3 March 2012
A peaceful protest march to resist “making the Police an institution that people fear” (Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, 9 February 2012) the country sliding to Military and Police rule by standing up against fear of arrest was crushed today by riot police and army personnel using water cannons and pepper spray. The march included around one hundred protesters, including women.
The marchers, who had symbolically bound their hands together with cable ties, were making their way to police headquarters to present themselves for arrest. However, they were blocked near the President’s Office by riot police and army personnel, and the participants – whose actions had been entirely peaceful – were violently dispersed with salt-water cannons and pepper spray. A number of them, including three women, were arrested
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, MDP Spokesperson for International Affairs said, ‘soon after the coup the Commissioner of Police stated in his inaugural press conference that, “we will make the Police an institution that people fear”, clearly indicating that they will use the threat of arrest and ill-treatment and torture as a tool for suppression and coercion.’
Hamid further said, “What we are seeing is a clear and systematic violation of core human rights including the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of speech. Today’s protest march was designed to symbolise the increasingly blatant manipulation of the justice system in order to intimidate and detain protesters. And, as if on cue, the government responded by violently suppressing it and conducting further unlawful arrests. The government, the police, the army and elements of the judiciary are collaborating to hide such unlawful arrests behind a thin veneer of legality. It is well known that the Maldives judiciary is riddled with corrupt judges. We are seeing, yet again, the truth of that fact”. “We have also seen today another case of elements of the armed forces being used to maintain civil order – in clear breach of their legal mandate”, he said.
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor
Spokesperson, International Affairs