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Freedom of speech for Greek judges and prosecutors

The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights reminds us that the freedom of expression is a basic pillar of a democratic society, a prerequisite for progress and development of each and everyone. This applies not just to information and ideas that we are keen to receive, or that we consider inoffensive or unimportant, but also to those that may harm, shock or raise concern of states or of any segment of the population. These are the requirements of pluralism, tolerance and open spirit, without which democratic society is inconceivable.

Consequently, the obligation of magistrates to be reserved should not reduce them to silence and conformism: As other citizens, magistrates are entitled to freedom of expression and should be able to voice their opinion on all subjects. They should take part in the democratic debates. Their opinions, enlightened by daily confrontation with the effects of laws passed by legislators, are useful to these debates.

The legitimacy of the judiciary institution cannot be based on the obliteration of magistrates. On the contrary: it should be based on their engagement in the defense of values and principles on which the rule of law relies.

By questioning the conformity of European memorandums with the Greek Constitution – the cession of assets that constitute a common heritage of a nation – prosecutor Pentayotis raises very important issues related to the general interest, which deserve to be the subject of a free debate in a democratic society.

By criticizing the corruption of political officials and the inability of the justice system to respond to it, M. Pentayotis confirms the concerns which the Group of States Against Corruption of the European Council voiced in a recent report, and demonstrates a legitimate concern.

To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men, President Abraham Lincoln once said.

For these reasons, MEDEL will closely follow the disciplinary procedures against M. Pentayotis to make sure this does not serve as pretext for undermining the liberty of expression of all Greek magistrates.

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Dec. 12th 2012

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