Judicial house not kept in order

The justice system let itself down in the runup to the corruption scandal that has rocked the judiciary this year by not being stringent enough in the checks it conducts on its own staff, the new head of the Union of Judges and Prosecutors told Sunday’s Kathimerini. «The inspection mechanisms of the justice system have, for a number of reasons, been ineffective in detecting the extent of corruption,» Panayiotis Athanassopoulos said. Athanassopoulos was appointed president of the Union of Judges and Prosecutors after the organization’s previous leader, Achilleas Zisis, resigned last month. Zisis, the Supreme Court vice president, was also suspended last month after being charged with multiple counts of dereliction of duty and with breaching the law on declaration of assets. Zisis is the highest-ranking judge to be embroiled in allegations of corruption since claims about graft in the judiciary began emerging at the start of the year. Since then, 11 judicial officials have been sacked, 24 had charges filed against them and 31 others are under investigation. Athanassopoulos, however, insists that the problem is not as big as it appears. «I do not share the opinion that corruption in the justice system has taken on the proportions of an iceberg,» he said. «There are 4,000 judges and prosecutors in the country. The number of those involved in the corruption investigations is small.» Even though he highlighted the lack of new judges coming into the system as a key problem, Athanassopoulos added that the current situation should be used as an opportunity to clear out some judges from the system. «There is a small number of ineffective and unsuitable judges – mostly people with illnesses or psychological problems which do not allow them to meet their duties.»

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