Perilous message

The recent revelations about corruption in the judiciary have rightfully caused a furor. The burgeoning number of allegations, the announcement that 10 cases are already under investigation, and the news stories on the alleged soft spots of specific judges are not enough to tarnish the image of the country’s judicial system as a whole. Nevertheless, they underscore that corruption in the sector is not limited to one or two perjurers. Greece is all of a sudden faced with an unacceptable scourge. It is unacceptable because there can be no such thing as respect for the law unless people first have trust in those who are dedicated to enforcing it. It is unacceptable because one cannot possibly trust the judiciary when questions loom over the transparency of the justice system. It is unacceptable because people cannot respect an institution that harbors individuals with a penchant for gambling and nightlife or who are not accustomed to paying off their debts. And it is unacceptable because if the individuals that society has appointed as its arbiters themselves indulge in vulgar behavior, then vulgarity becomes the message. Honest men cannot hope for support, paving the way for social decline. Faced with these unacceptable facts plus the threat of a discredited political system, the government has every right to hammer out stricter measures to secure transparency – provided, of course, that these get off the ground and do not remain a dead letter. Faced with this horrible stigma, the honest judges – who comprise the great majority of the judicial body – have every right to purge their sector of corruption. However, they too must mean their words and put them into action. They must not keep silent before incompetent or suspect colleagues. They should focus on the systemic defects that plague the judiciary and leave demands for higher wages and recruitments on the side. Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos is right to claim that the prestige of the Greek justice system is the result of long and painstaking efforts by the overwhelming majority of judges. However, he may be wrong to claim that judges «should not be held accountable» for their bad colleagues. In fact, they have a duty toward themselves and their oath for having let things go so awry. If corruption perverts the course of justice then we have all – the government, politicians, judges and citizens – plumbed the depths. Should pledges for reform not materialize, the whole of society will go into decline.