The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has expressed support for President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s commitment to reform laws governing indefinite detention pending trial, a declaration made during his Presidential Address to the parliament. This move aims to address a longstanding issue that has been a focal point for the PGO, which has actively sought solutions since 2019 through revising legal frameworks and enhancing judicial procedures.

The PGO highlighted the negative impact of prolonged pre-trial detentions and the delays in the judicial process, pointing out the scarcity of resources and facilities in the Criminal Court as a significant obstacle to conducting speedy trials. In response, the office has advocated for periodic re-evaluation of remand statuses and has urged the government to allocate better facilities to improve court efficiency.

In his address, President Muizzu outlined the establishment of the Office for Civil Rights under the Attorney General’s Office, aimed at safeguarding the civil and political rights of Maldivians. Emphasising the government’s focus on reducing crime and reforming the prison system, he announced plans to abolish the practice known as “Vaanuvaa,” or indefinite detention during investigations, marking a significant shift towards upholding civil liberties and ensuring justice.

The legal community has welcomed the President’s initiative, with Senior Criminal Defence Lawyer Hamza Latheef offering a multifaceted approach to actualise this reform. Latheef’s suggestions include strengthening the judiciary, enhancing police operations for better witness protection, scrutinising operations within custodial centers, and revising the legal framework to reduce reliance on remand detention. He also stressed the importance of public and institutional support for these changes, noting the crucial role of civil society organisations and the legal community in maintaining momentum towards reform.

This initiative aligns with General Comment No. 35 on Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Maldives is a signatory. The comment emphasises that pre-trial detention should be an exception, not a rule, and calls for judicial systems to consider alternatives to detention, such as bail or electronic monitoring, to avoid unnecessary pre-trial detention.