Achilleas Zisis, Judges’ and Prosecutors’ Union president

1. There have always been relationships between members of the judiciary and the clergy, whether in the course of professional duties or in a social capacity, as far as I know. However, I believe that these are within the bounds of good sense and the respect which we have for the clergy, the Church and its symbols, all our lives. No underground currents had been observed in these relations, either because they had not existed to any degree, or because they were deliberately concealed from the judiciary’s monitoring authorities. In practice, the principle of equality before the law cannot be violated. Moreover, it is not impossible that an official’s judgement might be influenced by his religious beliefs. Judges’ criteria Nevertheless, we must all realize that in the course of his career, a judge develops firm criteria for correctly dispensing justice, based on his knowledge and experience, criteria that allow him to made correct decisions even if these go against his own feelings. 2. I do not know how many or which judges might have been or still are practising their profession in a way that is not in accordance with the oath they have taken. Revelations regarding a small number of them have largely been made by means of phone-tapping, a method that is illegal, as is the use of tapes made in this way. I imagine that the courts will be looking into this issue. However, I continue to believe that these are isolated incidents that could have been discovered given that the individuals concerned had already faced disciplinary action. 3. It is not enough, because a Supreme Court inspector has to review an average of 500 judges and prosecutors, something that in my opinion is impossible. In fact, judges are also reviewing prosecutors and prosecutors are reviewing judges, to save on the number of inspectors. This is not right, for no prosecutor can make any effective ruling on a judge and vice versa because of a lack of specialized knowledge. Review system Therefore, the review system has to change so that Supreme Court and appeals court judges review the judges and prosecutors are reviewed by Supreme Court and appeals court prosecutors. 4. Of course these revelations reflect a very unpleasant situation in the justice sector. The system has been hit by corruption in recent years because the country’s other institutions had already long been afflicted by the same disease. For some decades, the State has tolerated corruption among its officials in the health sector (there have been many references to doctors’ practice of accepting under-the-table fees, a practice that has acquired legitimacy), in the taxation system, zoning and building permits, in public services, the ministries of Public Order, Transport, Education and others. Kickbacks and overspending in public works and supplies have been and still are the order of the day, at best as mere suspicions. Bribe-taking by clerics in the pay of the State, in the sense of extra fees for performing ceremonies, has become official practice. General decay So, and although this is just an indication, corruption has become entrenched in Greece to a worrying degree in all institutions and is undermining the foundations of the State, making its administration ineffective. The justice system is part of society, one of our state institutions. So naturally it is affected by the general decay. That is why we are seeing this recent phenomena. The entire problem, obviously, is a political one, a question of political responsibility. So we shouldn’t be surprised by what we have been hearing, and should make an effort to be strict in dealing with all these cases that have been made public and regain control of the situation, at least from now on. The role of lawyers in cases where judicial officials have committed perjury is corrupt. Nevertheless, I do not see it as particularly dangerous, since to be effective it presupposes an easy-going attitude on the part of the judge. Corrupt lawyers, encountered to a greater degree in criminal cases, must be harshly punished, but we should also note that the participation of any lawyer in the case of a judge accused of violating his oath should not be seen as a mitigating factor for the lawyer concerned. These judges should be condemned by their own peers because they not only give other judges a bad name, but the justice system itself, not to mention the country as a whole. 5. The justice system is a particularly sensitive sector. As long as the press and the public continue to attack it, its independence is affected, its prestige destroyed and its ability to dispense justice undermined. There is, in fact, the danger that some judges might be influenced, either by becoming discouraged and therefore more lenient, for fear of being called unjust, or because others, under different circumstances, could become stricter for the very opposite reason. The justice system will stay with us, whether we like it or not, because it is a fundamental institution. What is at stake is its quality. Reform 6. What has been happening in the media with regard to the justice system and the Church is extremely unpleasant and is designed to humiliate these institutions. On the other hand, there is a need to reform these institutions. And that is what we should all be aiming at. Naturally, reform will be painful, but it will be the means that gives rise to a healthier state of affairs.

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