Group decries alleged rights abuses in Maldives

AP News
Posted: Sep 05, 2012 8:21 AM
Group decries alleged rights abuses in Maldives

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Amnesty International has demanded a prompt and independent probe into alleged rights violations in the Maldives, accusing security forces of abusing their power since the transfer of presidential power in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

While releasing a report on the security forces' alleged rights violations, Amnesty said in a statement that the forces have "targeted individuals apparently for their political affiliation — including ministers, parliamentarians and supporters" of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.

The report, released Tuesday, documents targeted attacks on opposition supporters as well as bystanders at demonstrations.

"Police have carried out beatings, arbitrary detentions, attacks on the injured in hospitals and torture, yet not a single criminal case has been filed against those responsible," said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty's Maldives researcher.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the allegations.

Then-Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan took power in February when President Mohamed Nasheed resigned after weeks of public protests and the loss of support from the military and police.

Security forces had been accused of abusing Nasheed's opponents under his watch, and now stand accused of abusing his supporters.

Amnesty said the report was based on interviews with scores of Maldivians, including victims of rights violations and their families, lawyers, activists, medical professionals, security officials and politicians.

The report "documents how police and military personnel have used unnecessary force against peaceful demonstrators — including striking people on the head with batons, aiming pepper spray directly into demonstrators' eyes and kicking them," Amnesty said, adding that the authorities had "failed to bring those responsible for such violations to justice."

"Without an end to — and accountability for — these human rights violations, any attempt at political reconciliation in the Maldives will be meaningless," Faiz said.

The group called on the Maldives authorities "to ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations into allegations of violence by officials and reparations to survivors."

Nasheed, a former political prisoner, became the Maldives' first democratically elected president in 2008 after 30 years of autocratic rule, but his allegedly illegal order to arrest a senior judge led to public protests and his February resignation. Nasheed said he was ousted in a coup and his supporters have protested since then, calling for early elections.

A commission set up to investigate allegations that mutinying police and soldiers forced Nasheed to step down released a report last week concluding that Nasheed's resignation was legal. Nasheed has said he has serious reservations about the report.