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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Government Crackdown on Peaceful Political Activity on the Rise After May Day protest – MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party urges the international community to remain vigilant on the declining human rights situation, especially post-May Day protest in the Maldives and calls on all stakeholders to urgently engage with Maldivian government to prevent complete reversal of democracy in the Maldives.

Police Abuse, Brutality of May Day Detainees

Detainees, lawyers and families of detainees from May Day protest have reported of police brutality and abuse during and after arrest on 1 May.

Ahmed Easa, 39. Family and lawyer of former MP Ahmed Easa has stated he was beaten up by several police officers inside the police vehicle after he was arrested on 1 May. According to media reports, journalists heard Mr. Easa scream after he was arrested. According to the family, police officers kicked him on his spine and hit him on his head with batons. Despite recommendation by the doctor in Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre for Easa to be examined by an independent doctor in Male’, Easa has not been given medical attention. His lawyers report he suffered head injuries and is still unable to walk, and he is still showing signs of injuries to his head.

There is video and photo evidence oft Ahmed Easa rescuing the policeman who was attacked in the protest.

Moosa Sharmeel, 35- Lawyer and friends report that Sharmeel was arrested around 2 am of 2 May. Policemen in plainclothes entered his home and beat him severely in front of his family including his wife and children. They then took him outside and again him on the streets. The police then took him in a police car, (the detainee says he thinks it was a police car, but cannot be sure as he was in great pain at the time). 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. He was shoved on the floor and beaten until he lost consciousness. His head smashed open when he was shoved on the floor. He was then taken to the hospital and admitted to Intensive Care Unit, in the public hospital (IGMH) for a while. Sharmeel requested for a CT scan as he said he had foul smelling discharge coming from his head, but he was denied. His lawyer reports he is still suffering from chest pains and cannot eat. He suspects, due to internal injuries from the beatings.

Sharmeel reported to his lawyer that he was the policemen kept on saying “we will kill you” as they beat him up inside the HQ.

Sharmeel was only shown a court warrant shown after the arrest. He was told he was arrested for his own safety and that the Police are now claiming he was beaten inside his home by members of the public who also allegedly transported him to the Police HQ.

Shrameel was not taken to the court for remand within 24 hours as per the law, as his injuries from the beatings would have been too visible. Instead, he was released near the Male detention Centre (Atoll Vehi) and immediately shown another arrest warrant and taken into custody again. The new court warrants stated he was arrested on charges of hitting a policeman.

HRCM is investigating this case.

Abdulla Ibad, 32. Arrested on 3 May from his home. The police took him to the Police HQ. Detainee reports he was beaten him inside the HQ and that he was beaten mainly on his face. Ibad also reported that the policemen kept saying “you will not live.”

Mohammed Rasheed, 52. Detainee was arrested from a boat. He reports being pepper sprayed at close range and then taken to the Police HQ. He was beaten inside the police vehicle and then again inside the Police HQ. He also reports the policemen 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 Human Rights Commission of the Maldives is currently investigating 3 cases of alleged police brutality.

There are brutality reports witnessed by the media. Detainees from May Day until time of this statement report that the transport vehicle is being used as a “vehicle of torture.”

The MDP notes with concern that three detainees detention was extended without the presence of lawyers.

Termination of Employees of State Owned Companies

In a press conference by the Parliamentary Group of the ruling party PPM, the leader of the parliamentary group stated that the government would take action against those employees who participated in the May Day protest. He also said that action will also be taken against those who promote anti-government activities on social media.

Several employees at state owned companies have now been fired because they attended the May Day protest.

Furthermore, PPM MP Riyaz Rasheed also stated that action will be taken against members of the security services for supporting any anti-government activity.

Press Freedom Below 2008 Levels

The MDP notes with deep concern over declining press freedom in the Maldives in the recent years. In 2015, Maldives was ranked #112 out in 180 countries, 4 ranks below its 2014 levels. In 2008, Maldives was ranked #108 in the RSF press freedom index.

Continued discrimination against media outlets remains a huge concern. On March 8, 2015 video journalists and news reporter from Raajje TV were arrested for filming a meeting of Judge Abdul Bari Abdul Yoosuf, a judge presiding over President Nasheed’s trial and the Prosecutor General in a public café. The police arrested them after being threatened by members of a local gang. They were detained for hours and forced to delete video footage. On 5 May, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission confirmed that Raajje TV journalists were forced to delete the recording.

Raajje TV was barred from protest coverage on 1 May. The police also barred them from press briefing by the police on May Day. The following day, Raajje TV was removed from the criminal court area and asked to leave without any explanation or a court warrants removing the TV Channel from the area.

The state is currently prosecuting two Raajje TV journalists on charges of alleged obstruction to police duty

Declining Political Freedom

After a brutal crackdown of the May Day protest, Maldives Police Services arrested 195 anti-government protestors including leaders of all the opposition political parties. Arrest follows months of harassment and political persecution against opposition politicians.

In addition to the arrest of political leaders, the government has issued warnings to all elected councilors for participating in anti-government protests organized by the opposition. The Minister of Home Affairs stated that action would be taken against those councilors and councils who attended the protests and has instructed the Local Government Authority to identify those councilors who traveled to Male’ to take part in the protest.

The Ministry of Housing has unlawfully confiscated land under the authority of Male’ City Council as per the Local Government Act and repeatedly denied permission to hold political rallies in public grounds.

Since May Day protest, every gathering organized by the opposition have been disrupted by the Police. On May 2, the Police barged into the opposition gathering and attempted to confiscate the sound system and asked to stop the gathering without giving any legal reasoning. The activity continued despite the warning. On May 3, Police Special Operations team again disrupted the gathering and arrested Jumhooree Party Council member Sobah Rasheed. On May 4 and 5th Police disrupted peaceful gathering and warned that further When the protest spilled onto the streets, the Police arrested people indiscriminately. President Nasheed’s 2013 Running Mate Dr. Musthafa Luthfy was among those arrested, but was released later.

Since the May Day protest, the pick- up and sound system used for announcing the daily protest around Male’ is being stopped and confiscated by the police everyday. The announcers are arrested every day and made to sign a statement saying they would not “participate in such activities again.”

Police continue to stop the nightly gatherings and arrest people.

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