Despite accusations of using excessive force while breaking up recent protests, Maldives Police Service yesterday revealed that since the transfer of power on February 7, Police had resorted to using tear gas three times while pepper was used 67 times to disperse protesters.
During a press conference yesterday, Special Operations (SO) Acting Head Inspector Ahmed Shameem detailed that during the break up of protests since February 7, tear gas guns were used five times while rubber ammunition had been used only once.
Between August 2008 and February 2012 pepper spray had been used 97 times according to Police.
Shameem further added that while a total of 74 protests had been held since February 7, Police had resorted to force 76 times while 77 Police officers had sustained varying degrees of injuries.
In addition, while 113 protests had been held from August 2008 to February 2012, Police had opted to use force to disperse protesters 112 times while the same number of Police officers had been injured during the period. Shameem said that by the end of August 2005, 60 protests were held while force was used 60 times to disperse protesters as 23 Police officers had been injured in the clashes.
Police had also publicized statistics from the December 23 Coalition protests for 22 nights prior to the downfall of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government and the first 22 nights of the recent ‘Direct Action’ protests held by the then ruling and now opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Statistics show that Police had used tear gas 13 times and pepper spray 62 times during the December 23 Coalition protests. A total of 309 protesters were arrested while one officer had been injured.
In comparison, Police had resorted to using pepper spray 22 times while tear gas was not used to break up the MDP’s ‘Direct Action’ protests. However, 179 people were taken into custody while 48 Police officers had been injured during the clashes.
Explaining Police tactics during protests, SO Special Response Unit Deputy Head Inspector Saif Hussain stressed that the Police only resorted to riot weapons to break up or control protests after careful consideration and assessment of the unfolding events. To that end, he detailed that Police used riot weapons when threats to life, property or Police are perceived during the protests.
Police had even displayed the less lethal weapons and tactics used during protests and unrest which included tactical formations, shield techniques, batons, pepper spray, tear gas canisters and riot guns. Although stun guns were amongst the weapons on display, Saif stressed that the weapon has never been used in the Maldives.
Saif further detailed that a report on Police tactics used during protests must be submitted to the superiors within 24 hours after the fact. Each individual officer is required to give reasons and details if force was used during protests, according to Saif.