“You will never walk out of here alive”: MDP reveals details of alleged torture of May Day detainees

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused police of torturing and threatening to kill suspects arrested for assaulting a police officer during Friday’s anti-government protest.

Nine suspects have been taken into custody over the assault. Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking a Specialist Operations (SO) officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

The MDP said Moosa Sharmeel, 35, was arrested from his home in Malé by policemen in plainclothes and severely beaten in front of his wife and children.

“He was taken to police headquarters where he was beaten again. The detainee reports that the policemen inside the building, including those at the reception counter, cheered on while he was being beaten,” the MDP said in a statement yesterday.

Policemen kept saying “we will kill you” as they beat him, Sharmeel told his lawyer.

“He was shoved on the floor and beaten until he lost consciousness. His head smashed open when he was shoved to the floor.”

Police have denied the allegations of torture. A police media official told Minivan News yesterday that lawyers for the detainees have not submitted complaints to the police.

Lawyers and families could also file cases with independent oversight bodies such as the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), the official suggested.

The human rights watchdog is investigating cases of alleged police brutality and custodial abuse.

Nearly 200 protesters were arrested from the 20,000-strong anti-government demonstration, which was the highest number of arrests made from a single protest in over a decade. Some 175 protesters are being held in remand detention for 15 days.

Sharmeel’s lawyer, Abdulla Haseen, told the press yesterday that a police officer intervened and stopped the beating. He was then taken to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and admitted at the intensive care unit for treatment of injuries.

Police denied his requests for a CT scan after he complained of a “foul smelling discharge from his head,” the MDP said.

Haseen said Sharmeel was suffering from chest pains, had difficulty digesting food, and suspects he has internal injuries due to the beating.

Eyewitnesses told Minivan News they saw policemen in plainclothes beating a man around 3:15am on Saturday near the Henveiru stadium, close to Sharmeel’s residence. Seven men, some wearing jerseys and shorts, repeatedly punched and kicked the man and drove off with him in a police van.

The MDP said Sharmeel was not taken to court within 24 hours “as his injuries from the beatings would have been too visible.”

“Instead, he was released near the Malé detention Centre (Atoll Vehi) and immediately shown another arrest warrant and taken into custody again,” the party said.

Police allegedly told Sharmeel he was “arrested for his own safety” and are now claiming “he was beaten inside his home by members of the public who also allegedly transported him to the Police HQ.”

The MDP also said two other suspects, Abdulla Ibad, 32, and Mohamed Rasheed, 52, were also beaten at the police headquarters.

Both detainees reported police threatening to kill them. Rasheed said police “kept saying ‘you will never walk out of here alive again. We will charge you with terrorism, you do not have that much longer to live anyway.'”

The party said other detainees reported beatings on the police vehicle after their arrest.

Former MDP MP Ahmed Easa was allegedly kicked and beaten on the head with batons after he was hauled on to the police vehicle. Minivan News journalists at the scene heard Easa scream from the vehicle packed with SO officers.

Easa was limping when he was brought to the remand hearing on Saturday.

The MDP noted that video footage shows Easa along with other protesters shove off the violent protesters, help the fallen SO officer to his feet, and take him back behind police lines.

Easa and MDP chairperson Ali Waheed were brought to a clinic in Malé last night. The MDP has said police doctors at Dhoonidhoo recommended the pair consult specialist doctors.

Lawyer Fareesha Abdulla said yesterday that three of her clients among the May Day detainees have alleged beatings by police.

The Dhoonidhoo doctor recommended medication for head injuries for one detainee, who says he has not received medicine so far, she said.

Police officers kicked and beat a second detainee with batons on a police vehicle, she said, while an SO officer kicked him on the groin with his knee at the police headquarters.

He has not been provided medicine prescribed by police doctors, she said.

Another detainee with a chronic illness said police were not providing medication at prescribed times, Fareesha said.

The detainee was having seizures due to the lack of medication, she said.


MDP condemns insecurity as PPM celebrates peace and order

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed concern over rising insecurity, claiming President Abdulla Yameen has failed to protect right to life and security on his administration’s first year anniversary.

In a statement issues yesterday (November 16), the MDP highlighted Yameen’s failure to find missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, to address the rising numbers of Maldivians traveling abroad for jihad in Syria, or to bring to justice perpetrators behind the stabbing of former MP Alhan Fahmy, the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali, or the torching of opposition aligned Raajje TV.

