Thursday, April 18, 2024
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    Justice in the Dock

    By George Koumoullis

    It follows that in a democracy the institutional role of the judiciary is to effectively ensure the functioning of the rule of law. On the one hand, the judiciary monitors the legality of state action and, on the other hand, safeguards the rights of citizens. To achieve this, the judiciary must be accountable to the law, in the sense that the decisions taken are in accordance with the law and are not arbitrary.

    The first example concerns the alleged rape of a woman 11 years ago by the former metropolitan of Kition Chrysostomos. The hearing at the Permanent Assize Court of Larnaka was conducted, quite rightly, behind closed doors for the purpose of protecting the identity of the complainant. In the end, the plaintiff’s testimony was not accepted and was rejected. The Assize Court allegedly, after a “thorough analysis” of the testimony, found the complainant completely unreliable, finding that she “fell into crucial contradictions, made false allegations in her testimony.” However, major questions arise around this case: 1) Why was the complainant’s testimony not made public in order to convince the public that indeed many parts of the testimony constituted contradictions or lies? Judicial accountability, which is a sine qua non in a democracy, requires a transparent system that provides public and media access to judicial proceedings and legal decisions. If some parts revealed her identity they could be erased. 2) What is the evidence that at least one of the three judges was not deeply religious and therefore biased to the extent that it affected the other two judges? Unsputedly, the intention of all judges is impartiality, but what is being questioned is the ability of some to decide impartially. This possibility would not be possible if 12 jurors took the verdation – as I explain below.

    The second incident is the Criminal Appeal 2/2018 and 3/2018,in which the Supreme Court overturned by a majority a previous, unanimous, conviction of the Assize Court and acquitted XXXXX and the Bank of Cyprus of charges of market manipulation. In fact, this decision was the most vociferous slap in the face that could be brought to the cheeks of the Supreme Court because even today the whole of Cyprus is buzzing for the impunity of the known ringers of the economic calamity of 2013. More specifically, two of the judges who issued the judgment may not have been as impartial as they should have been due to a conflict of interest.

    In conclusion, due to the above cases, but also other similar ones, the impression that the average citizen has – for better or for worse – is that Themis of Cyprus is not always blind. That sometimes she has her eyes wide open and distinguishes the patricians from the plebeians. That the Beast of Interweaving also invaded the temple of Justice. How is this image corrected? How is interweaving nipressed in the bud? In my humble opinion there are two treatments. The first is the introduction of the Jury. Jurors’ trials offer the voice of the people in civil and criminal justice systems. If you are charged with a crime, you have the right to be tried by a jury group of your fellow citizens consisting of 12 members to judge your guilt or innocence. In a civil case, again the jury will determine the standards and expectations of the community in accordance with the law. We do not just want judges to make every important decision. They are not representatives of the people of Cyprus. He will object, perhaps, that because Cyprus is a small country it is difficult to find 12 completely unknown to the accused or his close relatives. This disadvantage can be counteracted by the well-known “voir dire” process (we tell the truth) where the judge and lawyers of both sides ask questions to potential jurors to determine whether they are competent and neutral. It is noteworthy that in Malta, which is a country much smaller than Cyprus, there is a system of jurors for criminal cases.

    The other therapy is long-term and concerns the mentality or, more precisely, the cultural change that entails the adoption of some new values, including the aversion to favor for economic interests. In short, we need a change in socialization – a process that introduces people to social norms and customs. Perhaps the thousands of young people studying at European universities will inoculate Cypriot society with the virtue of complete impartiality. May…

     

    *Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of CypriumNews.

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