By Angelos Anastasiou
Judges cannot operate in fear for their safety, nor can they be expected to consider litigants’ wishes when making rulings, the Cyprus Bar Association said on Friday.
In a statement, the Bar Association’s head Doros Ioannides recalled an incident from earlier this week, when judges, lawyers and bailiffs were found under attack from relatives of plaintiffs, when the decision to acquit a defendant in a murder case was read out.
The incident took place a few days after another ruling, this one relating to the sentencing of a convicted paedophile which was perceived as outrageously light, even prompting a statement by Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou that the Attorney-general should file an appeal. It later emerged that the reason for the light sentence was that the case had been referred to a district court, instead of a criminal court.
“The Cyprus Bar Association shares its concern over repeated assaults against justice,” the bar association said.
“Attacks against judges, simply because some did not like their rulings, cannot be justified in any way.”
Both plaintiffs and defendants seek justice from the judiciary, and critique of rulings is necessary and desirable, but critique and assault are two different things, according to the statement.
“Judges cannot be expected to, nor should they, serve justice under threat or blackmail, and in fear for their safety,” the bar association charged.
“Courts adjudicate in accordance with evidence and testimony before them, and not according to litigants’ wishes.”
Ioannides cited this week’s incident, when the murder case verdict was read out, to argue that such behaviour cannot be tolerated.
“Physically attacking judges for acquitting a defendant is unheard of,” the statement said.
“It must be fully understood that defendants have a right to a fair trial, too.”
The bar association indicted those it deemed scornfully “professional patrons of human rights” – presumably Nicolaou and the press, who stood most critically against the paedophile court ruling.
“While they have exhausted their sensitivity and disagreement with the court’s decisions, they appeared unconcerned when the physical integrity of judges was placed at risk,” the statement said.
“Supporting the judiciary, irrespective of personal desires, is everyone’s duty,” it added