“On this administration’s one year anniversary, there is no peace in the Maldives and the government has failed to protect citizens,” the statement said.

The MDP said the Yameen administration has failed to investigate the abduction and beating of several individuals by gangs, a spate of knifings and killings, death threats against journalists and politicians, and the vandalism of MDP members’ residences and properties.

However, speaking at a rally to mark the third anniversary of ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Yameen said his administration has established peace and order in the country and accused the opposition of inciting terror and calling for anarchy in the Maldives.

“We have peace and order in Malé and all regions of Maldives. We have peace. However, this is not to say that isolated and significant dangerous crimes do not occur,” he said.

The PPM was established in 2010 “as an act of Jihad” to address terror, anarchy, torture and climate of fear during Nasheed’s tenure, he continued.

Referring to Nasheed’s order to arrest himself, Vice President Dr Ahmed Jameel Mohamed, and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, Yameen said the former president had attempted to silence all dissident voices in the country.

The PPM will tolerate dissent, he pledged.

Nasheed had arrested judges, refused to abide by the decisions of opposition MPs, undermined religious scholars and Islam, and his supporters had torched government buildings, Yameen continued.

“President Maumoon then believed we had to embark on jihad,” he said.

Yameen went on to defend Nasheed’s ouster in February 2012, claiming the move was not illegal, but necessary to uphold the constitution.

“PPM is a party that loves peace,” he said.

The MDP has recently described Yameen’s administration has having been taken hostage by gangs and rogue police officers, while international groups have expressed alarm at the rise in gang violence in recent months.


No redress, no compensation, no reconciliation

Describing a beating at Maafushi Jail, musician Abdulla Easa said: “Sometimes I felt I was floating, suspended in mid air, going from one officer’s boots to the other.”

Easa was tortured simply for refusing to stand in queue for flatbread.

Prisoner testimonies indicate torture and ill treatment has been widespread and systematic in Maldivian jails.

Officers tortured inmates “just for fun,” said Easa. “For example, when they went out for a swim, they would call out to anyone they liked, “you come.” They would make us kneel down, they would bury you half in the sand, burn you with cigarettes.”

Former journalist Abdulla ‘Fahala’ Saeed, said he saw security officers rip both the clothes and the skin off of one man when they pulled him out after burying him in the sand.

“One morning, a person named ‘Kelaa’ Areef was taken to the beach and half buried in the sand so he could not move at all. At some time he started reciting the Shahadha, saying that he was going to die, then one of the officers said, ‘He is now ‘dhonvefa’ [heated up] Time to take him out’.”

Then two of them held him under his arms and pulled him out, ripping off his clothes and ripping his skin [on sharp coral sand]. He was all bloody. He was unconscious. Then they threw him in the cell.”

Both Easa and Saeed have claimed they saw people die in jail from the torture they receieved.

No redress

But to date, no survivors or families of victims in the Maldives have received any redress or compensation, and there has been no effort at reconciliation at the national level.

Ten years have passed since the Maldives signed the UN Convention Against Torture.

The Torture Victims Association say survivors have no confidence in a “politicised and incompetent judiciary” and are waiting on judicial reform to pursue justice.

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) member Jeehan Mahmoud said difficulties in substantiating claims of torture and a state tendency to protect the accused over the victim have constrained efforts at redress.

However, the recently ratified Anti Torture Act – which heavily penalises torture and assures compensation for victims – is a “big encouragement” to end such practices, she said.

Proving that an individual officer committed acts of torture beyond reasonable doubt may be difficult, but state institutions must he held accountable, Jeehan said, adding that the Maldives needs a reconciliation effort to end a culture of impunity and ensure non recurrence.

No confidence

The TVA has collected 125 statements of torture, and submitted 25 cases to the HRCM on February 6, 2012 – the day before the controversial resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed, himself a well-publicised victim of torture during his time as a pro-democracy activist.

President of TVA Ahmed Naseem said survivors do not believe they will get justice with the present judiciary.

“After all they went through, all the humiliation they suffered, if the courts say this is nonsense, then they will be in a worse situation than before. They will go nuts. We cannot take chances. We cannot afford to humiliate them,” said Naseem.

“People still have nightmares, people’s lives have been destroyed, families have been broken. We cannot let these people down. So we have to wait,” he added.

