Maldives security forces use 'excessive force' against peaceful protesters

Maldives police and military forces responded with excessive force against a peaceful rally backing the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today, said Amnesty International.

At least six protesters were injured, some seriously, when combined police and military officers attacked around 300 MDP protesters in the Lonuziyaarai Kolhu area of the city - part of a wider pattern of attacks, documented by Amnesty, on supporters of the political party of the ousted former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The victims told Amnesty that the military and police personnel shouted abusive words against the MDP when they raided their rally. One of the victims said: “They grabbed hold of my hair and pulled me up, shouting they would teach me a lesson for demonstrating against the new President.”

The protesters were part of an ongoing nightly rally in the capital Malé in support of Nasheed, who was forced from office last month and replaced by Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed. Nasheed said a day after his resignation that he had been forced to resign by elements in the police and military.

The security forces' attack on demonstrators in Lonuziyaarai Kolhu was apparently in retaliation for earlier clashes in the city, when the windows in a police station were smashed by stones. The police accuse MDP protesters of this attack, while the MDP denies the charges. One of the injured is a 16-year-old boy; he is in the custody of the police Child Protection Unit. Amnesty’s delegate in Malé was not allowed to visit him. 

Amnesty International’s researcher Abbas Faiz, who is documenting the human rights situation in Maldives, said:

“People who were peacefully exercising their right to protest were beaten on the head with batons, kicked and sprayed with pepper spray. This use of excessive force violates human rights standards.

“The Maldives authorities must clearly announce, and demonstrate, that they do not tolerate retaliatory raids by the police against protesters. Police and military must not act outside the law.

“When police officers act like political opponents towards demonstrators, they erode respect for the rule of law and cast doubt on their impartiality as officers of justice.”

Amnesty has asked the police authorities to make public the number of people they have arrested, and the number of people who had to receive medical treatment after their arrest. Police have so far not released these details. 

Credible sources have told Amnesty that the police and military arrested more than a dozen people during their raid on the MDP rally today. They arrested some more people in the hospital after they had gone to receive medical treatment for their injuries. The detainees were taken to police detention centres in Malé, and were later transferred to Dhoonidhoo, an island close to Malé which is the main detention centre. 

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