In recent articles published in the Island Times and Tia Belau, the Office of Special Prosecutor (OSP) was called upon to investigate other government offices, i.e., the Office of the Attorney General and Belau Public Safety, as well as entry into Palau and actions by a foreign individual convicted of felony crimes outside of the Republic of Palau. The OSP receives and reads both newspapers as a means of staying abreast of news and happenings in Palau. However, we cannot take our direction from newspapers to “receive complaints of, investigate and prosecute” cases.
A criminal prosecutor has an obligation to uphold certain standards regarding the pursuit of an investigation. A primary standard includes receipt of an actual complaint that supports a finding that criminal conduct occurred. Another standard of consideration is whether the conduct being complained of is better investigated and handled by another office, agency, or ministry of the Republic. For instance, the newspaper request by the Office of the Public Defender for the OSP to investigate the Office of the Attorney General and the Belau Public Safety arose from internal decisions at both the AG level and BPS level to not release names of confidential sources. Having cases dismissed by a trial court forfailure to release the name of a confidential source, after appropriate arguments by counsel and a ruling by the court, does not mean criminal conduct occurred. Likewise, use of warrants for search and seizures are generally a matter of training. The laws on search and seizures are not easy and are constantly being argued and refined. They require constant training and review by prosecutors and officers alike. Both the AG’s office and the BPS fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice who may review, correct, and or sanction the decisions of offices or divisions within his Ministry and ensure appropriate training is provided.
The OSP is charged with exercising her authority with “the greatest degree of independence consistent with the President’s constitutional and statutory accountability for all matters falling within the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch.” See, 2 PNCA § 507(b). Entry of foreign individuals into Palau, whether such individuals are convicted of crimes outside the Republic or not, fall within the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch. An example of this jurisdiction is the recent issuance of Executive Order No. 424 by President Remengesau banning entry into Palau by foreign criminals.
Moreover, while the OSP may preliminarily investigate complaints filed with the office, prior to the filing of a court case, the OSP must receive a court finding of probable cause in order to formally subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, and obtaintestimony. A finding of “probable cause” means that a court finds trustworthy evidence supporting a reasonable person’s conclusion that the defendant committed a crime.” See, Republic of Palau v. Niro, 19 ROP 83-85 (C.C.P. 2012). Therefore, complaints must be filed with the OSP providing enough facts to sufficiently allege a violation of criminal law that will ultimately lead to a finding of probable cause by the Palau Supreme Court. Complaints may be filed in person at the Office of the Special Prosecutor, by written communication (letter, fax, or email), or via the new OSP website.Arrangements may also be made for an OSP investigator to meet with a potential complainant to receive his or her complaint.