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The politicisation of the judiciary is not confined to the Middle East

Whenever the term "politicisation of the judiciary" is mentioned one immediately thinks of Iraq under Nouri Al-Maliki or Egypt under Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. This dangerous, and sometimes deadly, disease is not, however, confined to the Middle East. It is spreading and now threatens the health and wellbeing of Western democracies.

The cases of the former Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz in the United Kingdom and that of the Al-Jazeera journalist Ahmad Mansour in Germany are powerful examples of how this "Middle East judiciary syndrome" functions.

British lawyers acting on behalf of Palestinian families have for several years now been trying to prosecute Mofaz and other Israeli war crimes suspects under the Geneva Conventions Act [1957]. Their alleged crimes include wilful killings, assassinations, torture, home demolitions and various acts of collective punishment. Despite this, Mofaz has been in London over the past few days with no diplomatic cover to protect him.

He was not placed under arrest even though violations of the Geneva Convention are classified as crimes of universal jurisdiction. As such, they can be tried anywhere, regardless of the nationality of the alleged offender, or where the crimes were committed. In an attempt to protect Israeli suspects, the Conservative-led coalition passed a new law in 2011 that gave the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) an effective veto over private applications to judges for arrest warrants in international criminal cases.

It didn't take much for observers and the general public to realise that this procedural change was motivated more by political considerations than anything to do with law and order or justice. Former Foreign Secretary William Hague justified the legislation by saying: "We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country. The situation is unsatisfactory [and] indefensible. It is absolutely my intention to act speedily."

In Germany, a similar political farce unfolded last weekend when the authorities barred Al-Jazeera's Ahmad Mansour from boarding his flight and later detained him. Initial speculation that the matter was linked to an INTERPOL warrant ordered by the Egyptian government proved wholly incorrect. Mansour has, since October 2014, been given the all clear by INTERPOL. He produced the necessary documentation to prove this to the German authorities.

This evidence notwithstanding, it took two days for the real source of the arrest warrant to come to light. Lawyers acting for Mansour found out that their client was the target of a secret bilateral agreement between the German and Egyptian governments. The latter wanted him to be extradited to Egypt and not simply detained in Germany.

To his credit, Mansour was, from the beginning, convinced of the origins of the plot. In his very first telephone conversation with his employers, which was broadcast live from Berlin's Tegal Airport, he declared that it was truly scandalous that a democratic country like Germany should allow itself to be manipulated by a quisling dictatorship with such a bloody record as that led by Al-Sisi.

Clearly, yesterday's release of Mansour will not be the end of the affair. The German political establishment has been exposed and shaken to its core. At the heart of this scandal is none other than Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted Al-Sisi in Berlin two weeks before Mansour's detention. The controversial visit was opposed strongly by the German media, which is now expected to demand answers and accountability for all those who disgraced their country and attempted to corrupt its judiciary.

Back in Britain, we have not heard the last of Al-Sisi and his toxic presence. One day after his regime sentenced former President Mohamed Morsi to death, the British government extended an invitation to Al-Sisi to visit London. Given the strength of the extremist, Islamophobic tendency within the ruling Conservative Party, no one should be surprised if his visit also produces a similar earth-shaking scandal involving an increasingly politicised judiciary.

In fact, the chances of this happening are much greater than they were in Germany. The recently-appointed Minister of Justice is Michael Gove; he has no qualifications or previous experience in the legal profession and shares two common, and menacing, traits with Al-Sisi. They are both unashamed Zionists and they are both driven by a visceral hatred of what they call political Islam. Will the government now release its long-awaited review into the Muslim Brotherhood? Will Britain, like Germany, then attempt to hand over Egyptian dissidents to the Cairo regime? We shall see.

What is certain, however, is that by courting friends like Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Europe's great traditions of justice and the rule of law are under very real threat. Middle East judiciary syndrome has arrived, and it is far from welcome.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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