The government appears to be on a mission to get the bills on the reform of the judicial system through the legislature. This is because the passing of these bills by the end of the year is a condition for the release of funds by the European Commission. President Anastasiades decided to become involved in the procedure and held a meeting at the presidential palace on Monday with the objective of resolving disputes.
Supreme court judges had expressed objections to the government plan to split their court into two – a supreme court and constitutional court – and they are supported by Akel and Diko which refuse to back the relevant bill because of the judges’ opposition. Anastasiades, reportedly, said he would not back down on this, but looked for a compromise on the proposal for having non-judges (attorney-general and president of the Bar Association) on the council that appoints district judges.
Why such issues have become stumbling blocks is unclear. Is it because the judiciary is made up of judges with a conservative mindset? Do they feel the reforms would dilute their power, diminish their status or are they opposed to change on principle, like all members of the public sector? Do they believe perhaps that the reforms would not speed up court procedures that is the overriding concern of the government, which has been under pressure from the European Commission and the Council of Europe to tackle this big weakness of the justice system.
It seems rather odd for the supreme court judges, who had done very little to address the excessively long delays that have existed for years, to now resist the government’s reform plans. Why had the supreme court judges, who are fully aware of the unacceptably long delays, not tried to find a solution? They could have gone to the government with a list of proposals aimed at speeding up procedures, but they showed a startling degree of tolerance to the delays. And now, all they can do is find fault with the reform proposals aimed at cutting delays.
We would have hoped for a more constructive attitude on the reform plans from our top judges rather than to behave like enemies of change. They have not even backed their opposition to the breakdown of the supreme court with convincing arguments, if only to strengthen their case. It is certainly not strengthened by having Diko and Akel on their side, parties are renowned for the sterile way in which they exercise the role of opposition. The judges must accept that change is imperative for the judicial system to move forward.