Maafushi Prison has been on lockdown since Monday night after detainees went on hunger strike and refused to enter cells.
Some 470 detainees out of 1,056 held at Maafushi Prison are now refusing to eat in protest at the harsh treatment being meted out by Maldives Correctional Service guards.
A statement by MCS said backup guards from the Emergency Support Group (ESG) forcibly returned detainees to their cells during an operation on Monday night.
“Last night prison guards forcibly put detainees back into their cells after prisoners refused to enter cells after lockup time,” the statement said. “The majority of the prisoners obeyed orders and entered their cells. However, guards were forced to use pepper spray to control some prisoners”.
Tempers flared on Thursday after ESG guards attacked six prisoners with batons, shaved their heads and pepper sprayed their private parts following an assault on an officer.
A detainee from Unit Five at Maafushi Prison on Tuesday told the Maldives Independent that 150 inmates from his unit and 320 inmates from Unit Nine and Unit Two have stopped eating in protest.
“Some prisoner from units Nine and Two have not eaten for three days, while other prisoners at the units have also joined [in]. Prisoners at Unit Five stopped eating yesterday,” he said.
The backup guards at Maafushi Prison conducted an inspection of the prison on Sunday after prison officers refused to enter cells, claiming that prisoners were armed with weapons.
During the four-hour operation, officers confiscated eight mobile phones and a shank made out of a steel rod taken from one of the cell doors.
Earlier this month, Imran announced that a committee would be formed to oversee prison reform after the first audit of the country’s jails revealed that inmates were routinely subjected to shocking abuse.
Conditions are “shameful” and inmates are deprived of basic human rights, the audit stated.
Investigators highlighted problems of overcrowding – of prisoners and those on remand or in pre-trial detention, unsanitary living conditions, lack of opportunities to exercise, lack of policies to separate non-violent offenders from inmates convicted of serious crimes, and failure to meet World Health Organisation standards for food and water.
“There is not a single prison in [the] Maldives that does not violate the Mandela Rules, making it a challenge to ensure the rights of inmates,” the report concluded.