UN summons Maldives over journalist’s disappearance

UN summons Maldives over journalist’s disappearance
May 08 15:38 2016

The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances has summoned the Maldivian government for a response to the disappearance of The Maldives Independent’s journalist Ahmed Rilwan some 639 days ago.

The specialized UN body is due to hear the case at its 109th session, which starts in Geneva today, The Maldives Independent understands.

Rilwan was last seen boarding a ferry to Malé’s suburb, Hulhumalé, on August 8, 2014. He was abducted outside his apartment at knifepoint, the police confirmed last April, despite having previously insisted that the abduction reported outside Rilwan’s apartment was not linked to his disappearance.

Ali Abdulla Hilmy, the foreign ministry spokesman, declined to comment immediately, but said the ministry would issue a statement later.

It was Reporters Without Borders (RSF) that referred the case to the UN rights body last year.

The global press freedom group had asked the UN to intervene in the disappearances of journalists in some ten countries. These include Iraq, Eritrea, Syria, Mexico, Colombia, Iran and Turkmenistan.

Rilwan’s family, who had shared accounts of the abduction with the police just days after the incident took place, is now alleging the state’s involvement in the disappearance.

The police’s confirmation of Rilwan’s abduction, “demonstrates the extent to which police negligence and political influence by government officials have hampered the probe and obstructed justice,” Rilwan’s family said in a statement to mark the World Press Freedom Day.

Urging oversight bodies to look into state involvement in tampering with evidence, and allowing suspects to flee the country, the family said: “We note that a thorough inquiry requires identification of those in positions of authority who attempted to obscure the truth in Rilwan’s disappearance, and their reasons for doing so.”

Speaking to the press outside her home, Rilwan’s sister, Mariyam Fazna said Tuesday: “We believe the delays in this investigation are caused by political influence.

“We had shared all information we had received with the police throughout 2014, but they did not give much thought to that information then. But from the police’s press conference, we knew that information had been used in the investigation. The question that comes to our minds is why had they hidden this for so long?”

Two suspects, including the owner of a car alleged to have been used in the abduction, were arrested last month. They remain in state custody.

Mohamed Suaid, a man who allegedly tailed Rilwan for over two hours on the night he went missing, left the Maldives in January last year.

“Suaid was allowed the opportunity to flee, because of police negligence, and because he was freed despite clear evidence of his complicity in this act of terror,” the family said in statement. “This is a clear indication of the lack of concern towards acts of terror by law enforcement agencies.”