2021 ends with commission report on missing journo still pending

2021 has ended with the Presidential Commission on Deaths and Enforced Disappearances failing to provide the government with a detailed report on the disappearance of Miniwan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Rilwan was abducted in August 2014 outside his apartment in reclaimed suburb, Hulhumale'. He was forced into a red car at knifepoint and driven off. As per an earlier report prepared on his disappearance by the Commission, Rilwan’s disappearance and subsequent murder were a retaliatory act of a Maldives branch of extremist group Al-Qaeda after he ridiculed the religion. It is a presidential pledge of President Solih to find the perpetrators and ensure justice for Rilwan.

Speaking to the media in December 2018, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had said the presidential commission would conclude the investigation into Rilwan's disappearance and provide a detailed report within two years. However, not much progress has been made in the investigation over the past three years.

In March 2021, while speaking at a 'Rahvehi Fathis' local council election campaign event, President Solih spoke on the investigation and said the progress and other details of the case were periodically shared with Rilwan's family. Noting that foreign experts had been brought in to widen the investigation, the president said several pieces of evidence had been sent abroad for analysis. He further said that since the foreign experts were brought in, the commission had requested that the government give them until the end of the year to conclude the investigation and provide a detailed report.

'We are awaiting a detailed report on Rilwan's death, with the experts' recommendations included,' he had said.

However, while a new year has dawned since 2021, the government had disclosed no further details regarding the case or the said detailed report. The presidential commission has not shared any substantial information. The President's Office could not be reached for comment regarding the matter.

The commission, which is also investigating several other deaths in addition to Rilwan's, had laid dormant for a while before providing an update on Rilwan's case in February 2021. At that time, the commission said the most significant evidence collected was a knife used to threaten Rilwan as he was forced into a car on the night of his disappearance and disclosed that it had been sent abroad for forensic analysis. Following the update, the next communication regarding the case was when the commission released a reenactment video portraying the night of Rilwan's disappearance. In addition to reenactments, it also included actual footage from the fateful night. It also showed CCTV footage of the movement of his suspected abductors who were shadowing him.

The video showed Rilwan attending a 'Baibala' match and heading to the Hulhumale' Ferry Terminal after the game. The video said based on his movements, he is believed to have reached home by 1:45 am. A red car was parked near his flat when he arrived, and as soon as Rilwan approached his building, he was forced into the red car. The video showed a knife used by his abductors dropping to the ground in the struggle to force Rilwan into the vehicle.

At the end of the video, the commission said people who are aware of what happened to Rilwan and have information on his abduction are among the public. The commission implored those with information to come forward and offered a reward of MVR 500,000 for anyone who gave credible information that could be used in court.

The commission later summoned former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom and former Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, who were questioned concerning the case.