a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities. The government took steps to investigate disappearances reported in previous years.
On September 1, the Presidential Commission on Deaths and Disappearances shared preliminary results from its investigation into the 2014 disappearance of reporter Ahmed Rilwan, noting that evidence indicated Rilwan was killed on a vessel at sea following his abduction. The commission shared the preliminary determination that Rilwan’s death was premeditated and conducted by or on behalf of individuals linked to al Qaeda. Subsequently, the MPS suspended two police intelligence officers, who according to a public summary of the commission’s draft report, conducted surveillance of Rilwan in the weeks before his abduction, and after his abduction approached the former immigration controller with a plan to use a falsified copy of Rilwan’s passport to create a news story that Rilwan had left the country. The commission’s draft report also alleged that former vice president Ahmed Adeeb intervened with then Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi to free individuals who assisted and carried out Rilwan’s abduction. The draft report indicated the team investigating Rilwan’s abduction in 2014 was negligent in their investigation and that senior officials of the MPS intelligence unit should be held responsible for failing to act on threat information received weeks before Rilwan’s disappearance. Media reported the commission had concluded its investigation as of December 5, but was waiting on a forensic analysis report before publicizing its findings. In December the commission asked the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to charge two individuals Mohamed Mazeed and Samith Mohamed for orchestrating Rilwan’s abduction.
On July 7, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) submitted to parliament a report on the HRCM’s actions taken in relation to Rilwan’s disappearance, following which the parliament’s Security Services Oversight Committee began reviewing whether the MPS was negligent in their investigation into the case. The National Integrity Commission (NIC) reported concluding their investigation into a 2014 complaint filed by Rilwan’s family claiming police negligence in September. NIC had not published its report at year’s end but told media their investigation had found no evidence of police negligence.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and the Anti-Torture Act prohibit such practices, but there were reports of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The law permits flogging and other forms of corporal punishment, and security officials employed such practices. According to a 2014 Supreme Court guideline, the court must delay the execution of a flogging sentence of minors until they reach the age of 18. Since January, five individuals were sentenced to flogging, including two boys younger than age 18.
According to the HRCM’s sixth annual antitorture report, released in June, the MPS was accused in 23 of the 43 cases of torture submitted to the commission between July 2018 and June 2019. The Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) was accused in 17 cases, 16 of which took place at Maafushi Prison. The HRCM closed investigations in 26 of the cases, finding no evidence of torture. One alleged case of torture the HRCM submitted for prosecution in 2016 remained on trial as of December.
In July the MPS suspended and initiated criminal investigations against seven police officers after video was posted online of the officers beating a Bangladeshi suspect during a police raid on July 4. In September the MPS began consultations with the PGO potentially to file criminal charges against the officers but no formal charges were raised at year’s end. The HRCM and NIC also launched their own investigations into the two incidents, both of which were still pending as of December.
On June 22, Home Affairs Minister Imran Abdullah acknowledged to local media that “excessive force [had been] used by prison guards” during a June confrontation between MCS officers and inmates in Maafushi Prison. Media and civil society sources reported at least one inmate was beaten, pepper sprayed while handcuffed, and had his head forcibly shaved. In July the MCS announced it had taken undisclosed action against an unspecified number of officers involved in the incident. The HRCM and NIC also launched their own investigations into the two incidents, both of which were pending as of December.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prisons were overcrowded in some cases and lacked adequate sanitary conditions and medical care, but they generally met most international standards.
Physical Conditions: According to the Prisons and Parole Act, pretrial and remand detainees should be held separately from convicted prisoners, but this was not always done. According to the April 15 report of the Presidential Prison Audit Commission, which reviewed the conditions of 11 prisons and detention facilities between December 2018 and March pretrial and remand prisoners were held in the same cells as convicts in Male Prison. The commission also found in an MPS-operated Male Custodial Center and a Dhoonidhoo pretrial Detention Center, juveniles were held in separate cells but in proximity and view of cells that held adult suspects. The MCS oversaw the operation of four prison facilities: Asseyri Prison, Hulhumale Detention Center, Maafushi Prison, and Male Prison. The MCS also operated the MCS Ahuluveri Marukazu and the Male Ahuluveri Marukazu rehabilitation centers for inmates scheduled for parole, while the MPS operated Dhoonidhoo pretrial Detention Center and Male Custodial Center. The Presidential Prison Audit Commission reported overcrowding, poor ventilation, and inadequate hygiene and sanitation standards in prisons and pretrial detention facilities, except for Asseyri Prison. Authorities held undocumented migrant workers awaiting deportation or legalization within the security perimeter of a facility that also housed convicts. Although the law requires the Ministry of Home Affairs to designate a separate facility to hold remanded detainees on trial, the MCS continued to hold them in Maafushi Prison, Asseyri Prison, and Male Prison, which also hold convicted prisoners.
