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Gayyoom responds to Amnesty International; It's not true, simply not true!
The following was published in the Government information website www.maldivesinfo.gov.mv - under the heading TEXT OF THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S 2004 REPORT 28-05-2004.
Editors' Note: Dhivehi Observer is disgusted by this outright denial by Gayoom's government, to the allegations reported by Amnesty International even in the face of credible evidence. It further reinstates the fear that Gayoom thrives on his make-belief democracy. All readers will be able to judge for themselves.
The Government of Maldives has responded to Amnesty International’s 2004 Report, pointing out a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the section on the Maldives. Quoted below is the text of that response.
1) The allegation that peaceful political opposition was repressed is untrue and unsubstantiated by Amnesty. Not a single arrest was made during the year or subsequently, except as provided for by the law and on grounds specifically criminalized in the penal code and laws of the Maldives. Peaceful political opposition is not an offence and none were arrested for lawful opposition to the government.
2) The claim that government opponents were imprisoned or that there were prisoners of conscience, or that trials were unfair is also untrue. All the six people that the Report refers to were arrested as provided for by the law, charged under specific sections of the Penal Code, tried in open and impartial courts, whose verdicts were subject to two appellate safeguards. They were given every opportunity to defend themselves in court or use the services of a lawyer.
3) Amnesty International’s allegation that Mohamed Zaki and his fellow conspirators are prisoners of conscience was rejected by a UN Human Rights Working Group which noted that they had made calls for a violent jihad.
4) Naushad Waheed was tried and convicted under Section 29 of the Penal Code for committing offences against the State.
5) Ibrahim Fareed was arrested and charged over plots to carry out numerous terrorist activities including blowing up places of entertainment, kidnapping senior Government officials, sabotaging the tourism industry and instigating calls for a violent jihad.
6) The claim by Amnesty that there were “severe restrictions on the freedom of the press” is unsubstantiated and unfounded. The newspapers have the right to print any material that do not contravene the laws of the country, and the law applies no limitations on the freedom of the press that are not recognized to be legitimate as provided for in Article 29 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states that ‘In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”
7) The allegation that human rights violations were widespread is baseless as is the suggestion of government complacency over isolated incidents. Any accusation of mistreatment by custodial officials is examined by an Oversight Committee. The Government promptly arrested all implicated in the death of a prisoner on 19th September as well as those involved in the shooting incident in the prison the following day. An independent Presidential Commission was appointed immediately to conduct a full inquiry into the two incidents, and based on the findings of the report, court proceedings have been instituted by the Attorney General. The report concluded that security personnel at the Prison had acted in direct violation of the established procedures for dealing with prisoners as well as the code on the use of firearms. Although the report found that the government was not at fault, the authorities quickly implemented a number of measures that provide further safeguards against the abuse of the rights of prisoners.
8) The allegation that scores of people were “arbitrarily detained and interrogated” for their role in what Amnesty describes as “civil protests” on 20th September 2003 represents a gross misrepresentation of facts. About a hundred people, many of whom were known criminals and ex-convicts, attacked members of the police, torched public buildings, vandalized public property, endangered life, and disrupted law and order in the capital. The police and security forces exercised great restraint in dispersing the crowd. Most were arrested while engaged in these illegal activities and others on the basis of strong evidence including video and photographic evidence. Those who were detained were questioned in the presence of members of parliament.
9) Jennifer Latheef was arrested on the criminal charge of inciting and committing violent acts, including grievous bodily harm to a law enforcement officer. The offence is a serious one and the evidence is overwhelming. Court proceedings against her are continuing and it is a condition of her release pending trial that she does not leave the country until the court proceedings have concluded.
10) The accusation made by Amnesty International that the National Security Service attempted to bury a deceased prisoner secretly is absolutely untrue. The remains of the deceased were brought from the prison island, Maafushi, to the central hospital in the capital, and were handed over to the family of the deceased in the hospital itself.
11) Amnesty fails to acknowledge reports made by a number of independent foreign sources of the comparatively good prison conditions in the Maldives. Nor has it made any attempt to obtain first-hand information about conditions in the Maldives generally or in the prison in particular. All prisoners receive proper medical attention and are routinely given home leave if they are ill or evacuated to the central hospital in Male’, or if required, sent abroad for medical treatment.
12) There are a number of inaccuracies in the reference made by Amnesty International to the shooting incident in Maafushi prison on 20th September and it is regrettable that Amnesty made no reference to the report on the incident by the independent commission, which was published on 27 January 2004.
13) Amnesty International’s report implies that a number of positive developments had occurred in the Maldives in the field of human rights, but these were neither welcomed nor identified.
© Dhivehi Observer 2004