Saturday, February 27, 2010

Independent but accountable

Justice Muruianu failed to take the advice I gave him on February 13th.  Rather than resign over his statement that the press is a bunch of rabid dogs who are dangerous to society, he has instead decided to tough it out.  The most we got out of him was a half-hearted "I regret that some people have erroneously interpreted what I said...".

While the Superior Council of Magistrates has opened a disciplinary hearing, the independent press, NGOs and politically aware members of the general public are pressing for a more rapid resolution.  Thy are mindful not just of the rabid dogs comment but also of Mr Muruianu's abysmal record as Moldova's most senior judge (among other things, he is personally responsible for 8 cases lost at the European Court of Human Rights), and the need to purge a judicial system deeply infiltrated by the Communist Party.

Last night the ruling AIE coalition attempted to remove Mr Muruianu through a parliamentary resolution of dismissal.  Due to excessive debating and speechifying, the meeting went on late into the night and eventually was terminated without the resolution being passed.  There was no quorum as the Communists walked out on and a handful of AIE deputies had disappeared off home early.

The testimony of the AIE speakers was damning, but Muruianu himself put up a strong defence.  "You can't touch me", he said; "Constitutionally the judiciary is independent of parliament and self-governing, so you (Parliament) are not allowed to dismiss me.  You're not even allowed to ask me questions."

In a sense he's right.  A democratic, fair & law-abiding judiciary should be independent and self-governing.  Parliament should not intervene so long as the profession itself maintains high standards, is accountable to the people and metes out discipline fairly to judges who fall short of those standards.

A problem, however, arises when the judiciary is not democratic, fair and law abiding.  A problem arises when the profession fails to govern its standards and discipline and loses sight of its responsibility to the people.  That is what has happened in Moldova over the last eight years, and it is a gross breach of the trust placed in the judiciary by the people through the constitution.

In such circumstances I believe it is entirely appropriate that the people, via their elected representatives, hold the judiciary to account and remove those who are not willing to abide by the democratic norms enshrined in the constitution.  Hopefully Dumitru Pulbere shares my point of view...

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