Contrast over police conduct in disclosing identity of accused

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

The two accused in the rape case reported on Friday night were arrested at the scene of the continuing crime, according to police who provided the information to media. Journalists then rushed to see whether the two individuals were remanded in custody, only to find out that the individuals were released due to no reason to keep them in custody, once again, according to police. 

When the news of the rape first started hitting the media, rumors had circulated that the accused in the case was a well-connected and powerful figure of the governing party MDP. A report published on a news website yesterday provided a detailed account of the incident which has since hit international media as well. The victim of the case, a Kenyan national had provided a detailed explanation of the events, according to the media that published the report. The report read that the individuals were released due to influence from powerful governmental figures directed towards the police. 

Many have also alleged that one of the individuals arrested in the case was a spouse of an MDP MP. The allegations were still circulating when MP Jeehaan recused herself from the parliamentary committee reviewing the incident. She is the chair of the Human Rights and Gender Committee. 

Police also issued a statement later on which read that the victim had not been in contact with any media. However, the report on the website has led to fingers of accusation being pointed towards police. The public are crying out for an explanation. 

Questions posed over refusal to reveal identities of accused 

Police have begun to reveal the identity of the accused in cases of sexual abuse in recent months. Identities in the case of a 16-year old girl who was subjected to sexual abuse were revealed as Unais Ahmed from Hiyaavahi, B. Thulhaadhoo. The accused in the case of an 11-year old girl who was abused in a guesthouse was revealed as Anees Hilmy from Silsilaage, H. A. Baarah. The accused in a series of sexual abuse directed towards elderly women in Addu City recently was also revealed by the authorities. 

Police also prioritized remanding the accused in custody in these cases. This is evident when the Commissioner of Police requested to remand Anees in custody until the end of the trial. It was also one of the few instances when the laws related to sexual and abuse in the country were utilized. 

However, the proceedings by police in the most safari case have been significantly different. The accused were arrested from the scene of the crime and later on released from custody. Their identities have been kept a secret. 

Questions posed by the public and journalists have eventually led to a response to from police. Police said that they consider a lot of factors when revealing the identities of the accused in cases. Examples of similar instances were also provided. 

“Revealing the identities of those involved in a case under investigation by police depends on the type of offense, evidence and witness statements received for the investigation and how much weight it has on the investigation, how it affects the investigation, effects on the public safety, after consideration and in special circumstances that the investigation finds that the identities of the accused need to be revealed.” read a statement by police to media which is translated. 

When questioned by Sun whether the police had a special standard operating procedure for such instances, police said that they had one indeed, but that it could not be shared with media. 

Police also refuted claims that the Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed ordered not to investigate the safari case. 

Photo shows safaris in the harbor of Hulhumale'.

“Unanswered questions of journalists” 

If the events of the safari case are true, it certainly means that the police have an undue influence upon the institution. The public trust on the institution is very much dependent on this. This is the reason why journalists have kept on questioning the police. 

Concerns are being raised over the failure to answer questions such as whether any samples were collected from the two individuals taken into custody, whether any evidence was obtained from them, whether they were intoxicated, whether the victim was provided with a rape kit, whether she was provided with psychological support, and whether the police made any efforts to see if she had been subject to sexual abuse. All of these questions have so far gone unanswered. 

The response by the police was that details of investigations are not released due to the probability that it could affect the investigation. 

“Revealing details of the investigation at its early stages could damage the investigation, we request media to have patience and understand that the investigation could take time. We also ensure that there will be no discrimination in revealing in this case.” said police. 

Police are still maintaining that any necessary information would be revealed in due time as the investigation proceeded. 

Information Commission Hussain Fiyaaz Moosa said to Sun that he saw the provision of information in matters related to the public interest and under the set policies by institutions in cases was something important. 

The safari case has indeed heated up and even reached the parliament.  The Oversight Committee of the parliament is even looking into the efforts of the National Integrity Commission in dealing with the matter by police. 

Meanwhile, protests were held in Male’ City today against rape and sexual abuse under the banner, “Against Rape and Impunity”. A significant number of people took part in the protest, which saw some skirmishes but remained relatively peaceful.