Safari boat case: Multiple probes in response to allegations of police misconduct

Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed at a National Emergency Operations Center press briefing on April 15, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Maldives Police Service’s Professional Standards Command, along with the National Integrity Commission (NIC) and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) have launched separate investigations into alleged police misconduct in investigating the sexual assault of a woman on board a safari boat off the coast of Hulhumale’ over the weekend.

Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed issued a short statement via Twitter on Tuesday morning announcing that the police have launched an internal investigation into the handing of the case.

Meanwhile, separate investigations have also been launched by NIC and HRCM, he said.

“I have always believed in and continue to inculcate the idea that each sworn officer has to operate independently in the discharge of duties,” wrote Hameed in his tweet.

He noted that the exercise of the powers of the police and the discretion of police officers in the discharge of their duties is derived from the law and established legal procedures.

“Eagerly awaiting the outcome of the inquiries in to this case,” said Hameed.

The sexual assault which took place on the safari boat was reported to the police at approximately 05:00 am on Friday.

The victim was identified as a 27-year-old woman of foreign nationality, while the suspects were identified as two Maldivian men of 39 years of age.

The two suspects were arrested from the Hulhumale’ jetty, which the police said was treated as part of the scene of the crime, but were later released from police custody citing to “lack of sufficient grounds to keep them detained for the investigation”.

One of the suspects is reported to be the husband of a parliamentarian, giving rise to allegations the suspects were released using political influence.

The allegations of police misconduct in response to the case led to the presentation of an emergency motion at the Parliament on Monday. The allegations of misconduct are also under investigation by parliamentary committees; the Independent Institutions Committee, which has voted to summon NIC members for questioning regarding its investigation, and the Human Rights and Gender Committee, which, in a controversial move, voted to question the sexual assault victim herself along with the police officers who attended to the scene.

The case, along with the continued prevalence of sexual violence against women and children in the country, also sparked an anti-rape rally in the capital on Monday.