The Criminal Court has cancelled hearings in 114 criminal cases as state prosecutors refused to attend trials for a third day.
State prosecutors claim they are now “in a legal void” in the absence of a Prosecutor General (PG) or a deputy PG. Former PG Ahmed Muizz resigned in November shortly ahead of a no confidence motion at parliament, while Deputy PG Hussein Shameem resigned on Monday citing the Criminal Court’s “obstruction” of criminal justice.
Attorney General Mohamed Anil has said Assistant Prosecutor General Ahmed Hameed Fahmy must take over the responsibilities of the PG.
The leadership vacuum at the PG office “halts the criminal justice system and endangers public peace,” Anil said in a six page legal opinion sent to President Abdulla Yameen. The PG office must continue with its responsibilities in order to uphold the rule of law, he added.
Meanwhile, the Hithadhoo Court in Addu City is conducting criminal trials and issuing verdicts in the absence of a state prosecutor. Court officials told local media that the court did not accept the justification of absence put forth by PG office lawyers.
President Abdulla Yameen called Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem’s resignation “irresponsible” and said criminal cases must proceed at the courts.
Although Shameem has called on the executive and People’s Majlis to approve a PG immediately, Yameen said he would only submit a new nominee to the newly elected 18th parliament which is set to convene on May 28.
Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) holds a majority in the new parliament. The current Majlis, dominated by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), had rejected Yameen’s nephew Maumoon Hameed for the position in March.
The President’s Office has put out a third call for applicants claiming the number of applicants had been low during the second call. Shameem had expressed interest in the position both times. Local media speculates a third call will allow Hameed to resubmit his application.
Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain said criminal cases can continue even with the leadership vacuum at the PG.
“The Constitution does not recognize the post of a Deputy Prosecutor General. What the Constitution accepts is a Prosecutor General. About four months have passed since we last had a Prosecutor General. That issue has been already reviewed. The situation has not changed,” Faiz said, referring to a Supreme Court order on February 18.
The Criminal Court released a statement today announcing that it will abide by the Supreme Court order and continue conducting cases.
In a resignation statement, Shameem said he was unable to fulfill his duties due to the Criminal Court’s failure to prosecute foreigners involved in drug trafficking, delays in issuing rulings on drug related offenses and “unreasonable obstacles” in filing cases at the court.
“These issues obstruct the proper functioning of the criminal justice system. I am deeply saddened to note the extreme delay on the part of those who have the power to address these issues,” he said.
PG Office Spokesperson Hussain Nashid was not responding to calls at the time of press.