Special Operations (SO) officers stationed permanently on Thinadhoo

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has decided to station officers of the Special Operations (SO) command on the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.

According to Sun Online, the SO officers will work with the Thinadhoo police station to establish “peace and security”.

On February 7, 2012, SO officers instigated a violent mutiny, assaulted government supporters, ransacked the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Haruge (meeting hall), staged a protest at the Republic Square demanding the resignation of then-President Mohamed Nasheed, clashed with soldiers and stormed the national broadcaster in the hours immediately preceding Nasheed’s controversial resignation.

Moreover, on February 8, 2012 SO officers brutally beat supporters of the deposed MDP during a heavy-handed crackdown of a protest march led by Nasheed, who had just declared that his resignation the previous day was made “under duress.”

Dozens of demonstrators were left injured and hospitalised in a crackdown described by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) as “brutal” and “without warning.”

The crackdown sparked violence across the country, with several islands shutting down or burning police stations and courts, notably in the urban centres of Addu City, Thinadhoo and Kulhudhufushi.

In March 2012, police arrested 17 people in Thinadhoo for alleged involvement in vandalising government property and setting fire to the police station, magistrate court, atoll council office, and all police vehicles. Some 108 persons involved in the demonstration are currently facing criminal prosecution.

Nine policemen were attacked and subsequently treated at the Thinadhoo Regional Hospital, leading police to declare the island unsafe for police officers.

More recently, President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s visit to Thinadhoo earlier this month was met with hundreds of angry protesters.

Since the transfer of presidential power, SO officer have been accused of using excessive force against demonstrators by Amnesty International.

In May this year, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq told Minivan News that 50 people were arrested in advance of a visit by President Waheed, “and about 90 percent of those taken in were MDP supporters”.

Mayor Sodig explained that the city council had requested the police “provide extra strength to increase numbers to about 30 per station.”

“The special operations team [responded by] sending their ‘star force’, but they don’t have their commander here. He’s not in control of this group or operations. Instead they are directly overseen by Male’ command,” said Sodig.

“That’s the reason why we don’t want them to continue,” he declared.

Later that month, eight young detainees arrested in the Maradhoo ward of Addu City alleged physical abuse by SO officers while they were under police custody.