State prosecutors end work stoppage

State prosecutors have ended a week long work stoppage following the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday ordering them to return to work “without any further excuse.”

Although the Criminal Court scheduled trials as normal today, it was forced to cancel a majority of hearings, local media have reported.

In the absence of a prosecutor general (PG) and a deputy PG, prosecutors do not have documents authorising them to represent the state at trials.

President of the Maldives Bar Association Husnu Suood believes prosecutors may simply be paying lip service to the order, and that little progress can be made in cases during the current situation.

Both Criminal Court officials and Juvenile Court officials told local media that hearings would only proceed in cases where a prosecutor had a document signed by the PG or deputy PG assigning the specific case to them.

Suood told Minivan News that trials would be slow to pass through the Criminal Court as state prosecutors “cannot take any decisions.”

Suood also warned that the credibility of any trials in the criminal court will be hampered, and that the return to work may just be paying lip service to the Supreme Court’s order.

“They are appearing for the sake of appearing, there won’t be much progress in the trials,” he said.

In a letter to President Abdulla Yameen on Sunday, prosecutors had expressed similar concerns over accountability and integrity stating they were not legally authorized to make decisions in the absence of a PG.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday said the country was in a “state of necessity” where extra legal actions designed to restore order could be deemed constitutional.

The apex court also said prosecutors must return to work to ensure the criminal justice system functions under the continuity of government principle.

Former PG Ahmed Muizz appointed Hussein Shameem to the position shortly before he resigned ahead of a no confidence motion in November 2013. Shameem had previously held the position from 2009 – 2012.

Although the Prosecutor General’s Act requires the appointment of a new PG within 30 days of vacancy, Shameem headed the office for over five months.

He resigned on May 5, criticising the Criminal Court’s obstruction of criminal justice.

President Yameen has said he is waiting until the new parliament, in which ruling coalition holds a majority, convenes on May 28 to submit a new nominee.

The current Majlis – in recess before the end of its term – rejected the president’s nephew Maumoon Hameed for the position in March.

Critics including Drug Court Judge Mahaz Ali have previously claimed the state of necessity argument to be invalid as long as the responsible authorities — president and parliament — are able to carry out their duties.

Any trials of criminal cases in the absence of a prosecutor general (PG) and a deputy PG violates the constitution, Drug Court Judge Mahaz Ali argued.

In his resignation statement, Shameem highlighted 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.

The Criminal Court spokesman refused to comment on the issue when contacted by Minivan News today.