Police defend Anbaraa arrests as MDP alleges breach of constitutional rights

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has denied allegations by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that constitutional rights and procedures were violated in the arrest of 79 youth last weekend from a music festival in an uninhabited island.

In a press release issued in response to a statement yesterday by the MDP’s rights committee, police insisted that all the suspects taken into custody from Vaavu Anbaraa were informed of their constitutional rights as well as the reason for the arrest.

“In addition, they were informed in writing of the reason for their detention in accordance with the law, and they were told that they had the right to legal counsel,” the press release read.

It added that all suspects detained from Anbaraa were brought before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest. Police also noted that the island was raided with a court order.

The MDP’s rights committee however contended that procedures specified in the constitution for arrest or detention – such as informing suspects of the reasons in writing within 24 hours, providing access to legal counsel, and presenting suspects before a judge within 24 hours for a remand hearing – were breached by the police.

Moreover, the committee alleged that police did not act in accordance with regulations governing the exercise of law enforcement powers concerning arrest and detention.

The rights committee suggested that it was “absolutely necessary” to ensure that law enforcement efforts are focused on citizens and the community while respecting human rights and democratic principles.

“While police powers and discretion is afforded within specifically determined parameters of the law, we remind the Home Minister of the Maldives at this juncture that police powers and discretion cannot be used outside those parameters,” the MDP statement read.

The police statement however stated that the MPS “assures the beloved citizens of Maldives that no actions that could violate human rights or demean human dignity were committed in the operation conducted in V. Anbaraa.”

The press release went on to address the MDP’s statement, contending that it was “misleading” and expressed in a manner that “encourages youth to commit crimes”.

Police further argued that the opposition party’s statement could confuse the public concerning “the principles and rules of the democracy that Maldivians are seeing today.”

Police also reminded the MDP that actions encouraging drug use or trafficking were prohibited by article 128 of the Drugs Act.

The police statement concluded with an appeal to all parties to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to “safeguard youth and this society from the danger of drugs” and refrain from actions that could cause loss of public confidence in the MPS.