THE ALLEGATIONS of corruption in the Cyprus judiciary, made last week by former judge of the European Court of Human Rights Loucis Loucaides, elicited a quick response from the Supreme Court. In an announcement issued on Tuesday it said it had asked the Attorney-general to try to document the allegations and if he could not to explore whether Loucaides had committed a criminal or disciplinary offence.
It added that since the establishment of the Republic there had not been any incidence of corruption in the judiciary, the honesty and integrity of which were always safeguarded. This was why the Supreme Court was always willing to investigate any report of alleged wrongdoing by a judge, it said.
Loucaides, meanwhile, speaking on state radio on Tuesday morning said that when he spoke of corruption he was not referring to alleged bribery of judges but to court decisions that were allegedly biased. Loucaides has always relished public squabbles. In the last year or so he has been involved in public rows with the police command and the Attorney-general over different cases.
His allegations about judges were made at a conference, at which he was one of four speakers, on ‘The problems of Cypriot justice’. While his corruption claims monopolised public attention, points about the shortcomings of judges made by Loucaides and his fellow speakers should have caused concern to the Supreme Court. Loucaides spoke about the deficiencies of the judiciary, saying there were “deficiencies in knowledge, impartiality and self-knowledge.” This was because judges “were appointed without stringent examination of their knowledge, experience and personality.” The inevitable result was the “fall of the standard of court decisions.”
Another of the speakers, lawyer Christos Clerides, highlighted two of the main problems of the justice system – one was the slowness in the administration of justice, while the other “related in some case to the quality of court decisions, but also of the lawyers. In these cases the court decisions could be linked to the way judges were appointed, rose in the ranks, their continuous training, their specialisation and experience.”
Other lawyers, in private, also complain about the quality of court decisions, arguing that there is no consistency and that judges were often unpredictable. We are sure the judges of the Supreme Court are aware of this problem and instead of pulling rank should be examining how standards are raised. Is there meritocracy in the judiciary, or is the union principle of seniority followed when it comes to promotions? Is the appointment system rigorous or is it also the subject of nepotism? Is there an evaluation system in place and when a judge is found to not be performing his or her duties competently can he or she be sacked?
The Supreme Court should address all these questions if it wants to protect the standing of the judiciary. Loucaides’ allegations of corruption may be unfounded, but his observations about the standard of court decisions are not without substance.