Saturday, September 19, 2020

Judiciary manipulates court dates to favour powerful interests

This past week saw the launch of the Global Corruption Report by Transparency International.
The report is a yearly publication that gives insight into corruption issues across the globe.

The report brings together scholars, legal professionals and civil society activists from across the globe to examine how, why and where corruption mars judicial processes, and to reflect on remedies for corruption-tainted systems. It focuses on judges and courts, putting them through the broader justice system and exploring the impact of judicial corruption on human rights, economic development and governance.

This year’s report addressed two problems of political interference to put pressure on judges to rule in favour of political or economic interest and petty bribery that involves court personnel.
The report covered case studies from 37 countries.
According to the report, corruption is undermining justice in many parts of the world.
Corruption also denies victims and the accused the basic human right to a fair and impartial trial.

When defining judicial corruption, the report gives an example of a judge allowing or excluding evidence with the aim of justifying the acquittal of a guilty defendant of high political or social status.
It says judges or court staff may manipulate court dates to favour one party or another. The report also says that criminal cases can be corrupted before they reach the courts if police temper with evidence that supports a criminal indictment, or prosecutors failing to apply standard criteria to evidence generated by the police. Furthermore, in countries where the prosecution has the monopoly of bringing prosecutions before the courts, a corrupt prosecutor can effectively block off any avenue for legal redress.

The report comes up with recommendations that judicial appointments should be made by an appointments body through an objective and transparent system.

Such appointment should be based on merit and done in consultation with the civil society organisations.

It further says terms and conditions should address judicial salaries, judicial protection, judicial transfers, case assignment and judicial management.

“Even though Botswana is not among countries covered in the report, when reading through the report, one gets the impression that Botswana is no different from experiences in the countries covered,” said Transparency International Botswana Executive Director Mosupi Bonanza Garebatho.
“There are always reports of corruption in Botswana’s judicial system that often relate to accused people getting minor sentences only because of their political affiliation or higher social status,” he said.

Garebatho also pointed out that recently there has been an increase in media reports of corrupt magistrates who tamper with court evidence in order to acquit criminals for their own gain.
“In a country that is deemed to be an icon of democracy in Africa, it is unbefitting to have such allegations in one of the very important pillars of democracy; the judiciary,” said Garebatho.

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