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Maldives seeks to authorise warrantless arrests in terrorism cases

Fathmath Shaahunaz
12 September 2019, MVT 10:44
Police officers during the special operation conducted as part of the Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances' probe into the case of missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan, in September 2019. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED / MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
12 September 2019, MVT 10:44

The Maldivian government is seeking to authorise Maldives Police Service to arrest suspects accused of terrorism without warrants.

In a bill proposing amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the government specified criminal acts for which Police may arrest suspects without prior court orders, should there be sufficient reason to accuse them:

- Severely injure or attempt to injure a person

- Life-threatening attack on a person

- Abduction and holding hostages

- Causing severe damage to property

- Hijacking vessels carrying passengers or cargo

- Threatening public health or security

- Causing damage to infrastructure

- Attempt to interrupt basic services

- Plotting an act of terror

- Possessing, using, creating, selling, sharing, transporting and trading of explosive devices and weapons

- Teaching or learning skills and strategies to commit acts of terror

- Forming a group or gang to commit an act of terror

According to the bill, the police may take persons accused of the above under custody with sufficient reason to back the allegations, disregarding any other laws that necessitate court orders prior to arrests.

The bill also stated that such arrests must be ordained by an officer ranked Sub-Inspector of Police and above. Any persons arrested as such must be presented in front of a judge within 48 hours to determine whether their detention is in accordance with the law.

Currently, the Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that all arrests must be made with warrants, and those under custody be presented to court within 24 hours of detention.

As per the amendment, the police may take all lawful steps necessary to ensure security and curb any damages that may incur from the crime, for which the person is arrested.

Search suspects without warrant

The bill further authorises the police to search suspects accused of terrorism for any items linked to the alleged crime or for evidence, should there be grounds to do so.

This power accords Police the authority to conduct strip searches, if there were sound reasons to believe that suspects were hiding such items on their persons.

However, these searches too must be ordained by an officer ranked Sub-Inspector of Police and above, states the bill.

While the new amendments accord constitutional rights to all persons arrested or detained under such circumstances, the bill seeks to annul their right to remain silent.

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