No, the court system should not be used as a weapon of political persecution
Yet it has now become the case across the world. With the criminalization of whistleblowers, trade unionists, environmental activists and protesters being arbitrarily arrested, the rights of citizens have already significantly declined. Liberal policing is expensive for democracy. Now a new threshold is being crossed. with the tactics of “Lawfare” : the instrumentalization of justice to eliminate political competitors.
“Lawfare” begins with unproven denunciations and is fuelled through the media by obsessive denigration campaigns forcing their targets to justify themselves over and over without cause. Then come the prison sentences and the fines. Lawfare confines political debates to the courts of law. Finally, it distorts the electoral process, preventing it from being genuinely free and independent.
Examples are numerous. In South America, the Brazilian Lula was sentenced without evidence and prevented from standing in the presidential election. The acting judge, Sergio Moro, has since become Minister of Justice for far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Then there is Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, both constantly persecuted. In Africa, the Mauritanian Biram Dah Abeid was imprisoned on the strength of a denunciation without proof which was later withdrawn after several months of detention. Lawyer Massoum Marzouk, opponent of the Sissi regime, was imprisoned on the false pretext of anti-terrorist charges. There is also Maurice Kamto, second at the last presidentiel election and imprisonned since last january or former gabonese member of parliament Bernard Zibi, sentenced to 6 years of prison. In Europe, the French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon was prosecuted without proof and tried for rebellion, and the Russian Sergei Oudalstov, leader of the Left Front, was sentenced to 4 years in prison for organizing protests against the government. In Asia, Cambodia’s opposition leader Kem Sokha was imprisoned, preventing him from participation in the 2017 parliamentary elections. And there was a judicial crackdown in the Philippines against Senator Leila de Lima, a prominent figure of the opposition.
Many people are speaking out across the world to condemn this situation: groups of jurists, religious authorities such as Pope Francis, human rights figures, trade union or political leaders.
Our joint statement welcomes these protestations. We urge everyone to be on full alert to defend all those who fall victim to such acts, regardless of their political affiliation. We call for a global cooperation of legal resistance. We demand that governments and magistrates such as Judge Sergio Moro in Brazil, who agree to play such a harmful role threatening individual and political liberties, be denounced to public opinion.September, 7th 2019
Go to the Stop Lawfare website and sign the manifesto.