Maldivian police tortured and sexually harassed women detained during anti-government protests since February following allegations of a coup,a human rights body alleged today.
The London-bases Amnesty International said that Maldives authorities must immediately investigate allegations that police beat and sexually harassed four women detained during an anti-government rally.
“While in detention they were forced to undergo naked body checks on the spurious suspicion of concealing drugs in their genitals. They were forced to strip and squat several times while in prison,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
There is no indication that the women protesters were involved in any acts of violence during the rally. Their detention therefore was arbitrary,it said.
According to testimony gathered by Amnesty International,the women,who were arrested on 19 March,were beaten during and after their arrest.
“The beating and sexual harassment of political detainees under the pretext that they are suspected of possessing drugs must end. None of the four women detainees had been arrested on that suspicion so there was no justification for the searches,” said Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher Abbas Faiz.
“The government of Maldives must ensure that these allegations are investigated and that those found to be responsible are brought to justice,’ he said.
One woman said that police used electric cables to hit her after handcuffing her.
“They beat me on my stomach,which was very painful as I had had a caesarean section in the past. They grabbed my breasts and twisted them,” the victim,identified as Yusra Hussein,22,said.
Another woman said she had been forced to undergo a urine test,was made to take off clothes,and was told to squat three times.
The rally on 19 March was organised by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to protest against the opening of parliament where the new President Mohamed Waheed was to give a speech.
Protests have continued in the capital Male and other cities since 7 February in support of former president,Mohamed Nasheed who was ousted after a police and military mutiny.
Maldives police has denied the allegations and said those aggrieved should ask Maldives Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to investigate their allegations.