The High Court has overturned a decision by the Criminal Court, ordering the re-arrest of Anees Hilmy of Silsilaage/HA.Baarah, who is charged with the rape and grooming of an 11-year-old girl. The alleged incident, which occurred on 10 June 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown, has reignited concerns over the handling of child sex abuse cases in the country.

Anees Hilmy faced multiple charges, including intentionally touching a child with sexual intent, grooming a child for sexual purposes, and possession of pornography. According to the prosecution, Hilmy engaged in grooming the minor by purchasing her gifts and subsequently sexually assaulted her in a guesthouse.

Initially arrested on 12 June 2020, Hilmy was released from custody on 21 February after the Criminal Court deemed his prolonged detention without trial as unjust. However, this decision faced immediate appeal from the prosecution in the High Court, which led to the latest ruling ordering Hilmy’s return to custody.

The High Court highlighted the absence of a legal framework for transferring a detainee awaiting trial to house arrest and noted Hilmy’s violation of house arrest conditions. The ruling underscored the principle that the prolongation of trial proceedings does not justify the release of an individual charged with such serious offences.

This case emerges amidst a backdrop of governmental insistence on stringent measures against child sex offenders. President Dr Mohamed Muizzu recently declared a zero-tolerance policy towards granting leniency or pardon for individuals accused or convicted of child sexual abuse. This stance was reinforced by public uproar following the conditional bail granted to a 69-year-old man accused of sexually abusing his granddaughter, leading to a directive for the Prosecutor General to challenge such releases aggressively.

The government’s resolve against leniency in child sexual abuse cases is echoed by the Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem’s commitment to appeal court decisions perceived as unduly lenient towards suspects or convicts of such offences.