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Lawyers call for changes to judge appointment procedures

The supreme court in Nicosia

The council currently in charge of appointing judges discourages people from applying for a position because they think they will not be treated fairly, the Bar Association has said in a letter to President Nicos Anastasiades.

“The best avoid submitting candidacies because it has been imprinted in the minds of all lawyers that they will not be treated fairly,” the letter said.

The association rejected suggestions that changing the council was unconstitutional.

All judges, except the judges of the supreme court, are appointed by the supreme council of judicature, a body composed of the judges of the supreme court. This body is responsible for the appointment, promotion, transfer and discipline of judges.

The Bar Association said it had asked for the council’s composition to be changed as part of the effort to reform the island’s justice system.

The association had proposed that along with the supreme court judges, there must also be district court judges, the attorney-general and lawyers sitting on the council.

It had also asked for strict selection criteria to be set which included the candidate’s ethos and overall behaviour.

However, the supreme court recently filled the new positions before the new laws were passed.

The court’s haste in filling the positions must at least raise questions, not as concerns the individuals, but the procedures.

“When there is no transparency in the judges’ hiring and promotion procedures, suspicion will continue to exist, even if the best are hired and promoted,” the association said.

The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (Greco) has said that more transparency was needed in the appointments.

Following a two-day review in 2019, Greco said, among others, that more transparency was needed in judges’ appointments based on publicly available criteria.

The council overseeing the appointments should be more inclusive so that it does not reflect the supreme court’s composition to avert perceptions of self-protection and cronyism.

 

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