President Abdulla Yameen has stripped Home Minister Umar Naseer of the authority to seek surveillance orders on terror suspects after an outcry over the electronic tagging of gang members.
A three member committee will vet suspects before Naseer can seek a monitoring and control – or ‘monicon’ orders – on them from the high court.
The committee comprises of Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad and the Commissioner of Police Ahmed Areef.
The move followed the tagging of Ali ‘Sato’ Shan, a member of the Maldives Development Alliance, a ruling coalition partner, local media reported. Shan was required to wear a monitoring tag on his ankle.
Shan was accused in the murder of a parliamentarian in 2012, but was acquitted by the criminal court.
Naseer has tagged more than a dozen gang members after clashes with the police in March. He sought more surveillance orders earlier this month after two 14-year-old boys were killed in fights between rival gangs.
Critics have questioned the legality of the new committee, noting the anti-terror law vests the power to seek monicon orders with the home minister.
“Home Minister cannot answer Majlis [parliament] with ‘The other boys made me do it,’” said Maumoon Hameed, a prominent lawyer, in a tweet today.
Naseer told The Maldives Independent: “The committee now advises the minister. I will follow the advice.”
Describing committee members as “very mature,” the home minister said it would not deter the fight against crime.
The committee held its first meeting tonight, and has decided to seek an order on one individual, according to Sun Online. There are some 200 individuals who need to be tagged, Naseer told the online publication.
Some young men who were tagged have taken to social media expressing outrage. “I’ve only been to jail four times. Why have I been tagged when some who’ve been there thirty times don’t have tags,” said one.
In addition to the tags, the suspects are required to stay home between 10:00pm and 6:00am. They cannot leave the city without the minister’s permission and must avoid designated areas.
The police are also authorised to monitor their communications and financial transactions. The orders are valid for a year.
Naseer meanwhile told news website CNM that some who had been tagged “have been knocking on politicians doors to exert pressure.”
In an interview with Sun Online earlier this month, Naseer said the move has prompted attempts to remove him from the cabinet.
“I shall not specify who, but some have attempted to file a no-confidence motion against me, in order to stop me from combating gang activities, in the pretext that I have failed to maintain public order and peace, and some members of the PPM [ruling Progressive Party of Maldives] have been spoken to, about this.”
Naseer has pledged to “deal firmly” with crime and gangs. He led the effort to introduce the death penalty and has established rehabilitation camps for young criminal offenders.
Some 21 were sent to the island of Vaanee in Dhaalu Atoll on June 16.
In 2014, Yameen had also removed Naseer’s authority to command police officers.