The professional standards department of the police service has launched an internal probe after several police officers were seen beating up an unarmed man in a video that has gone viral on social media.
The amateur video recorded from a high vantage point shows four people beating up a man for nearly two minutes. The four men punch and kick the victim who falls down only to be picked up and held against a wall so the beating can continue. One of the men is seen using a brick to commit the assault. Social media users claimed the video showed four policemen beating up a suspect that had been arrested.
Police commissioner Mohamed Hameed confirmed that the men seen in the video were plain-clothes policemen who were conducting a search in Malé.
“I have viewed video footage where officers in plain clothes are seen manhandling a suspect during a search at a house in Maafannu under a court warrant tonight. This is unacceptable. I will be suspending the involved officers immediately and have them investigated,” Hameed tweeted.
In another tweet, Hameed said that the “culture of police brutality needs to go” and said that he had also asked the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the assault. Along with the HRCM, the National Integrity Commission, which has the mandate to investigate abuse of police powers, has also launched a separate probe in to the assault.
Hameed promised transparency in the investigation and said he will also ask for a criminal investigation to be conducted into the assault.
Police Spokeswoman Izmia Zahir told the Maldives Independent that the police had begun internal proceedings to suspend the officers in question, while the investigation is underway.
After some users on Twitter criticised Hameed for his euphemistic description of the attack as “manhandling” in his first tweet, on Saturday Hameed tweeted that he will not tolerate torture.
“I just met the group of officers who were involved in the operation last night. The PSC [Professional Standards Command] has initiated its internal investigation. The HRCM & NIC [National Integrity Commission] are doing their independent investigations to which myself and the whole executive team will fully support. Will not tolerate torture!” he tweeted.
According to Izmia the assault took place during a drug-related search and seizure raid at a house in the Maafannu quarter of the capital on Friday night.
On Friday night, hours after the video was shared on multiple platforms, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party secretary-general Anas Abdul Sattar tweeted that policemen had entered his house and questioned the residents of several apartments about the video.
“The incident occurred inside a house in front of ours. These ‘officers’ came into our house, questioned us about this video, went on to the next floor and came back again, accused us of recording the video, tried to search the phone, warned us to delete any videos,” he tweeted.