There were approximately 17 cases of unexplained deaths in custody from August 2016 to September. NIC was investigating six of these deaths but had not concluded investigations as of December. In August the PGO declined the HRCM’s request to file charges against MCS officers found to have been negligent in providing medical care for Maafushi Prison inmate Abdulla Rasheed, who died in custody in 2017. The PGO stated the HRCM investigation lacked enough evidence to prove criminal intent. The law requires the HRCM be informed immediately in the case of any deaths in state custody and be allowed to inspect the body prior to burial. Authorities implemented this provision; however, they often moved the body to a second location, such as a hospital, before the HRCM was able to inspect the bodies.
The Presidential Prison Audit Commission reported conditions varied across detention facilities. In most of the facilities overseen by the MCS and MPS, detainees were not allowed to leave their cells except for visitation. In Male Prison and some of the maximum-security units of Maafushi Prison, detainees had reportedly not been allowed outside to exercise for more than two years. Authorities held some prisoners at Maafushi Prison in solitary confinement in specialized cells without ventilation or electricity. Although inmates were generally not held in solitary for extended periods of time, prisoners regardless of length of time in solitary were not provided mattresses, pillows, or mosquito repellent. Most prisoners were held in cells open to the elements on the sides, allowing mosquitoes to enter their cells.
In its sixth annual antitorture report, the HRCM reiterated reports from previous years that specialist doctors were not permitted to examine some inmates who claimed to have been tortured. According to the Presidential Prison Audit Commission’s report, doctors were stationed at two of the five detention facilities overseen by the MCS, and nurses were stationed at three. Inmates referred to specialist doctors sometimes spent six to seven months awaiting confirmation of doctor appointments. Local hospitals did not set aside quotas for detainees seeking medical attention, leading to difficulties in getting appointments for detainees to seek specialist care in a timely manner.
Administration: According to the HRCM’s sixth antitorture report and the Presidential Prison Audit Commission report, detention facilities overseen by the MCS and the MPS did not have enough CCTV cameras or maintain CCTV coverage for an adequate length of time, posing challenges in the investigation of allegations of mistreatment or torture. Both reports also noted the MPS did not maintain records of detainees they held for less than 24 hours, leading to difficulties in verifying torture complaints or the identities of responsible police officers.
Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted regular and unannounced prison visits by the HRCM, so long as a presidentially appointed commissioner was present during the visit. The HRCM provided recommendations to the government addressing deficiencies. The HRCM and NIC reported that, although they have the legal mandate to enter detention facilities without prior approval, the MCS and the MPS required a letter signed by an HRCM or NIC commissioner before allowing access. Facilities required a commission member, appointed by the president, to accompany the visits. The government generally permitted visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC) and other international assessment teams with prior approval. The ICRC reportedly conducted visits to all detention facilities overseen by the MCS during the year but had not produced any report on its findings as of September. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer visited Maldives in November; the UN noted a comprehensive report on his visit would be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2021.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
The constitution states an arrest may not be made unless the arresting officer observes the offense, has reasonable evidence, or has a court-issued arrest warrant. The Criminal Procedure Act allows police to arrest a person if a police officer has reason to believe a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense or may attempt to destroy evidence of a major crime. The MPS generally complied with arrest procedures when making arrests. Amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) ratified in October allow police to arrest terrorism suspects without an arrest warrant where there is probable and reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offense is imminent unless immediate action is taken. Civil society sources reported the need to define properly “probable and reasonable grounds” within the law to avoid misuse of this provision. The law provides for an arrestee to be verbally informed immediately of the reason for arrest and to have the reason confirmed in writing within 12 hours of arrest.
Prisoners have the right to a ruling on bail within 36 hours. The law also requires an arrestee be informed of the right to remain silent and that what the arrestee says may be used in a court of law. The law further provides that arrestees are to have access to a lawyer at the time of arrest. A lawyer may be court appointed in serious criminal cases if the accused cannot afford one. The law allows police to question a detainee in the absence of counsel if the detainee’s lawyer does not appear within 12 hours without adequate reasons for the delay. Police normally informed the arrestee’s family of the arrest within 24 hours. The law does not require that police inform the family of the grounds for the arrest unless the arrestee is younger than 18 years of age, in which case a parent or guardian must be informed within four hours. ATA amendments allow police to restrict private meetings with lawyers for suspects of terrorism offenses for a period of seven days from the time of arrest in situations where there is reasonable ground to believe private meetings may result in evidence tampering, committing a terrorist offense, physical harm to another or hinder the recovery of property obtained by committing a terrorism offense.
The law provides for investigative detention. A person detained for investigation is allowed one telephone call prior to police questioning. Once a person is detained, the arresting officer must present evidence to a court within 24 hours to justify continued detention. Based on the evidence presented, the prosecutor general has the authority to determine whether charges may be filed. If law enforcement authorities are unable to present sufficient evidence within 24 hours, the prisoner is eligible for release. Judges have the authority to extend detention upon receiving an arresting officer’s petition but must cite factors such as the detainee’s previous criminal record, status of the investigation, type of offense in question, and whether the detainee poses a threat if released.
