What concerns and frightens me the most is not Arab civil wars, famines, religious extremism or any form of tribal, sectarian or ideological fanaticism.
Do you know what frightens me the most these days?
It is the fear of the judiciary becoming “politicized”; i.e. when the ruling authority in any country violates the independence of the judiciary and pressurizes the judge towards issuing a different verdict. This does not serve the interests of blind justice; rather it only serves the interests of an authority devoid of a conscience.
The greatest thing about a fair judiciary is that it examines cases with a clear conscience and no sense of personal inclination, political revenge or self-interest. A fair judge is one who defends those who have no one else to speak up for them, who acts in the interests of his society with fairness and integrity, and who is completely objective when pronouncing a verdict.
The judge must have hands that do not tremble, a heart that cannot be swayed, and a conscience that cannot be clouded.
My fears about the politicization of the judiciary recently returned to the fore when I read a story published by a Baghdad news agency, reporting that the Iraqi Criminal Court has issued a third death penalty in absentia against Tariq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi Vice President.
The verdict stipulated that the court found al-Hashemi guilty of committing terrorist acts and bombings.
Of course, I’m not entitled to comment on a court verdict, especially when it is pronounced by an institution of such high stature. However, I would like to point out that the majority of sentences pronounced by courts in the Arab world are issued against those who strongly oppose the current ruling regimes, or disagree politically with them, or those who were formerly engaged in electoral struggles with governments or rulers.
When a regime uses the judiciary as a tool for political revenge against those who disagree with it, or against its former electoral opponents, this poses a great danger and threatens the future of freedom and democracy.
We must keep the judiciary far above and distanced from conflicts, vendettas and political counter-strikes from past and present political powers.
A judge who sentenced someone to death during a certain era cannot pronounce the same sentence against his political rival.
“Justice” cannot transform into an oppressive tool to be used against whoever disagrees with us.