Naseem suggested enough evidence existed to hold state institutions accountable. The former National Security Services had a punishment book or ‘Adhabu Foi’ which contained details of state sanctioned torture, he said.

But with the return of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s party to power, there is no longer any political will to address the past, Naseem said. “The culprits are in government now.”

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, during a UN Human Rights Council in 2012, admitted to a history of torture, but said: “As a government we believe we have an independent judiciary. We leave it to the victims to invoke these instances before a court of law.”

The government cannot afford compensation for victims, said Dr Jameel – then Home Minister.

The UNHRC has urged the Maldives to set up an Independent Commission of Inquiry to conduct criminal investigations and ensure compensation for all victims of torture.

In defense of the accused

The Maldives Police Services is the only institution in the country with a forensics laboratory, but the HRCM is unable to use forensics services when the police is the institution that stands accused of torture, Jeehan said.

The state hires and pays lawyer fees on behalf of the accused, and refuses to take disciplinary measures such as suspension until investigations are complete.

“The system does not work to protect the victim. Even simple steps, such as suspending the accused until investigations are complete could show the government’s commitment to end torture and brutality.”

The state’s defense of the accused deters witnesses from the accused institution from coming forward, Jeehan continued.

“They are not protected from bullying within the institution either. Documents are lost – and witness statements by all officers match up word to word. The only evidence then are the statements by civilians who saw brutality. With this imbalance, getting redress is a difficult task.”

Former Police Integrity Commission (PIC) President Shahindha Ismail has also said the Maldives Police Services tends to protect its employees when they are accused of brutality.

“There have been cases where evidence has been tampered with. This shows the police, as an institution, does not want to end this culture of brutality. It appears to promote it instead,” she said.

Shahindha also said limited resources and limited powers hamper the state’s independent institutions, noting that the PIC cannot take direct disciplinary action against a police officer accused of human rights violations.

“There is no political will to end torture. Despite a hiatus in police brutality from period 2009- 2011, the culture of brutality was never erased within the institution,” she said.

Shahindha has called on the government to purge employees accused of torture.


Jeehan said state institutions must recognise victims of torture and offer them compensation, noting that failure to prove torture in the courtroom only exacerbates impunity and a lack of confidence in institutions.

The state must begin public interest litigation on behalf of multiple victims of torture and start a reconciliation effort, she said.

“With civil compensation, even though individuals may not be held accountable, the state institution will be held accountable. It would constitute some form of recognition for the victim, that the act of violence indeed did happen.”

She called for reconciliation mechanisms that allow both perpetrators and victims to deal with the past, as well as acknowledging the suffering caused on a national level.

“It allows society to move on, provides political stability and social coherence. It is a platform that allows society to resolve differences and hold discussions.”

“The younger generations still do not know what had happened in their history – it will provide them with answers. Social coherence cannot exist with all of these unresolved questions,” said Jeehan

Shahindha said judicial reform and political will is required for victims to receive justice.

“This may take a long time. Time for mature politics to be established in the country. Until then, the victims remain victims, caged in their trauma. They cannot be termed survivors until they receive redress.”

The UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul in a 2013 report said unless serious human rights violations of Maldives’ authoritarian past are addressed, there could be more instability and unrest in the country.

“Impunity affects democracy, the rule of law, and the enjoyment of human rights in a radical way, and undermines the people’s trust in state institutions,” read the report.

“States bear a responsibility not only to investigate violations of human rights, but also to ensure the right of victims to know the truth, to provide adequate reparation and to take all reasonable steps to ensure non-recurrence of the said violations. Addressing past violations could help the Maldives move forward and develop the justice system intended in the Constitution of 2008.”

Watch Esa’s testimony here. Watch Saeed’s testimony here.


Home minister violates Anti-Torture Act

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has failed to publicise a document as specified in the recently passed Anti-torture Act, thereby violating the articles of the landmark legislation.

The actwhich came into force on March 22 this year – states that within 15 days of coming into force (6 April), the minister must publish a complete list of places where people are detained in state custody.

“The deadline for the home minister to make public all places of detention designated as such has passed, and it is disheartening to know that the first violation under this act has been by the state,” Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) member Jeehan Mahmoud has said.

The ministry has confirmed that it was not published by the deadline, with one official explaining that this was mainly due to issues with obtaining information from other institutions with such centres under their authority.

The official said that the ministry is attempting to publish the list by Sunday (April 13).

