HRCM launches inquiry into Malé jail altercation

HRCM launches inquiry into Malé jail altercation
March 30 15:50 2016

Several inmates and prison guards at the Malé jail sustained injuries Sunday night after “a random cell check” escalated into a violent confrontation.

Maldives Correctional Services spokesman Hassan Ali told The Maldives Independent that some inmates had refused to allow prison guards to inspect their cell.

“The inmates aggressively pushed and shoved prison guards who attempted to conduct the check, prompting the Emergency Support Group of MCS to take immediate measures to control the situation,” he said.

Several inmates sustained cuts and bruises during the altercation, Ali said, and one inmate suffered a wrist fracture during the ESG officers’ attempt “to control the situation to ensure no serious rioting occurs.”

Despite wearing a helmet, an ESG officer sustained injuries to his eyes and teeth when an inmate lunged at his face, he said.

“The injured prisoners as well as the prison guards were immediately given professional medical attention,” Ali said, adding that “the prisoner with the wrist fracture still remains at the [Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital] for treatment.”

Specialist Operations police reportedly conducted self-defense training and taught restraining techniques to prison guards following the incident.

Hawwa Wajdha, spokeswoman for the Human Rights Commission of Maldives, confirmed that the watchdog is “looking into the case.”

“We are unable to provide any details but the commission is looking into the case on its own initiative,” she said.

The National Integrity Commission, however, said it is not investigating the incident as no complaints had been lodged. The new oversight body for law enforcement agencies was formed on October to replace the Police Integrity Commission and the Customs Integrity Commission.

In July last year, former Assistant Attorney General Ismail Wisham told The Maldives Independent that NIC will “cure the current toothlessness of the integrity commissions”. He noted that the home ministry had not complied with any recommendations made by the PIC.

In December 2014, two MCS officers were seriously injured after they were assaulted by Maafushi prison inmates during a routine head count.

In February 2014, Ibrahim Azar, an inmate serving a five-year sentence for drug abuse, suffered severe head injuries after being attacked by two cellmates. He died two months later while undergoing treatment in India.

Mistreatment of inmates and torture were commonplace in Maldivian jails before the custodial death of 19-year-old Evan Naseem in September 2003 – a watershed event in Maldivian history that sparked a pro-democracy and reform movement.

During a UN Human Rights Council in 2012, then-Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed admitted to a history of torture in the Maldives, but said the government cannot afford compensation for victims.

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

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 to end a culture of impunity.

The Torture Victims Association – which had collected 125 statements of torture, and submitted25 cases to the HRCM on February 6, 2012 – say survivors have no confidence in a “politicised and incompetent judiciary” and are waiting on judicial reform to seek justice.