Sunday, January 31, 2010

France's Judicial Power in Question.

The big news in France was the acquittal of former prime minister Dominique de Villepin who was accused of involvement in a plot to smear (now President) Nicolas Sarkozy. The latest twist was that the French justice authorities will appeal against the judgment.
It is a very complex matter that's really hard to sum up - especially for the readers who are not French.

Frankly, it may not be a very important issue - even though it has been making the headlines all week long in France,... well, other than the fact that it questions once again the independence of France's judicial system.
In France, investigating magistrates are independent of the executive, but the nomination and promotion of leading prosecutors must be passed by the president's office. (FT)
Of course, the magistrate may have made the decision to appeal on his own in this case but the ambiguity of the French system can only raise suspicion of government interference in the decision. It also questions the possible reform to come which should consist in transferring the magistrates' investigative powers to the prosecutor's office, which would make it somewhat dependent on the Executive.
The Sarkozy government should go back to the basics and read Montesquieu again and see that not only separation of powers is a prerequisite t0 good governance but also that "the independence of the judiciary has to be real, and not apparent merely"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1. Whatever one says, I'm really convinced that all this fuss is due to our President's fear about an opponent to be reckoned with when it’s time for the next presidential election. Even if de Villepin has not his own political party yet and was never elected, N.Sarkosy does know that he could be a serious rival. Many French people keep in mind his discourse pronounced to the UNO during the Iraqi crisis in February 2003 the 14th, don’t they ? More than that, no doubt that de Villepin appears stronger and thoughtful compared to the President who is so impulsive, wants to control everything by himself instead of working with his team. A good point is that some members of the UMP (President’s party) do not hesitate anymore to not respect the voting instructions, maybe some of them could join de Villepin. A duel Villepin /Strauss-Kahn would be interesting.
2. Concerning the second point, maybe I am mistaken but I think the prosecutors suppression will be a good means to hush up political, economical and other stuffs that could become scandals and embarrass the President. I’m not an expert in US justice system but I’m not certain it can entirely be applied to the French one.