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Reports of Increase in Torture in Prison and Detention Facilities

May 12th, 2008 · No Comments · Civil Rights and Liberties, Human Rights, Torture

New reports of torture in the main prison at Maafushi and in the detention center of Dhoohindhoo have emerged in the Maldives. Minivan News has reported an increase in torture and human rights abuses both in Maafushi and Dhoonidhoo.

The Maldives acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on 19 September 2006, exactly three years after Hassan Eavan Naseem was tortured and killed in Maafushi prison.

The ongoing torture in Maafushi and Dhoonidhoo suggests that, despite the Maldives participating in international covenants, the principles laid out in those covenants are not being respected or upheld.

Olivia Lang reports in Minivan News that despite the Maldives acceding to ICCPR and ICESCR in 2006, “accounts of persistent human rights violations suggest such changes are not reflected on the ground.”

As the country heads towards its first multi-party elections, recent months have seen abject failures of the authorities to protect not only ordinary citizens from gang-related violence, but also to those in custody from maltreatment.

While reports of violence in the police-run Dhoonidhoo detention centre appeared to lessen last year, this pattern has seemingly reversed since the beginning of this year, judging from recent information collected by Minivan News.

Last month a number of young people in custody over street violence made allegations of being beaten. Some described in detail how they were handcuffed, hooded, and made to stand at the top of concrete stairs before officers kicked the centre of their backs, causing them to fall down the steps.

Allegations of further abuse have emerged from Dhoonidhoo this week, some from those previously beaten despite reassurances action would be taken.

The testimonials also match others received by Minivan News from other sources this year, which indicate Dhoonidhoo prisoners are regularly dragged out to the football fields, blindfolded and beaten.

Judith Evans has also reported in Minivan News on fresh cases of torture in Dhoonidhoo this weekend.

Twenty detainees told acquaintances that on Friday and Saturday, they were taken out to the “range” area of the detention centre, blindfolded and beaten by guards.

One 16-year-old was initially attacked, sources say. Other prisoners began “shouting” in response to the beating, and were then beaten themselves.

“They were beaten, handcuffed and also blindfolded. They couldn’t see who was beating them,” said a family member of one detainee.

In her report, Olivia Lang described the situation in Maafushi prison where torture and human rights abuses are on the rise.

And recent accounts suggest prisoners at Maafushi are suffering similar abuse, which appears to reflect a continual pattern at the jail and which has resulted in riots in the past.

Last June, 500 hunger striking prisoners called on the authorities for much-needed reforms, including rehabilitation for drug addicts. Government agreed at the time to a 7-point plan of action.

But the pledges have not been fulfilled – and rehabilitation treatment has still not materialised in any form in the prison, though an estimated 80 per cent of Maafushi inmates are serving sentences for drug offences.

And whilst drugs have become a key issue, socially and politically, there are still no checks on guards in Maafushi, despite reports of them bringing narcotics into the prison.

Perhaps it is not surprising, given the lack of changes, that two petitions have emerged from Maafushi this year protesting against alleged maltreatment and poor conditions. One, addressed to the president, was signed by 300 inmates.

A fortnight ago frustrations boiled over, culminating in a hunger strike by more than 200 prisoners in the high security Unit 2 – roughly a third of the entire prison – after alleged ill-treatment and torture.

Accounts refer to beatings by the Emergency Support Group (ESG) who are called in for extra security, which testimonials indicate use far more than the “minimal necessary” force the Home Ministry say they are trained to use.

One prisoner said he had been “tortured with an electric shock baton”, as well as undergoing simulated drowning with his “head in a water bucket”.

And while the number of cases reaching public attention indicates a rise in mistreatment, for every one of these, many more are likely to be successfully swept under the carpet.

Related Links

How to Complain of Torture and Other Human Rights Abuses to United Nations

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