The right of a defendant to legal representation is one of the most basic aspects of international justice. No matter how horrific the crime, every person accused of committing a crime is entitled to having their case heard with the help of an attorney in a court of law. This seems to be true everywhere but in Seychelles, where the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACCS), under the leadership of May De Silva, has been denying the Valabhji couple, defendants in the case sinisterly named “Operation Black Iron” their right to legal representation.
Of course, the ACCS, and the foreign lawyers which they have employed throughout the course of the trial, such as barristers Michael Skelley & Ed Vickers of London’s Red Lion Chambers, are far too proficient in the technical aspects of the law to directly deny defendants legal representation. Especially in a trial that has been so heavily covered in the international press. Rather they have come up with an intelligent way of doing so while maintaining an airs of innocence.
What they have done is simply make it impossible for the defendants to afford to pay their lawyers. This is by tying up and obstructing access to funds and determining where the defendants might and might not be able to pay their representation from. As committed as they are to the case, lawyers cannot be expected to work for free and their time can be quite expensive especially when dealing with high level cases such as these. The ACCS know this and have been taking advantage of this fact, forcing defendants to let their international representation go and needing to rely, of late, on local lawyers only recently brought into the case.
Of course this is the perfect move for a government which would like to brand itself as a democracy. The government of Wavel Ramkalawan wants to be seen as a democratizing force for the greater good, despite the gross mismanagement of the economy, destruction of the welfare state, out of control costs, rampant government corruption and spiralling violent crime. And locking up political enemies as well as blocking their ability to defend themselves adequately in court does not sit well with the notion of democracy in any way, shape or form.
The ability to highlight this in the press is probably the last chance at impacting government decisions such as these and encouraging them to consider reversing course. That is of course until the government gets down to restricting press freedom as well. It is difficult to tell what direction political prosecution will next take in Wavel Ramkalawan’s Seychelles.