Within seven days of publishing the list, the ministry was also required to submit a report to the HRCM with the locations of all detention facilities and details of persons held in those places.

The ministry has assured that the compilation of this report is also currently in progress.

The act gives the HRCM overall responsibility for the implementation of the new law, empowering the commission to prevent all crimes underlined in the act by taking direct action.

Jeehan has said the commission is monitoring the deadlines and will take action against any and all schedules that are disrespected by the state.

According to the commission, a written reminder was sent to ministry as soon as the law came into force and another reminder sent yesterday. The issue will soon be discussed in the commission which will then decide on next course of action.

Criminal charges

Commenting on the issue MP Eva Abdulla, who introduced the bill to the People’s Majlis, said it was “not surprising that a government controlled by the Gayoom family would be hesitant, even reticent to implement anti-torture legislation.”

Eva said that the bill has to be implemented on schedule to address the return of torture to prisons.

“We are very concerned about reports of ill-treatment and physical abuse in the prisons again. The legislation needs to be implemented on schedule to address this and to address the feelings of past victims. Implementation needs to be flawless,” said the recently re-elected MP.

The HRCM noted last month that incidents of torture in detention are now on the rise. Minister Umar, who himself served in the National Security Service (police and military service under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom) has previously been accused of torture himself – an allegation he has always denied.

Under Article 23 (g)- 2 of the Anti-Torture Act, establishing, running or maintaining a place of detention other than those publicly announced is considered a crime.

Article 23 (g)- 3 states that failure to publish the mandatory report to HRCM is also a crime. The penalty for both is 1 – 3 years
imprisonment. Criminal offenses underlined in the act are to be investigated and forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office for prosecution.

The HRCM did not comment on the possibility of criminal charges against the home minister, stating that the commission will address the matter as mandated by the act.

Umar Naseer was unavailable for comment as he is currently abroad.


Police Commissioner urges all officers to be patient with inmates

Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed has called on police officers to treat inmates held in Dhoonidhoo in accordance with the law, warning that he will not hesitate to take action against those doing otherwise.

The commissioner noted that inmates in Dhoonidhoo detention centre face the curtailment of some of the basic rights – such as freedom of movement – and that police officers should maintain patience when faced with unsettled detainees.

Waheed also stated that police officers were now being trained to serve inmates in accordance with local and international human rights laws, urging officers to put this training into practice.

He added that he would not accept any police officer committing a crime, noting that sometimes officers have been involved in criminal activities which give a bad name to the whole institution.

On March 16, 2014, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) – in their 2013 annual report – stated that incidents of torture in detention centres were increasing in the Maldives.

Among the issues noted during the commission’s visits, and from complaints received, were detainees being held in cuffs for extended periods, detainees not being provided adequate hygiene and sleeping materials, overcrowded cells, rotten food, and the mistreatment of detainees during transfer.

The report also listed a failure to keep proper records of detainees’ medical, search, and solitary confinement details, as well as a failure to inform the HRCM of arrests.

According to the commission’s report, of a total of 596 recommendations regarding state detention facilities made – including prisons, detention centres, and homes for people with special needs – only 20 percent have been fully implemented.

The rising incidence of torture was reflected in the number of cases submitted, and a total of 72 cases of degrading treatment and torture were submitted within the year.

In December 2013, the parliament passed the Anti-torture Act [Dhivehi] which declares freedom from torture as a fundamental right, ensures respect for human rights of criminal suspects, and prohibits torture in state custody, detention in undisclosed locations, and solitary confinement.

According to the bill, any confession gained through the use of torture should be deemed invalid by the courts.

On June 2, 2013, the man found to have murdered parliament member and prominent religious scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali, Hussain Humam, retracted his confession to the crime, claiming it had been obtained by police through coercive during his detention.

Last month, Ahmed Murrath – sentenced to death for murder –  was also reported to have appealed his case at the High Court telling  judges that he had been refused access to a doctor during pretrial detention.


Torture in detention increasing, says Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) 2013 annual report has revealed that incidents of torture in detention are increasing in the Maldives.

