Feature & Comment
Three years after Rilwan’s abduction
“Where is Rilwan? What happened to Rilwan?” asks the missing journalist’s family three years after his abduction at knifepoint outside his apartment building.
The following is a statement from the family of abducted journalist Ahmed Rilwan on the third anniversary of his disappearance on August 8, 2014.
When we look back at three years and odd days ago, we remember the happy life he led with us. The peaceful moments we spent together. He was a friend to many and an acquaintance that maintained good relationships. Even as he first opened his eyes to the world, he was a journalist who loved to share news and information to the world. He was a human who loved humanity. He prioritised his family and was a good sibling to his sisters. He was a brother. He was someone who got along well with everyone and had a happy disposition. He was my loving brother, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla. Or “Moyameehaa” according to his social media name.
Today is 1097 days since merciless hands abducted Rilwan. Yes, it’s been exactly three years since. Yet we still have to ask the very same questions we asked the first day. Those questions have remained without answers even today. “Where is Rilwan? What happened to Rilwan?” The relevant authorities have failed to answer these questions. The Maldives Police Service that said it was carrying on with the investigation since the first day, are still carrying on with it. Yet there is no progress to the case.
They have no information to share with the family. The way they have carried on with the investigation only gives more grievances to the family. The CCTV footage from Malé and Hulhumalé, the forceful capture of someone into a red car, the hair samples found in the red car, it all indicates that some people abducted Rilwan. That he was kidnapped. About a month later, three people were arrested regarding the case. The police said it was a break-through for their investigation. Yet the suspects were released a few days later. There were no results to show for the break through in the case. With an additional two, five people were arrested and released in total. And 606 days after Rilwan was abducted, on 05th April 2016 two more were arrested. Yet they were released, just the way those suspected were released before.
There is room to doubt the police’s assurances that they are still continuing the investigation in light of all that has happened till now. The lack of responsibility shown by the government and the police despite the evidence and suspects that they’ve had is of great concern to the family. This signifies that the Maldivian government has no compassion for Maldivian citizens. They have no empathy or humanity.
There has been no end to the efforts by Rilwan’s family and friends to find out what happened to him since the day of his abduction. Even with the mockery, harassment, and difficulties faced, we have continued forward. In the past three years, we’ve gone to the police office countless times. We’ve begged with members of the People’s Majlis. We’ve visited different ministers of state to plead with them. We’ve worked relentlessly to have an opportunity to plead with the president. We’ve knocked on the doors of institutions that were created for the rights of the citizens. There has been no help or assistance. The petition signed by many that was submitted to the parliament [regarding the case] was thrown out without a hint of compassion or mercy. The members of the parliament and the members of the state do not share in the pain and agony that Rilwan’s family is going through. Or they just don’t want to listen to the sound of a Maldivian family’s pleading.
Yameen Rasheed, Rilwan’s closest friend, lead the efforts to find out what happened to Rilwan. Yameen did not do this just for Rilwan. He did it for humanity. Yameen kept openly asking, “It’s Rilwan today, will it be me tomorrow?” The answer to the question he repeatedly asked was given in such a brutal, merciless manner. There is room to say that the perpetrators carry out such brutal actions due to state negligence. Rilwan’s abduction, followed by the release of people suspected in Rilwan’s abduction after their arrest, is encouraging those who wish to carry out such actions again to do so. It’s paving the way for them. When the government wishes to arrest someone, they keep him or her behind bars for days. They keep them behind bars till the court hearings are over. They hasten the investigation. They sent the case to court. They have hearings in close succession to one another. Yet in the case of Rilwan’s abduction and of Yameen’s murder, we see the negligence of state authorities. To the Maldivian citizen, this could be taken as a dangerous threat hinted by the government.
The police have not given their support in the family’s efforts to find Rilwan. They haven’t even provided any information at the very least. The right to seek and be given information is provided in the Constitution of the Maldives. We have filed a case in court against the police as we believe their refusal to share information is unacceptable. Rilwan’s family submitted this case to the civil court in December 2016. At the hearing, the police answered that even they haven’t found what happened to Rilwan after his abduction. While their motto is “To protect and serve,” they have not provided protection to the citizens. They have not provided an adequate service.
There will be no end to the efforts by the family to find out who abducted Rilwan and to give them due punishment. Today, these efforts are inseparable from the plea to find the ones who murdered Yameen Rasheed and bring them to justice. All such incidents bring grief and fear into our hearts. The government gives a deaf ear to the plea for justice. Even as three years have passed by, we carry on these efforts without any weakening. We do so while being patient of the deep sorrow and grief the family is suffering through. We do so while asking Allah, who knows best, to give us strength. My family and I will endure in praying for the best for Rilwan and Yameen. Oh Allah, have mercy on these two children!