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Paradise lost in the Maldives

They call them the Paradise Islands but behind the white beaches and the palm trees lurks a darker reality. Tourists may be pampered but others in the Maldives are routinely murdered – by thugs working for the near-omnipotent President, Maumoon Gayoom, who has maintained a 26-year stranglehold of fear and repression.

Recently, a 25-year-old man named Mohamed Shiyan, from Gadhoo Island, died after being detained and beaten by the National Security Service (NSS) following a raid on his house. His mutilated body was later found dumped in the IGMH Hospital in Male.

The same hospital experienced riots in September 2003 after the murder of an inmate, Hassan Evan Naseem. NSS personnel attempted to bury him secretly on hospital grounds but crowds gathered around the body and pictures were taken.

The Maldives Government’s human rights record has been an issue of serious concern to many international NGOs including Amnesty International, International Pen and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In the past many Maldivians have been severely tortured and custodial deaths are frequent.

Another man, 27-year-old Ali Mahir, died while in a psychiatric asylum on Guradhoo Island on 17 May. His body was buried within the grounds without his parents being informed of his death. The NSS has a custom of transferring victims of torture from detention centres in Dhoonadhoo and Maafushi to such asylums to die away from public view. Perhaps the most shocking part of the deaths is that they occur within earshot of idly snorkelling tourists, whose dollars effectively sustain the Gayoom regime.

New Internationalist issue 370 magazine cover This article is from the August 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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