Among the issues noted during the commission’s visits to places of detention – in particular, prisons and police detention centers – and from the cases submitted to the commission were:

  • Detainees being held in cuffs for 24 hours – sometimes for 15 – 30 day – with removal only for using the toilet and for eating
  • Detainees not being provided with necessary items for cleaning themselves, or with pillows and blankets for sleeping
  • Overcrowding of cells
  • Police officers cursing and hurting detainees inside vehicles during transfer
  • Serving of rotten food
  • Not keeping proper records of detainees including medical, search, and solitary confinement records.
  • Not providing family meetings and phone calls
  • Police not providing details of arrested people to HRCM
  • Police entering homes without a court order
  • Addressing underage detainees inappropriately

According to the report, out of the a total 596 recommendations regarding state detention facilities made by the HRCM – including prisons, detention centers and homes for people with special need – only twenty percent have been fully implemented.

The report also noted that the commission faced “huge obstacles” in conducting investigations, resulting in delays the completion of research.

These obstacles included the failure of relevant institutions to provide documents, delays of state institutions in implementing commission recommendations, and the refusal of some government ministries to meet with the commission.


With forty cases initiated by the commission, a total of 719 cases were received in the year 2013 – of which 218 were completed. With pending cases from 2000 -2012, the commission completed investigations for total 352 cases within the year.

The rising incidence of torture was reflected in the number of cases submitted,and a total of 72 cases of degrading treatment and torture were submitted within the year.

Among them were cases submitted by victims and their families stating that they were tortured during the police custodial department detention during investigations. Detainees also submitted cases of being denied parole, the detention of persons released under the ‘second chance’ program, and the implementation of sentences which contravened court verdicts.

The highest number of cases – 134 – were submitted regarding the right to a good standard of health care; 77 case related to the right to fair administrative action; 86 cases concerned children, the elderly, and persons with special needs; and 90 cases submitted regarding labour rights violations.


“Citizens had many concerns about the condition of the judiciary in 2013 as well,” read the report, which reported the slow speed at which cases are attended to by the courts and the failure to take action against judges accused of misconduct.

In the report, the HRCM called on the Judicial Services Commission to increase and strengthen it’s role in reforming the judiciary, and for the People’s Majlis to pass important laws such as the penal code, and the criminal procedure and evidence bill.

The HRCM is currently working on an assessment of the Maldives human rights obligations in the judicial sector – with the financial assistance from UNDP – to ensure the judicial system in the Maldives is independent, just, and accessible.

The report mentioned, however, that courts had refused cooperate with the commission’s monitoring programme as the commission “did not get the cooperation of the Supreme Court”.

Freedom of assembly and MP’s behaviour

Notable achievements listed in the report were the passing of a number of bills such as the prisons and parole bill, the anti human trafficking bill, anti-torture bill, access to information bill, the sexual offences bill, the political parties bill, and the freedom of assembly bill.

Regarding the controversial Freedom of Assembly Act, the commission stated that “citizens were relieved” when it was passed and enforced, and that the legislation aimed to minimise restriction of the rights guaranteed by the constitution.

The bill had been criticised prior to its ratification, with local NGOs stating that it impinged upon a number of fundamental constitutional rights and “significantly challenges the entire democratic system of governance”.

The bill was also criticised by the the Maldives Journalists’ AssociationForum Asia – a regional human rights organisation -and the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives. The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) argued that it was a reactive measure against the MDP-led anti-government protests calling for an early presidential election.

The “irresponsible acts” of parliament members throughout the year – including violence within the Majlis premises and demonstrations during 2013 presidential address, were mentioned as an issue of concern. Another issue raised regarding MPs was the proposal of amendments to laws in order to “protect personal interests”.

Other prominent issues concerned the large number of child abuse cases,  including sexual abuse and use of children in crimes, along with an increased incidence of rape and other crimes against women.

Violation of the rights of migrant worker, including non-payment of wages, the withholding of their personal documents, and reports of inhumane abuse by their employers and the public was also noted.

The HRCM Annual Report 2013 can be downloaded here.


February 9 detainees in Addu “forced to walk on smoldering coals”, says former PIC chair

Detainees arrested in Addu City after the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, reported being “forced to walk on smoldering coals,” former Police Integrity Commission (PIC) chair Shahindha Ismail has said.

Police stations and courthouses were set ablaze in Addu after a brutal police crackdown on opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters in Malé.

Shahindha said that a four member PIC team visited the southernmost atoll from Februay 10- 13 on the request of then Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, interviewing police officers and over 75 detainees.

“Almost everyone who was arrested said they were taken to the Gan Police station. Police officers took them through the burnt down buildings and accused them of arson. They said were pushed onto the coals and forced to walk over smoldering coals. We saw burns on various parts of their bodies. They also said they were tortured and pepper-sprayed. Some of the detainees said the police had threatened to burn them and their houses,” Shahindha told Minivan News.

