The Maldivian authorities must conduct transparent, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the death of a prisoner and allegations of torture of individuals in custody, Amnesty International said today.
The Maldives Correctional Service denied negligence or involvement of prison staff in the death of Mohamed Aslam at the Hulhumale’ prison on 13 September 2021. The death certificate of Mohamed Aslam concluded that the cause of death was unknown.
“A death of a prisoner without a known cause raises serious concerns about human rights violations committed against persons detained by the authorities in the Maldives,” said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia campaigner.
Mohamed Aslam, 40, a native of the Vadhoo island in the Gaaf Dhaal atoll, died in custody in the evening of 13 September 2021. He was serving a three-year prison sentence for drug possession. Maldives Correctional Service said that he collapsed in prison and was taken to hospital where he was declared dead. His family members said that they were not informed until they found out from another source and subsequently inquired about his condition with the authorities.
In a separate incident, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security Services on 13 September recommended criminal investigation of police officials who allegedly tortured Ahmed Siraj following his arrest on suspicion of theft on 6 September 2020. Ahmed Siraj said he was taken into a room at the police station and tortured to force an “admission of guilt.”
“That a year-old allegation of torture requires a parliamentary committee’s nod to launch a criminal investigation, points at the authorities’ lack of accountability and timely intervention. The death in custody of Mohamed Aslam and allegation of custodial torture on Ahmed Siraj must be investigated independently and expeditiously, without the involvement of the agencies allegedly responsible for the negligence or human rights violations,” said Saad Hammadi.
On 17 September, Ahmed Ibrahim, a prisoner at the Maafushi prison sustained burn injuries after an inmate allegedly threw hot water at him. Prison authorities said that the incident is believed to be a “conflict between the cellmates” who have now been separated and put in different cells. “Is this how the rights of the prisoners are protected?” Ahmed Ibrahim’s family member is quoted in the media.
“We urge the authorities to investigate the attack, so that prisons don’t become hotbeds for violence, and put an end to the degrading treatment of prisoners. There is a history of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in Maldives prisons, as well as overcrowding and inadequate medical care,” said Saad Hammadi.
In August 2021, Faisal Naseem, Vice President of the Maldives said improving conditions in prisons and rehabilitating detainees were a top priority of his government. The Human Rights Commission of Maldives observed in 2020 that the prisons overseen by the Maldives Correctional Services lacked timely access to medical care. It further reported receiving 28 complaints of torture, 17 accusing the Maldivian police service.