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The Executive Wants to Put a Stop to Embarrassing Judges

Translated Sunday 12 February 2012, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Derek Hanson

It’s a scandal!

Several judges have been the object of disciplinary sanctions. Their fault: to have displeased the state powers.

La place Vendôme [1] does not want to see any head stick up amongst the ranks of the judges. Watch out, those who want to poke around in the "deep" state organization. The minister of Justice [2] has two sticks in hand to punish judges who want to see too much: The Superior Magistrative Council [3](CSM) and the Inspector General of Judiciary Services [4]. "We are witnessing a harnessing of these two organisms, which the minister wants to use for the role of harsh school-master for judges that cause trouble", denounces Matthieu Bonduelle, general secretary of the Magistrates’ Union [5].

The most recent such affair: the disciplinary pillaring of the investigative judge [6] Patrick Ramuël. This judge is quite conversant with politically sensitive cases. He investigated, in 1965, the disappearance of the Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka. This affair, a veritable "sea-serpent" for the French Republic, involved the seizing of documents from the offices of state secret service (DGSE). The same judge investigated the case of Guy-André Kieffer, the French journalist who disappeared in the Côte d’Ivoire [7], where he did not hesitate, once again, to seize documents from the presidential palace [8]. According to his professional evaluation in 2009, the minister recognized that the judge "is a penal magistrate both learned and conscientious".

This does not prevent Michel Mercier from attacking Patrick Ramuël before the Superior Magistrative Council. A heavy procedure, and for minimal faults: he is blamed for "abnormally long" delays in his handling of two affairs, and for "inappropriate comportment with regard to the hierarchy". "By responding in a heavy-handed and polemical manner to a legitimate request from the president of the TGI [9], Mr. Ramaël was lacking in loyalty and sensibility with respect to his superiors in the hierarchy", as Michel Mercier expressed it. On the whole, he is reproached for not having fawned [10] before his superiors", Mathieu Bonduelle says with indignation. For Alexis Gublin, the lawyer for Patrick Ramuël, it is a case of "unacceptable destabilization".

This disciplinary procedure before the CSM comes after two attempts to put pressure on the anti-terrorist judge Marc Trevedic, and sanctions against the judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke. The judge Van Ruymbeke was targeted for his role on the margins of the Clearstream affair. The judge received lightening bolts from Nicolas Sarkozy, and saw his career blocked, despite the fact that it was he who declared Nicolas Sarkozy innocent in the Clearstream case. In the context of "violation of professional secrecy" in the Bettancourt affair, it was the Nanterre judge Isabelle Prévost-Desprez who was perquisitioned. Her real fault was surely having attacked the president in her book "Sarko m’a tuer." [11]

[1the French Ministry of Justice

[2Le garde des Sceaux

[3Conseil supérieur de la magistrature

[4l’Inspection générale des services judiciaries

[5Syndicat de la magistrature (SM)

[6juge d’instruction

[7Ivory Coast


[9Tribunal de Grande Instance, the French High Court

[10fayot in the French version

[11The title makes reference to the phrase marked in blood that led to the conviction of Omar Raddad in 1994.

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