Bader Al Kiyumi -
THE pursuit of justice — whether through arbitration or by adherence to a judicial code — has always been an innate human trait since ancient times. Judicial systems today form the bedrock upon which communities and nations exist and thrive.
Legal charters and statutes now set out mechanisms for the settling of disputes, whether between individuals and organisations, or between individuals and the government, and so on. Over time, judicial and legal systems have sufficiently evolved to address disputes and claims of all types and shapes. The more comprehensive the scope of the judicial system, the stronger the assurance of justice!
For any individual or organisation to seek to remain outside the ambit of the judicial system is to undermine justice itself. Consequently, society and all of its constituents — the government too — must submit to the authority of the judicial system. The rule of law has to prevail if society, and the nation itself, have to progress and prosper in a state of equity and harmony.
Modern nations have embraced a justice system that is not influenced by the executive. This separation of the judiciary from the influence of the executive guarantees the establishment of a fair and just society.
In the Sultanate, judicial policies pursued by His Majesty the Sultan are based on wisdom and a farsighted desire to strengthen the underpinnings of a stable, just and equitable society. Although Oman’s justice system has evolved over time, its advancement has been rapid in recent years. The Public Prosecution, as one of the pillars of the judicial authority, enjoys complete independence as determined by Royal Decree 25/2011. Today, the department has qualified judicial cadres and continues to expand its administrative capabilities. Its primary mandate is to prosecute those charged with criminal offences under the law.
However, laws and statutes alone cannot secure the independence of the judiciary unless judicial bodies are autonomous institutions duly empowered by the law of the land or the constitutions. Its powers and prerogatives must be enshrined in law.
The independence of the judiciary is based on the principle that every right is legally protected. Thus, for example, if an individual believes one’s human right is violated, he or she must have no qualms about approaching the judiciary to safeguard such inalienable prerogatives.
However, there are two prevailing factors that play a significant role in achieving judicial independence. The first one that the judiciary should exercise its power as one of the three branches of the state, not as a mere position in the state. Although countries in their legislations stipulate the establishment of the judicial, executive and legislative bodies, attention is given more to setting out conceivable boundaries between the powers of the legislative and the executive. Nonetheless, legislations in a number of countries may stipulate the general organisational structure and powers leaving the detailed applicable provisions prescribed in various laws.
The second factor is that judges should not be subject to any intervention, promise, threat or supervision. They should be able to exercise their discretionary powers with no influence from the executive bodies or even from their senior judges. Therefore, any kind of constraints performed on the judge’s discretionary power is considered an obstacle in the face of justice, its independence and its impartiality.
Unjustifiable interventions from the state executive bodies are perceived generally in the following forms. The first type of intervention is in criminal cases. Any intervention from the state executive bodies during investigations or court proceedings is an unwarranted assault against the integrity and independence of the judicature. In the early transitional stages of the Public Prosecution Authority, the ROP intervened in the process of investigation as prosecution was at that time a department in the Royal Oman Police. However, the public prosecution authority was eventually separated from the influence of the police.
Secondly, intervention in Civil Cases. There are many forms of intervention from a state executive body in civil cases. One such type of intervention is that it may issue decisions or directions banning citizens from taking a legal action in spite of their right to take legal action being a constitutional right that no executive body has the right to withhold or deny.
Thirdly, obstruction to the execution of judgements. The executive body must execute all judgements whether these judgements are issued against it or against anyone. Abstaining from applying court or prosecutorial decisions is deemed a violation. Another form of obstruction of justice is making deals between the parties despite that there is an enforced judgement against one of the parties.
Lastly, influencing judges and public prosecutors. Any kind of influence on judges or prosecutors is considered an assault against the integrity of the judicial system. Throwing degrading statements at the judicial members or relocating them because of their use of their discretionary powers are all forms of malpractice that affects the process of justice.
To conclude, to promote a culture of transparency and understanding of the justice system, both the media and the judicature should work together. On one hand, the judicature should set out effective departments to contact media agencies in order to promote awareness of the legal and the cultural aspects of the significance of an independent judicial system.
Moreover, the judiciary could hold joint training workshop sessions to study the current laws critically and disambiguate any misconception about the legal process. On the other hand, the media should opt to employ any information with a high standard of professionalism and impartiality and review this information to make sure it does not violate any provisions of the law. It should also respect the integrity of the judges and public prosecutors. Local media can also contribute by allocating enough space for legal articles and court reportage.
(With inputs from Public Prosecution Department)