A government-appointed commission investigating deaths and enforced disappearances in the Maldives has corroborated long-held suspicions that criminal gang leaders planned and carried out the murder of journalist Ahmed Rilwan. The commission also concluded that the gang had a “hit list” that included other activists and critics of the government.
On August 8, 2014, Rilwan – an outspoken journalist who uncovered political corruption and its links to Islamist extremism – got on a commuter ferry and was never seen again.
After Maldivians voted out the corrupt government of Abdulla Yameen in September 2018, newly elected President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih established the Commission on Deaths and Enforced Disappearances to investigate Rilwan’s abduction and other attacks on bloggers and activists allegedly targeted by Islamist gangs. It now appears the 28-year-old Rilwan fell victim to the very crimes he was trying to expose.
Human rights activists in the Maldives have long alleged that police buried evidence linking Rilwan’s abduction to known gangs with ties to powerful politicians. These findings are a first step toward justice for Rilwan.
Senior officials, police, and judges had actively derailed earlier investigations into the case, among them former vice president Ahmed Adeeb, whom the commission has alleged obstructed the initial investigation. Adeeb, who also faces charges of money-laundering, tried to flee to India on a fishing boat on August 1, but was refused entry and arrested on his return to the Maldives.
Solih has promised to take “all necessary legal action” to bring Rilwan’s murderers to justice. To do so, he will face obstacles from those in the police and judiciary who aided the crime and cover-up. As Rilwan’s family told the commission: “Each day without justice for Rilwan … reveals that the Maldivian state is incapable of ensuring safety for anyone living in the Maldives.”