Annual Report: Maldives 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Maldives 2013

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Republic of Maldives

Head of state and government Mohamed Waheed (replaced Mohamed Nasheed)

The controversial resignation of the President in early February was followed by months of protest and political repression across the archipelago. Security forces used excessive force – including truncheons and pepper-spraying people in the eyes – to suppress demonstrations that were largely peaceful. Supporters of the former President's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were targeted for attack in February. Detainees were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Weaknesses in the justice system perpetuated impunity for human rights violations.

Background

Months of party rivalry and unrest, followed by a police mutiny, preceded President Nasheed's resignation on 7 February. In a speech to his supporters the next day, Mohamed Nasheed stated that he had been forced to resign at gun point.

From 7 February, police used targeted violence against supporters of Mohamed Nasheed's MDP for several days, plunging the country into a human rights crisis. Although MDP protests were largely peaceful, police attacks on supporters in Malé on 8 February prompted a violent response in the southernmost city, Addu, the same day.

A Commission of National Inquiry formed by President Waheed in February concluded in August that Mohamed Nasheed had resigned voluntarily, echoing a statement made by President Waheed shortly after the resignation. The Commission noted “allegations of police brutality and acts of intimidation” and called for “investigations to proceed and to be brought to public knowledge with perpetrators held to account”.

Excessive use of force

Throughout the year, security forces frequently attacked peaceful demonstrators, including MPs, journalists and bystanders, in the capital Malé or in Addu, both MDP strongholds. Officers clubbed them, kicked them and pepper-sprayed them directly in the eyes. Around the time of Mohamed Nasheed's resignation, from 7 to 9 February, police targeted senior MDP members for attack and tracked down and assaulted injured protesters in hospitals.

  • On 7 February, security forces attacked MP Ahmed Esa, beating him particularly on the head with metal rods and batons.
  • On 29 May, Mana Haleem, whose husband was a former minister in Mohamed Nasheed's cabinet, was on her way home when police stopped her. She had been walking through Majeedee Magu Street where an opposition rally was taking place. Police repeatedly beat her with truncheons on the arms, back and hips before taking her into custody.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Detainees were tortured upon arrest and on their way to police centres. Beatings, pepper-spraying the eyes and mouth, denial of drinking water and, in Addu, incarceration in dog cages, were all common methods used.

Human rights defenders

Campaigners or supporters of religious tolerance were attacked, and police or judicial authorities failed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

  • On 5 June, unidentified men slashed the throat of Ismail “Hilath” Rasheed. Ismail Rasheed, who survived the attack, was previously assaulted in December 2011 for advocating religious freedom during a small rally in Malé.
  • On 2 October, MP Afrasheem Ali was knifed to death outside his home in Malé. He was widely respected as a Muslim scholar who advocated the right to hold diverse religious views within Islam.

Lack of accountability

Serious failings in the justice system entrenched impunity. These included the absence of codified laws capable of providing justice equally to all and the appointment of judges who lacked formal training in law without serious scrutiny of their legal qualifications. Throughout the year, authorities were accused of political bias for fast-tracking the prosecution of opposition supporters accused of criminal behaviour during rallies while failing to prosecute police and others suspected of committing human rights abuses during the same protests.

Death penalty

At least two people were sentenced to death, but none was executed. However, the Chief Justice and the Minister of Home Affairs issued statements, implying that executions could not be ruled out under the law. Media reports that the government was drafting a bill to secure implementation of death sentences also raised concern about the possible resumption of executions after nearly six decades.