Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Observer and the Judge | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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According to a recent report in the Saudi Arabian “Okaz” newspaper, the chief justice of one [Saudi Arabian] region has called on a cleric who specializes in the Islamic practice of Ruqyah [reciting the Quran as a means of treating sickness and other problems] to prepare a letter for the court which details information that he obtained from a “jinn” that he contacted with regards to a corruption lawsuit that a judge has reportedly been implicated in.

The Supreme Judicial Council in Saudi Arabia has issued a statement regarding the local newspapers’ claims, confirming that the authorities are investigating a case of financial and administrative corruption, and that some members of the judiciary have been placed under arrest. The Supreme Judicial Council also clarified that it is monitoring the judicial work in accordance with its jurisdiction and authority, as stipulated by the judicial system in the supervision of the court and the judiciary, as part of their periodic inspection of judges in order to ensure their competence, the “Al-Eqtisadiah” and “al-Riyadh” newspapers reported. According to Monday’s edition of the Okaz newspaper, the judge who has been implicated in this corruption case had previously said that he was “put under a spell” by a financial partner, who is a co-defendant in this case.

The question here is not about judicial immunity or its prestige, for this is something that is safeguarded in any country; nor is it about judicial independence, for this is protected and untouchable. The question is also not about whether this story involving jinn and the occult is true or not, or whether jinn are responsible for other crimes. For example, the al-Riyadh newspaper published a story in which a woman claimed to have betrayed her husband after being bewitched. We cannot examine the phenomenon of jinn in the same manner as others.

The question that must be asked here is simple: Has the judicial system maintained its dignity and prestige? Without hesitation, the answer is yes. The judiciary in any country is the cornerstone of the state, but does this prestige and status apply to all members of the judicial system without exception? The answer is of course no, because a judge, like any other human being, is not infallible, and is capable of errors.

This brings us to another issue: Who is authorized to monitor members of the judiciary, rectify their mistakes, or calling judicial members to account for committing mistakes or violations? This brings us to another good question: How could the Supreme Judicial Council – which is the authority that deals with judicial affairs – monitor and observe itself? Wouldn’t it be better for an external authority to undertake this task in order to avoid a conflict of interests?

It is well known that other states delegate the task of inspecting judges’ performance to the Ministry of Justice, not the Judicial Council, as is the case in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and elsewhere.

I do not mean to cast doubts on the “ethics” of the Council members, for we hold them in high regard, but rather to do justice and ensure that judicial review applies on everybody equally and fairly.

It does not matter whether or not the story about a stockbroker “enchanting” a judge in order to corrupt him is true or not. What matters is that if a judge is accused of wrongdoing, like any human being and in any manner, logic and justice necessitate that he should be brought to account for his action by an authority other than his own reference. This not only applies to the judicial system, but to all other fields. Therefore, in Saudi Arabia, for example, there is the General Auditing Bureau that is independent from the governmental bodies that it monitors.

We are aware of the extent of the development that has occurred in Saudi Arabia’s judiciary; thanks to the project of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. This project is truly admirable and promising however rectifying mistakes is an endless path.