Shahindha has called on the PIC to expedite investigations and expressed concern over “intentional negligence” on the part of both the PIC and People’s Majlis.

Meanwhile, police officers in Addu City said they had not received any instructions or help from their superiors, and had to sleep on the street after protesters burnt down their accommodation block along with most of their personal belongings.

“The police officers we spoke to were very traumatised and angry. They had no clothes, they were sleeping on the street. They did not even have toothbrushes, and were obviously not fit to do any policing,” she said.

In instances where a complaint is not filed at the commission, a majority of the PIC has to agree to launch an investigation. Shahindha said she had completed a report on the Addu City findings and asked the commission to investigate. But the PIC had not reached a decision on the issue when she had left the commission in October 2012.

New PIC chair Abdulla Waheed was not responding at the time of press.

“I have informed the People’s Majlis independent commission oversight committee on multiple occasions of the existence of the report. An Addu MP is on the committee. While the PIC must investigate such serious allegations, the Majlis has a responsibility to ensure the PIC does its job,” Shahindha said.


Arson in Addu City destroyed the police stations in the Hithadhoo and Gan districts, and the police accommodation block and training center in the Hithadhoo district.

On February 9, police officers arrested over 85 people from their houses, cafes and from boats on the sea. Detainees said police officers had relied on information provided by certain members of the public and had been quite arbitrary in who they arrested.

According to Shahindha, some detainees told the PIC team the police had handcuffed them and thrown them into a military truck. Afterwards, the police sat on them and beat them with batons.

With police facilities destroyed in the fire, detainees were not given access to sanitary facilities and were forced to sleep on the ground. They reported not being given the right to appoint a lawyer and said they were not brought in front of a judge to extend detention.

“In one instance, there was one man who had a medical condition and he had asked to see a doctor. He said that four police officers took him and two other men in the police van. But instead of taking them to see the doctor, the police officers drove around and parked the van in the sun,” she said.

“The detainees said their hands were cuffed to the back and that it was very hot inside the van. They said they became very thirsty in the heat. After an hour, they were taken to the burnt remains of the police station and the police officers threw ash over them. We saw remains of ash in the pocket of one of the detainees.”

An Amnesty International report in February 2012 alleged the Maldivian National Defense Forces (MNDF) attacked a group of peaceful female protesters in Addu during the unrest.

“We were left for dead”

The torching of the police buildings destroyed many police officers personal belongings including motorcycles, phone, laptops and clothes. What was not burnt was looted, officers told the PIC.

When protesters in Addu City confronted the police, they had no tear gas to control the crowd and did not have sufficient armor or shields.  They could not reach their superiors and did not receive any instructions or help, Shahindha said.

“One officer told me ‘we were left for dead there’ ”, she said.

“The PIC conducted an initial assessment on state funds. There is a report on all of these findings. The PIC must investigate and the People’s Majlis must oversee the PIC.”

“Police officers who were responsible for the torture must be investigated and prosecuted, and their superiors must be investigated for negligence and failure to provide protection to the police,” she said.

In August 2012, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) recommended that the police, PIC, and MNDF should investigate the failure to contain unrest in Addu and take legal action against security service personnel who were deemed negligent or responsible for the inaction.

The police and PIC should also “immediately investigate” allegations of torture in custody and inhumane treatment of detainees from Addu City and take action against the responsible police officers, the HRCM recommended.

In addition, the commission stated that legal action should be taken against police officers who were negligent in providing medical treatment to detainees as well as against officers who “violated the dignity of private households and infringed upon the rights of residents” during the arrest of suspects from their homes.


HRCM congratulates parliament for passing Anti-torture bill, calls for president to ratify

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has congratulated the parliament for passing the Anti-torture Act [Dhivehi] which criminalises torture.

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

The HRCM has now called upon  President Abdulla Yameen to ratify it. The commission noted that the bill was passed including 17 of the 21 recommendations it had made.

Meeting with Yameen today, members of the commission received assurances of governmental support for their work after sharing details of the challenges they currently face.

The commission’s recently released benchmark guidelines for the protection of migrant workers was warmly received by state departments.

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.

According to the bill, any confession gained through the use of torture should be deemed invalid by the courts.

The new law 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.


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.