“Here we go again”

Forgive me for starting with these conceivably impertinent considerations. Movie lovers are well aware of the importance of the soundtrack when watching (and listening) to a story told through a camera. Music lovers are also aware that some tunes and lyrics made for very distinct purposes seem, sometimes, to fit surprisingly well other situations in our collective existence. You will understand, then, that when reading about the many issues raised by the jailing of the former Public Prosecutor, one may not avoid feeling this is a new version of an old movie, with a familiar tune playing in the background. One main topic of contention in the process is that the accused does not have access to an appeal procedure. Big surprise? Not so fast! That is a distinctive, if not necessarily proudly advertised feature of our legal system. I remember that same issue popped up some years ago when another high official was arrested under similar circumstances. Then, as now, he had no appeal mechanism. Other times those were, maybe, and fewer complaints were heard then (or perhaps it is only my memory betraying me). But even in those now seemingly not so remote times anymore, explanations were put forward. Yes, many people were aware of that ‘soft spot’ in our legal system, but nobody felt the need to deal with it. Yes, solutions could have been devised but, after all, no-one ever thought that the need would arise. Leaving for the most enthusiastic readers the judgment about the (extreme?) naiveté or cynicism of such justification, the question facing us now is that such an appeal mechanism is still missing. No-one thought it would ever be needed again? The right of appeal is a basic element in any legal system that aims at fairness and is not shy about proclaiming the primacy of the rule of law. That we find ourselves in this situation again is not only a disservice to the standing of the legal system, but it also leaves all those who might have done anything about it in a less than favourable light. Meanwhile, a newspaper raised issues about the possible limitations of the Higher Court judges to join in the trial. The clarification volunteered by the Court, as reproduced by the government’s press office, only heightens our sense of perplexity. It mentions that such impeachment only affects the ‘foreign judge’ that was involved in the initial preparation of the process. I was not aware that ‘foreign’ was a professional category in the judicial professions, and I still do not know what to make of it. I cannot even fathom why someone felt the need to highlight that (distinctive?) feature of the official involved, why that was felt to be relevant or necessary at all. I would appreciate it if someone among my possibly benevolent readers could provide me with some guidance on this matter.