Despite the intense debate about Greece’s numerous structural problems, any focus on the judicial system has been pretty limited. Yet, one of the main reasons behind the crisis in our political system has to do with the fact that the country’s judiciary has not lived up to its full potential in probing major scandals and reinforcing the overall feeling of justice.
Some critics like to point a finger at the judges and their closed, near-autistic microcosm. However, the problem does not lie so much with the judges but with the means that they have at their disposal and with the country’s general culture when it comes to legal issues.
One fundamental issue concerns the outrageous foot-dragging in the administration of justice. When a case has been deferred for years, the citizen who is in the right inevitably grows frustrated, while the wrongdoer interprets the delay as a sign of impunity. While a number of practical steps would rectify the situation, it all boils down to political will and consultation with the judiciary.
A second but equally important issue is the amateurism in the probes regarding big cases involving complicated transactions, off-shore companies and so on. For how can one expect a young district attorney with no backing to deliver on his own? Anyone who has ever been in a public prosecutor’s office is usually stunned at the sorry conditions in which the investigator is still using grimy sheets of carbon paper while the person being investigated is flush and comfortable with the profits of crime and black money.
But who will cover the cost of solving these problems, one may ask. First of all, the state would save a lot of money if justice operated preventatively and effectively. Secondly, one reasonable solution would be to imitate other civilized countries, where citizens have to pay a fee before they bring a lawsuit, which helps discourage those who file lawsuits for no reason at all, adding to the backlog of cases.
The judiciary could use that money to hire experienced secretaries, professional judicial police and technocrats to help out in big cases. Politicians, judges and lawyers must all join forces to find practical solutions to these problems.
About the Author
Alexis Papachelas is the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”. He is the creator and principal presenter of the weekly news program “The New Files” aired in Greece for 10 consecutive seasons. He has been awarded a number of distinctions both on his broadcast as well as his print contributions. He studied History, International Relations and Journalism at Bard College and Columbia University in the United States.
Papachelas is the author of the books “The Rape of Greek Democracy” (1997) and “File November 17” (2002).