Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz has criticised Home Minister Ahmed Jameel for “misinforming” the public over the PG office’s performance in a press release unveiled Thursday (March 16).
Muizz, responding to comments made by Jameel, called on the home minister to himself act upon and investigate allegations of police brutality and other unlawful acts carried out during the controversial transfer of power on February 7.
The statement counters allegations made at a press conference held March 11 in which Jameel called the criminal prosecution system “lazy,” claiming that the PG office was delaying the prosecution of cases relating to arson and vandalism in Addu City on February 8.
Supporters of former president Nasheed are alleged to have destroyed police, court buildings, vehicles and a police training centre on February 8 in Addu in the aftermath of a perceived brutal police crackdown on protesters in Male’.
Muizz said although the police had claimed by February 16 to have filed cases related to widespread violence that occurred on February 8, the PG had only received incomplete documents as of February 21. He pledged he would expedite the February 8 cases, but only after verifying evidence related to them.
“This office is not mandated to prosecute all cases submitted by the Maldives Police Services,” the statement read. “This office will only lay charges once we have independently verified all evidence and if we believe the accused can be convicted.”
Responding directly to Home Minister Jameel’s criticisms of the amount of work being carried out by the PG’s office, Muizz claimed that he could only conduct cases within the wider parameters of the criminal justice system.
“Some note an ‘extraordinary delay’ with cases submitted to this office. But the PG’s office believes the performance of any institution within the criminal justice system must be measured based on the nature of the institution’s work, and in comparison with other offices with which the institution coordinates its mandate with,” Muizz stated.
Jameel had previously said that the delay in prosecution did not lie with the police, but rather with the PG’s office.
However, Muizz noted that of 305 cases the police had filed for prosecution in January and February of 2012, only 97 cases had been investigated and filed within three months of the crime being committed
Of these, only 22 were cases related to offences committed in 2012. In 42 of the 305 cases, the police had taken over a year or more to complete investigations, the statement also noted.
The PG office had also submitted 442 drug-related offenses to the criminal court, and had completed 87 percent of cases filed with the office in 2011.
“Hence, we do not believe our performance is far behind that of other institutions within the criminal justice system,” the statement read. However, many aspects of the criminal justice, including that of the PG office, needed to be strengthened in order to better serve the public, the statement added.
Allegations against Police
“I believe the Home Minister, as one mandated with upholding the constitution and the fundamental rights of the citizens of the Maldives, must act upon allegations of unlawful behaviour said to have been committed by the police between February 6 and 8 through an internal process that the public can trust, but one that does not cause loss of faith in the police,” Muizz said.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed announced his resignation after the military joined a police mutiny on February 7.
The next day, Nasheed alleged the transfer of power had been a coup d’état and led a peaceful march in Malé on February 8. Police were widely reported to have used tear-gas and excessive force against Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters.
Amnesty International (AI) has issued several statements condemning and documenting police violence in Malé and Addu City on February 8 and in the weeks following the transfer of power.