Government passes new laws to charge political opponents imprisoned on remand for over six months
- The Seychelles Government has changed the law to enable the politically-motivated detention and prosecution to continue.
- State prosecutor, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) confesses it has no authority to prosecute defendants, despite some of them remaining in custody for over six months.
- Global disputes and investigations firm Kobre & Kim calls for action to halt worsening judicial overreach and lack of separation of powers.
The Government of Seychelles has changed the country’s laws to grant extra powers to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS), after it emerged that the ACCS was severely overreaching its powers in the attempted prosecution of individuals connected to the country’s previous regime.
Over the last 6 months, the ACCS carried out arrests of multiple individuals in relation to the alleged theft of $50 million and money laundering over 19 years ago, without presenting relevant evidence. The prosecution repeatedly acted to prevent defendants from getting legal representation and intimidated their local and international counsel. Throughout this time, serious concerns were raised about the rule of law in the Seychelles, and the capricious, unjustified and political nature of the prosecution.
Earlier this month, the ACCS was compelled to admit that it is unable to prosecute the defendants. As the raft of charges starts to break up, the Seychelles Government is caught in an unseemly scramble to retrofit new legislation which would grant the Commission new and far-reaching powers.
Seychelles Ministers have amended the Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (AMLFT) Act 2020, although these amendments are not yet in force.
Such ex post facto legislative moves are typically a hallmark of repressive regimes, and in this case are designed to match offences alleged to have been committed over 19 years ago. All the while, the Government has not addressed the fact that it has held the defendants in custody without a lawful basis for the last 6 months.
While some of the defendants have been released on bail, others have been held in custody for 180 days since their arrest, in relation to other alleged offences, which they have been vigorously denying. The recent developments have highlighted the shambolic state of the legal system in the Seychelles, casting doubts upon the constitutional implications of the Government’s conduct and the extent of its interference in the judicial process.
Jason Masimore, Partner at global disputes and investigations firm, Kobre & Kim, said: “After nearly six months the ACCS has admitted it lacks lawful authority to prosecute many of these offenses and agreed to bail for all suspects in their landmark prosecution. Despite the ACCS’s admission that it has no lawful authority to have charged most of its case, the trial court refused to dismiss the charges so that the government could pass new laws in favour of the ACCS. This act of judicial overreach highlights concerns we have raised that there is no separation of powers between the Judiciary and Government.”
He added, “In the meantime, this politically motivated show-trial continues to lack any credible evidence of wrongdoing by the accused and contains a complete absence of due process. The actions of the ACCS are deeply concerning and we question whether they conform to the basic standards expected in a country that claims to observe the rule of law.”