The mother of missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan filed a complaint with the human rights watchdog today over police obstruction of and use of pepper spray at a peaceful memorial walk held on August 8 to mark one year after her son’s unexplained disappearance.
Rilwan was last seen on CCTV footage entering the ferry terminal in Malé around 12:45am on August 8, 2014 and is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé.
Aminath Easa noted in her complaint to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) that police officers pepper sprayed Rilwan’s family members on the front line of the march at point blank range and used excessive force.
Police officers attempted to block the march on three occasions. During one attempt, about seven police officers barged into the march and arrested Rilwan’s brother-in-law, who had walked past the officers and shoved off one policeman who had attempted to block his way.
The police officers were not in riot gear and had not set up barricades
Police officers had told participants that they could not move forward. The constitution, however, guarantees the right to freedom of assembly without prior permission from the state.
Aminath noted in her complaint that the state has a constitutional responsibility to protect and promote fundamental rights and accused the police of “discrimination” and “unjust and inhumane action.”
Rilwan’s family had notified the police of the march one month in advance, but the police summoned family members a day before the walk and instructed them not to go ahead with the march as planned.
Local human rights NGO, Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), had condemned the Maldives Police Service “in the strongest terms” for obstructing the memorial march.
“We note with regret that none of the independent state bodies such as the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives or the Police Integrity Commission attempted to intervene and protect the demonstrators or stop unlawful actions by the police,” MDN said in a statement.