2003 Maldives civil unrest
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On Saturday September 20, 2003 civil unrest broke out in Malé, the capital city of the Maldives. This unrest was provoked by the death of Hassan Evan Naseem at Maafushi Prison - located on a separate inhabited island - and the subsequent shooting at the same prison, that killed 3 and injured 17 others.
Many government buildings, vehicles and other public properties were set on fire, some were destroyed. The government controlled the unrest by around 2300hrs and declared a State of Emergency in Malé and nearby islands. Late night curfews were enforced from 2200hrs to 0430hrs in Malé for more than a month following the rioting.
On Friday September 19, 2003, Hassan Evan Naseem, who was serving at Maafushi Jail for drug abuse related offenses, was beaten by the NSS personnel of the security unit in the jail. This led to Naseem's death the following day. The beating came about as punishment for the disturbances from complicated disputes between Naseem's inmates and "neighboring" prisoners. To control the disturbances caused by these disputes (and reportedly to investigate this incident) security personnel came with a list of "troublemakers". Though it is said that, Naseem was not involved in the above-mentioned incident his name appeared on the list. The security guards then had gone in to round-up the listed prisoners. Naseem had resisted and had refused to leave his cell, demanding reasons for his summoning. This resistance ended up injuring a security guard which led to numerous members of the security unit storming into the cell. Evan was then moved to solitary confinement (referred to as "the range"). On the same night he was severely beaten up by 12 officers. He died in the early morning of September 20, 2003, largely due to injuries sustained to his lungs from the said beating.
Inmates of Evan Naseem learnt of his death at around 1100hrs, of 20 September 2003. On receiving this news, they demanded to meet with a Security officer from Department of Corrections. There was no response to these repeated demands. Some of the prisoners refused to take lunch to reflect their concern about the death of Evan Naseem.
Funeral prayers were performed by Evan's inmates and many other prisoners, after mid-day prayers. Shortly afterwards came a loud uproar from Block C where Evan's cell was located. Two inmates, then, jumped out of cell C3 after corrugated iron sheets being pushed open. More prisoners followed them and attacked jail security unit personnel. They tried to calm the prisoners down for a while and then dispersed them when the prisoners refused to cease their attack. By now more inmates came out of the Block C and opened other Blocks, facilitating more prisoners to come out.
Captain Adam Mohamed, in charge of security unit, was informed of this uprising. He issued instructions to block the premises. Upon Adam Mohamed's instruction to block the premises, Jail Security Unit personnel were issued riot gear. Prisoners on the loose confronted with this unit. Since prisoners highly out numbered them; security personnel in riot gear soon retreated.
The angry mob then turned to Captain Adam Mohamed himself. Mohamed Faseeh, a prisoner from the crowd, questioned him about the death of Evan Naseem, to which he did not respond reasonably. During this confrontation, Captain Adam Mohamed ordered security units to take arms. Sergeant Shahid Ali Manik shot the first shots into the air at 1230hrs. He then aimed and shot at Mohamed Faseeh without further warning. Subsequently Private Hassan Rifaau, Private Ahmed Mujuthaba Hussain and Private Mohamed Jinaah shot the prisoners. Some were shot from behind while retreating, others directly from the front.
Fatalities and casualties
A total of 20 people, including a security officer, were shot during the shooting incident at Maafushi prison. Fifteen of the 20 were shot above the knees and 9 of them were directly shot from behind while retreating. Six were shot from front and bullet entry points were not determinable in 5 persons. Abdualla Ameed died instantly due to being hit directly in the head. Two died in a Sri Lankan hospital while being treated.
Evan Naseem was taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, on September 20, 2003, in Malé. News of his death soon began to spread by word of mouth. By noon, many learnt about the death of Evan Naseem. People soon started gathering near the hospital to witness and to verify. Access was denied to the public and relatives, except for his mother and father.
A large number of people gathered at his burial service. While people were at the cemetery, news of the shooting incident reached the already angry public. Civil unrest in Malé started with this news. Several police stations were set on fire, government buildings were attacked, and government vehicles were set on fire or destroyed by the angry mob. Among the key places target were The Elections Division office, the Majlis and the High Court.
Tear gas drifted through the streets of Malé in late evening and police used force to control the mob when as they reached Shaheed Hussain Adam Building. By 2300hrs, several people were arrested. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom addressed to the nation soon after controlling the riot.
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom established a Presidential Commission on September 20, 2003 to investigate the death of Evan Naseem and the shooting incident at Maafushi Prison. The findings of the commission were released to the public with the title "Report on the Death of Hassan Evan Naseem" and "Investigative Findings on the Incident of Shooting at Maafushi jail" respectively. However, several sections from these public report were omitted due to national security concerns.
During the investigation, survivors were interviewed and investigation teams were sent to Nawaloka Hospital and Apollo Hospital in Colombo where those who survived were being treated. Members of the commission visited Maafushi jail on two different occasions (September 23 and October 6, 2003) and Girifushi training center (on November 30) to obtain information on the nature of weapons used in shooting.
Members of the Presidential Commission
- Abdul Sattar Moosa Didi - Chairperson
- Shaaheen Hameed
- Abdulla Saeed
- Aishath Mohamed Didi
- Dr. Mohamed Solih