November 11, 2014
The family of missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan have welcomed the decision of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) to look into allegations of negligence related to the investigation of his disappearance.
“We do not wish for any other family to face the pain and suffering this family has gone through in the past 95 days since Rilwan disappeared,” said the family in a press release today.
Pointing out that the suspected abduction of Rilwan was the first such case in the country’s history, the family said it was essential for the community that the investigation be trustworthy
“Police are reluctant to investigate to the extent that it leaves room to doubt their intention,” continued today’s statement.
While one suspect remains in custody in connection with the August 8 disappearance, Home Minister Umar Naseer has said last week that some cases cannot be solved, drawing parallels with missing Malaysian flight MH370 and the JFK assassination.
Naseer had acknowledged that gangs were involved before offering contradictory statements suggesting it could not yet be determined whether Rilwan’s disappearance was voluntary or enforced.
A private investigative report commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) in September ruled out suicide or voluntary disappearance, concluding radicalised gangs to have been the most likely culprits.
Both Naseer and Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed have taken aim at civil society and the media, as well as friends and family of the missing journalist, suggesting vital leads had been lost due to leaked information.
Accusations of a lack of respect shown to the family formed part of the complaint lodged by the family with the police watchdog.
“While the [MDN] report was not compiled with any involvement of the family, police making such allegations against the family are against professionalism of the police and rules for dealing with people who request the police’s service,” the family explained.
Repeated attempts to obtain information on the investigation prompted one police official to tell a family memeber: ‘There’s no further information to give even if you come every day made up like that wearing a burqa’.
PIC Chair Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef told Minivan News last week that the case was like none the commission had ever received.
Other allegations made by the family suggest police did not properly consider a reported abduction outside Rilwan’s Hulhumalé apartment, previous kidnappings by gangs, and reports that he was followed and threatened as evidence indicating he may have been taken.
It is also alleged that officers in charge of Hulhumalé police station refused to authorise a request by colleagues to search a car stopped the same night, despite potential links with the reported abduction.
Police Commissioner Waheed has rejected accusations of negligence.
“I don’t believe any slips have been made in the investigation which would justify the accusation. But there are lessons to be learned with every investigation. We are learning the lessons,” he told Haveeru late last month.
Attempts to bring pressure to bear through elected representatives failed last month after the People’s Majlis rejected a petitions signed by over 5000 people for as yet unclear reasons.
Groups from across civil society have called for the search for Rilwan to be expedited, with Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) adding its voice today.
“The Centre for Independent Journalism stands in solidarity with our colleagues in the Maldives and urges you to ensure that an independent and unbiased police investigation takes place; that those responsible for the disappearance are brought to justice; and that Ahmed Rilwan is returned home to his family and friends,” read a CIJ statement.