Deputy PG resigns, slams Criminal Court’s “obstruction” of criminal justice

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem has resigned today, slamming the Criminal Court’s obstruction of criminal justice.

In a 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.

Former Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz appointed 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.

The deputy PG’s resignation effectively brings the criminal justice system to a halt. The vacancy in the PG Office leadership means the state can no longer raise criminal charges.

Shameem has called on President Abdulla Yameen and the People’s Majlis to appoint a new PG immediately. The 17th People’s Majlis is in recess until the newly elected 18th People’s Majlis take the oath of office in June. But extraordinary sessions can still be held.

Yameen had nominated his nephew Maumoon Hameed for the position in December, but the Majlis narrowly voted to reject Hameed in March.

At loggerheads

The Prosecutor General Act states a new PG must be appointed within 30 days of vacancy. However, Shameem noted five months have passed since Muizz’s resignation and noted “severe difficulties” in carrying out the PG office’s duties.

The Criminal Court and PG office have been at loggerheads since January, with the court announcing it would not proceed with any criminal charges until the Majlis appointed a new PG.

Shameem sought Supreme Court assistance in late January, claiming the lower court’s failure to accept cases lead to a backlog and violated the rights of those held in pre-trial detention.

On the Supreme Court’s orders, the Criminal Court in early February announced it would resume hearings in ongoing cases, but would not accept new cases.

Shameem successfully sought a second order from the Supreme Court, and said the Criminal Court’s actions had lead to a backlog of over 500 cases. With the new order in late February, the court formulated new procedures the PG office must follow in filing cases.

In April, Shameem said the Criminal Court had rejected over 30 percent of cases filed, including serious offenses related to drugs, corruption and sexual abuse of children.

Recently, the Criminal Court requested the PG office to resend case documents related to corruption allegations against Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed. The court claimed documents had been damaged in a coffee spill.

Shameem said he had notified President Abdulla Yameen, the People’s Majlis and the Supreme Court of the difficulties the PG office faces, but said, “to this day, no office has addressed any of the issues I have raised.”

The Criminal Court’s delays brings the effectiveness of a joint effort by the Maldives Police Service and PG office to expedite cases involving serious criminal offenses into question, Shameem said.

Judge Abdulla Mohamed, whose controversial detention in January 2012 triggered President Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster, heads the Criminal Court.