(By Yohannes Woldegebriel)
One may try to understand the set of principles that guides all organs of our criminal justice administration to enforce the rule of law and ethics in public service from official reports, refined researches mainly focusing on theoretical legal analysis of few selected cases or lectures by “distinguished” officials of the respective bodies. The true nature of our criminal justice administration of alleged breaches of law or ethics by indicted public servants is, however, manifestly noticed in prisons. Extravagant meetings, conferences or occasional progress reports and media dramas help only to disguise their inherent ugly face.
Over the past few years, there has been much talk on justice reform, court and prosecution offices business process re-engineering (BPR), trial by video conferencing, providing case information through computer touch screen, prosecution information system (PIS), promoting ethics in justice sector and whatnot. Nevertheless, the condition and quality of justice provided by our courts and prosecution offices has remained steadily deteriorated.
What is more our officials in the justice sector always cry that the sector suffers from lack of predictability. Predictability is however, the hallmark of our criminal justice administration not in the proper sense a lawyer understand the word but in the opposite. Again, our prisons offer inexhaustible data to disprove fictions from realities.
If you are a self-respecting and motivated public servant honestly serving your people by enforcing nothing but the law, to protect public and government interests, you should be almost certainly sure to fall one day, under the trap of a network of unscrupulous government officials, supposedly empowered to represent and defend public interests. This is because, what the law requires you to do invariably stand at loggerhead with or directly affect the personal or group interest of such officials.
You may rely on your sincerity, truth, the law and legal institutions, free conscience, personal confidence or even hope the protection of honest higher officials. But all these are not guarantees to save you from arrest, detention, fake charges, prolonged detention pointless court litigation, lose of earning, family break up, and last but not least media prejudices and public humiliations.
Here is a pattern of predictable ordeals experienced by a victimized public servant.
The stage play begins from a concocted allegations leveled by your accuser, normally a government official or an institution with some previous grudge, who often launch the attack from nothing or by creating a mountain out of mole. Any person considering himself to be aggrieved by your official decision could become a complainant and valuable witness.
You will be taken in to police custody and locked up with no opportunity to explain your version of the case to any independent organ. If you happen to be a public figure, you will be prone to media prejudices and humiliations. Our infant media, which takes the statement of your case. As a result, you will be saddled with the long and formidable challenge of removing prejudices first before obtaining fair hearing to disprove the allegations.
Your burden to show your innocence will be even more difficult if you were an actor in the machinery of justice such as courts or public prosecution offices and has been carrying out your tasks sticking to nothing but to law, professional ethics and the ideal of justice. Because, due to your acts, you earn innumerable foes than friends. You may question why more rivals? Whether we like it or not, this is the grim reality of our generation and our time. You cannot succeed or prevail abruptly merely because you compete fairly, work hard, comply with the rules of the game, conform to professional standards and ethical norms.
After you are taken to police custody, the mockery resume by “respecting” your constitutional right for court appearance within 48 hours along with a long list of fake allegations enough to persuade the judge to grant an order of remand in custody. Here, you must always be sure that the judge will generously and unquestioningly grant 14 days permit with possible renewal on each request providing enough opportunity to your accuser to organize his concocted allegations to look truthful and convincing in the eyes of all believing laity.
Having completed organizing the investigation report on fake allegations, next, you must be certain that you will be thrown to jail for 15 days pending the preparation and filing of creative charges to court. On the expiry of the 15th day, you will appear before the court, under escort, to receive worthless but honeycombed charges that are legal cloaks to conceal all wicked conspiracies and manoeuvrings calculated to lock you behind prison doors. With this, the famous judicial stage play begins.
As to your bail right, you must be ready to face the most boring and shameless rhetoric of your accuser, citing the law stated on the charge entailing the harshest punishment or even your alleged official capacity to pervert the judicial process of the fake allegation if you are bailed out and thus plead for the denial of bail. Here again, you should predict to swallow the unpalatable fact that an automatic ruling will be issued by the court in favour of your accuser regardless of the merit of the case.
Now that the fake allegation has matured in to “a legal case”, all actors in the famous judicial stage play will become comfortable enough to tender adjournments after adjournment to receive your submission and evidence for pre-trial hearings and ruling, regular prosecution and defense evidences, statements, arguments, addresses and whatnot. The judicial calendars are the best instrument of reprisal to your accuser and to hush out your voice.
In fact, to the delight of your accuser, courts issue prolonged adjournments to turn your case stale or unimportant to any interested follower and thus entirely frustrating your attempt to seek justice and vindicate your right. If you attempt to lodge administrative appeal to higher officials, your appeal will surely remain unnoticed or you will be guaranteed that the executive will not “interfere” on judicial businesses.
Fellow public servants!
You may come out a winner and justice and truth may prevail eventually. But you must be certain to serve a punishment before you are found guilty, convicted and sentenced. You must not hope to redress the moral and material damage you sustain before you are completely perished.
You might think that every body including judges and prosecutors would presume you innocent as required by the constitution. But you will find that this constitutional requirement is dishonored and betrayed by the very officials empowered to enforce it. Who else could honour the mandatory provision of the constitution that is being disparaged by judges and prosecutors? Not single evidence submitted to prove your absolute innocence will be considered until after the prosecutor and the judge comfortably remove the doubt or pretended doubt of your criminal involvement. No other official would consider your case until your suffering reach utter frustration either.
Finally it remains to me to suggest what code of conduct must guide a public servant to escape the deliberately inflicted trauma by actors of the organs of our criminal justice administration. For those who wish to stick to and uphold legality, loyalty, honesty, high civic responsibility, fairness, justice, and free conscience it is advisable to adhere to the following principles.
1. Shut up your mouth even if you face the temptation to cry out when public or government properties or interests are endangered.
2. Do not decide on any issue that comes to your official attention.
3. Do not exercise your official discretionary power even if your failure might cause loses on state and public interests.
4. Avoid any involvement in any major decision that protect public and government interests but threatens the interests of affluent individuals.
5. Keep low profile or less vocal to promote the protection of public or state interests.
6. Do not argue firmly on cases that involve affluent persons.