The new Criminal Procedure Act of the Maldives came into effect Sunday.
The Act marks the largest change to the Criminal Justice System since the latest Penal Code was implemented in 2015. It specifies in detail the procedures to be followed in investigations, detentions, interrogations, arrests, pressing charges and conducting trials.
Stressing the significance of the Criminal Procedure Act, former Police Commissioner and current Kinbidhoo MP Abdulla Riyaz said, “There weren’t detailed procedures on conducting investigations and trials before. Those were done only by following various regulations. But all [of the procedures] are now stated in this Act, which will enforce fairness and justice in investigations and trials under one policy.”
Noting that the Act details specific time periods to press charges against suspects and commence hearings, MP Riyaz declared that the Act will ensure and protect the rights of potential suspects.
“Continuously extending the remands of people under arrest without pressing charges will be brought to an end with this Act. On top of that, it will transform investigations to be evidence-based.”
Legal experts state that a full implementation of the Act will expedite investigations and trials while minimising delays. Lawyers also note that the Act accords the choice to not press charges against minor crime offenders, and the opportunity for convicts who confess to their crimes to request clemency from the Prosecutor General.
The Attorney General’s Office has conducted various activities to familiarise authorities with the Criminal Procedure Act. The implementation of the Act was also delayed from its previous date of January 2 to July 2 to provide enough time for these activities.
Under the Criminal Procedure Act, the Prosecutor General’s Office publicised early Sunday its regulations on pressing charges.
The Act stipulates law enforcement institutions to draw up regulations on investigations while the Supreme Court is mandated to determine regulations on trials. According to the Act, these regulations must be finalised within three months of the Act coming into effect.
The government had also submitted several amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act just last month after discussions with related authorities. However, the state withdrew the amendments following concerns raised by some members of Parliament.