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Parliament committees to summon police, victim, NIC over sexual assault case

Fathmath Shaahunaz
29 June 2020, MVT 19:19
The parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Gender meets on June 29, 2020, regarding the sexual assault of a foreign national on board a safari on June 25. PHOTO/MAJLIS
Fathmath Shaahunaz
29 June 2020, MVT 19:19

Two parliamentary committees investigating the sexual assault of an expatriate worker aboard a safari, decided on Monday to summon the victim, Maldives Police Service, and National Integrity Commission (NIC) to probe the issues surrounding the case.

The Committee on Human Rights and Gender stated that the police and the victim, should she acquiesce to appear, will be summoned, while the NIC will be presented to the Committee on Independent Institutions.

Gender Committee to question victim, police

During the meeting held by the gender committee, the lawmakers expressed concerns over accusations that the police did not investigate the sexual assault in accordance with the law, as well as claims of political influence being involved in the investigation.

The committee members unanimously agreed to further probe the police's actions, ascertain whether the victim's rights were ensured, and hold relevant authorities accountable. Accordingly, the MPs passed to contact and summon the victim, should she consent to share details of the assault with the committee.

The lawmakers also decided to summon the police officers who were on the scene and the station in-charge, as well as request the Prosecutor General's Office to probe the police's actions.

Moreover, the committee agreed on requesting the Maldives Media Council and Maldives Broadcasting Commission, in writing, to halt false information being circulated on media regarding the case.

The gender committee's chair, parliamentary representative for Lhaviyani Atoll's Hinnavaru constituency MP Jeehan Mahmood, of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), was not present at the sit-down possible conflict of interest, due to allegations made on social media that one of the two suspects was linked to the lawmaker.

Independent Institutions committee to summon NIC

Meanwhile, the Committee on Independent Institutions decided in a separate meeting the same day to summon the National Integrity Commission (NIC).

Parliamentary representative for Male's Galolhu South constituency MP Mikhail Ahmed Naseem proposed to summon and question NIC on whether there had been any police negligence involved in the investigation. He further suggested to open the committee meeting for public viewing.

His proposal was passed unanimously by the members, who agreed to summon NIC to the committee on Tuesday or, should that not be possible, to grant NIC a period of five days to respond to the summons as per committee policy.

No undue influence, Police maintain

The probes by the two parliamentary committees come amid public uproar over the sexual assault, and harsh criticism against the police claiming political influence was involved in their investigation.

Reportedly, the victim, a 27-year-old woman, was invited aboard the safari by a friend, and was later sexually harassed and assaulted by two men. After the woman jumped off the vessel in an effort to escape, she was picked up by a dinghy and transported to the jetty.

The two men, both aged 39, were arrested at the scene. However, they were later released with the authorities claiming, based on the information collected, that detaining them until the investigation concluded would be unnecessary.

Authorities came under fire by the public for releasing the suspects at such an early stage of the investigation, and withholding information about the alleged perpetrators.

At present, photos are being circulated on social media, claiming that one of the alleged suspects is connected to politicians serving in the incumbent administration.

There were also media reports claiming that the victim was raped on board the vessel, and that the police had released the suspects after receiving phone calls from "people high up".

However, local media Mihaaru, in an interview with the victim, reported that she was not raped but sexually assaulted by the suspects. In the interview, the victim reportedly stated that she did not wish to press charges, that she did not have complaints regarding the police investigation, and that she had not spoken to any media outlets prior to Mihaaru.

Meanwhile, the police also released a statement late Sunday, pledging that a thorough investigation would be conducted, free from undue influence.

They also urged all media to refrain from publicising false claims or revealing information in a manner that may cause harm to a victim, as well as the public to verify facts before sharing posts on social media.

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