerned that such a situation undermines the judicial protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Maldives,” the report stated, and called on the government to reform the JSC.

The UNHRC also called on the Maldives to abolish flogging and the death penalty.

Human trafficking

The committee expressed particular concern over reports relating to “trafficking in migrants from neighbouring countries for labour and sexual exploitation purposes.”

“No legislation has yet been enacted by the State party to prevent and protect against trafficking in persons. The Committee is further concerned at the lack of statistical data on the number of trafficked persons, the investigations conducted, the number of prosecutions and convictions, and the protective measures put in place, as well as the absence of a strategy to combat trafficking,” the Committee stated, calling on the government to study the root cause of the problem, provide data, punish traffickers, and provide protection to victims.

Domestic violence

Positive observations included the enactment of an Anti-Domestic Violence Act in April 2012, although the committee expressed concern at the low rate of complaints lodged for domestic violence, and at the lack of effective mechanisms of protection and rehabilitation for victims.

“The State party should take the necessary measures to implement fully the Domestic Violence Act. It should facilitate complaints from victims without fear of reprisals, intimidation or exclusion by the community; investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible with appropriate penalties; and provide compensation to victims. The State party should further establish a proper mechanism of protection, including by setting up shelters and by providing psychological rehabilitation and conduct awareness-raising campaigns on the negative impacts of domestic violence,” the report noted.

The Maldives is required to respond within one year detailing how it had implemented the Committee’s recommendations.