Arbitrary Arrest: The Criminal Procedure Act allows police to detain individuals for questioning for four hours, without the detention being classified as a formal arrest. There were few reports authorities misused this provision during the year.
Pretrial Detention: The MCS reported almost 400 pretrial or remand detainees were held in their facilities as of September, with some held for as many as seven years without a conviction. The MCS reported that, as of September, 70 percent of these detainees had not had a court hearing for seven months. In October, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath introduced a new criminal procedure policy to address the large percentage of detainees requiring the prosecutor general to review pretrial detention decisions by judges every 30 days. This policy requested the court dismiss pretrial detention orders if the prosecutor general finds an insufficient need for detention.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and the Criminal Procedure Act stipulate conditions under which a person can be arrested or detained and provides everyone the right to appeal and the right to compensation for unlawful arrest or detention. The High Court routinely hears appeals of arrest warrants or pretrial detention orders, but defense lawyers claimed High Court judges tended to seek justification for upholding such orders rather than questioning the grounds and merits of detention and delayed verdicts until the authorized pretrial detention orders expire. The appeal courts did not accept appeals of detentions authorized for the duration of a trial already in progress, based on a 2012 High Court decision that ruled trial judges have discretionary authority to authorize detention of suspects for the duration of pending trials as well as on a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that decisions made by judges using discretionary authority cannot be appealed.
Victims of unlawful or arbitrary arrest or detention can submit cases to the Civil Court to seek compensation, but they did not commonly exercise this right.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was not completely independent or impartial, and was subject to influence. There were numerous allegations of judicial impropriety and abuse of power, with large numbers of judicial officials, prosecutors, and attorneys reportedly intimidated or bribed. Government officials, members of parliament, and representatives of domestic and international civil society organizations accused the judiciary of bias.
According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), some magistrate judges could not interpret common law or sharia because they lacked adequate English or Arabic language skills. Many judges in all courts, appointed for life, held only a certificate in sharia, not a law degree. An estimated one-quarter of the country’s judges had criminal records.
On August 28, parliament removed former Supreme Court judge Abdulla Didi over eight ethics standards violations, including alleged abuse of authority and receipt of bribes and in November and December removed former chief justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi and Supreme Court justices Adam Mohamed Abdulla and Abdul Ghanee Yoosuf over ethics standards violations including 17 instances in which the Supreme Court violated the constitution or usurped the powers of parliament and other state institutions. The government watchdog Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had not completed investigations into ethics standards complaints against several judges from the High Court, Criminal Court, Civil Court, Family Court and several island magistrate courts as of December.
In August parliament amended the JSC Act to return control of the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA), which is responsible for the management of courts, to the judicial watchdog JSC. NGOs noted that, prior to the vote, the Supreme Court used its direct supervision of the DJA to punish judges exhibiting judicial independence by transferring them to a lower court or another island as retribution. Until the June passage of the Legal Professions Act, which establishes a bar association to self-regulate lawyers, lawyers and civil society organizations accused the Supreme Court of using its authority to license and regulate lawyers as a means to arbitrarily suspend or retaliate against lawyers who criticized the highest court.
The constitution and the Criminal Procedure Act provide for the right to a fair and public trial, although the judiciary did not always enforce this right. The law provides that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Most trials were public and conducted by judges and magistrates, some of whom were trained in Islamic, civil, or criminal law. The constitution states defendants have a right to be informed of the charge without delay in a language understood by the defendant. The law states a defendant must be provided with a copy of the case documents within five days of charges being submitted to court. The law provides that an accused person has a right to be tried in person and have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The constitution states the accused has the right not to be compelled to testify. The law provides the right to free assistance of an interpreter and governs trial procedures. Judges question the concerned parties and attempt to establish the facts of a case. Accused persons have the right to defend themselves and during a trial may call witnesses and retain the right to legal representation. Defendants and their attorneys have the right to full access to all evidence relating to their case, may cross-examine any witnesses presented by the state, and may present their own witnesses and evidence.
Islamic law, as interpreted by the government, is applied in situations not covered by civil law. The law provides for the right to legal counsel; those convicted have the right to appeal. The testimony of women is equal to that of men in court, except on rape (where the testimony of two male, or four female witnesses is required) and other issues specifically stipulated by the country’s legal code.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners. The Presidential Committee on Releasing Prisoners had not published any findings or ordered the release of any additional prisoners as of December.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. The Civil Court addressed noncriminal cases.
In August the H.Dh. Kulhudhuffushi magistrate court revised an August 2018 decision to dismiss a case filed by two of the 18 households on the island who were ordered by the Ministry of Tourism to vacate their residences in 2018 without adequate compensation to make way for the construction of an airport. The magistrate court reviewed the case based on an October 2018 High Court order and ordered the state to pay compensation, which it did in September.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits security officials from opening or reading radio messages, letters, or telegrams, or monitoring telephone conversations, except as expressly provided by law. Security forces may open the mail of private citizens and monitor telephone conversations if authorized to do so by a court during a criminal investigation. There were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions during the year.