The failure to videotape a midnight raid on the apartment of then-defence minister Mohamed Nazim on January 18 “raises questions about the actions of police officers,” the human rights watchdog has said.
The retired colonel was found guilty of weapons smuggling and sentenced to 11 years in prison in March after police discovered a pistol and bullets in his bedside drawer. Nazim maintains that he was framed by rogue Specialist Operations (SO) officers acting on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.
Following an inquiry to determine whether Nazim’s human rights were violated, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) found that the police acted in accordance with the law, but questioned the decision not to seek assistance from the military despite suspecting that Nazim possessed dangerous weapons and an improvised explosive device.
“The investigation noted matters that raise questions about the actions of police officers in searching G. Enif due to the carelessness of the police officers and because the search was not videotaped,” reads a 35-page confidential HRCM investigation report obtained by Minivan News.
However, the report concluded that police acted lawfully in arresting the former defence minister on February 10 and that his human rights were not violated under police custody.
In four recommendations to the Maldives Police Service, the commission advised making it mandatory to take video footage of police operations, involving officers of both genders in raids, and respecting human rights while searching private residences.
The police told the HRCM investigators that Nazim’s apartment was not raided based on intelligence information.
The decision was made by senior officers based on information from a credible source, according to statements from anonymised police officers.
Some police officers involved in the operation said they did not know who ordered the raid and some were unaware of the target when they prepared for the operation.
A SWAT team officer said he only knew it was Nazim’s apartment upon seeing the defence minister inside.
The police said they also found a pen drive with documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen.
The police SWAT team raided Nazim’s eighth floor apartment around 3:30am and broke down the doors of the house, the apartment, and family rooms.
The family told HRCM investigators that SO officers used obscene language and forced Nazim and his wife to kneel down while they searched the master bedroom for about 15 minutes.
A second search team then went into the room and called Nazim and his wife over.
An investigation officer showed Nazim the search warrant about 25 minutes after the SO officers broke into the apartment, the family said.
The family alleged that SO officers also broke down the door of Nazim’s daughter’s room and that her finger was injured when she was dragged out to the living room.
The family said the raid was traumatising and that Nazim’s daughter still faced difficulty sleeping.
Family members also stressed that police had not searched the rest of the apartment after finding a black bag from Nazim’s room. The SO officers took out the bag’s contents and Nazim denied that it was his.
The police did not take forensic samples, the family noted.
Nazim has meanwhile appealed his conviction at the High Court, which began hearings late last month. The appeal has been stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two judges in the five-member panel to an appellate branch in the south.
The ex-defence minister’s lawyers have highlighted several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses, discrepancies in testimony by anonymous police officers, and the police’s alleged failure to follow the law and standard procedures in the midnight raid.
Nazim maintains that the weapons were planted on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb after the pair fell-out over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT officers to commit criminal activities. Adeeb has denied the claims.