Republic of Maldives
Head of state and government: Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Population: 0.3 million
Official language: Maldivian Dhivehi
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
As in previous years, the government failed to provide credible information about the situation of political prisoners. Despite AI's efforts, there was no contact from the government. There were continued reports of torture and of official cover-ups to protect the perpetrators.
Parliamentary elections were held in November amid reports of suspected irregularities. Political parties were not allowed to function.
Lack of government response
The government remained silent about the situation of Richard Wu Mei De, a Chinese national detained without due process of law since November 1993 at the instigation of a Maldivian national whom he tried to sue for irregularities in a business partnership; government connivance in the detention was suspected. His detention was declared arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Possible prisoners of conscience continued to be held. Among those believed to be held were Hussain Shakir, Ibrahim Nusthafa and Mohamed Rasheed, reportedly detained since early 1996 in connection with a demonstration about electricity price rises on Fubahmulaku Island.
Political prisoners were detained on the prison island of Maafushi, in Dhoonidhoo detention centre and in police stations. They reportedly included a parliamentary candidate detained after an argument with a rival candidate with links to the government.
Ten people from Faafu Magoodhoo were banished, reportedly without being tried or sentenced, for seeking to organize a demonstration against the local Atoll chief.
There was continued concern about the health of Ismail Saadiq, a businessman arrested in June 1996 for alleged fraud, who was reportedly denied medical attention. In June, for example, he was transferred to Dhoonidhoo detention centre where he was reportedly held in a small cell, denied appropriate food, and prevented from receiving a scheduled blood transfusion. Three weeks later he was transferred to house arrest, reportedly after he fell ill and after he had signed a declaration that he would not seek contact with the outside world. Ismail Saadiq continued to claim that his prolonged detention was politically motivated. During his trials, he was reportedly not allowed to appoint a lawyer and was denied adequate time or access to documentation to prepare his defence.
Information emerged indicating that many inmates in Gamaadhoo prison were subjected to various forms of ill-treatment after a fire which burned down the prison. According to reports, security guards beat some prisoners who were tied to palm trees. A former detainee at Dhoonidhoo stated that prison guards regularly beat prisoners, at times on orders from the senior warden.
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