Government appoints men of “fairness”Saleh moves on judicial reform [Archives:2005/804/Front Page]

January 6 2005

In a move to tackle corruption and continue Yemen's judicial reform, the Higher Judicial Council has appointed new judges and moved a number of others to different positions.

The council, headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, made the changes last Wednesday.

It sees 25 new judges were appointed to the Higher Court while 24 were given positions in the Judicial Inspection Commission.

Abdullah Farwan, former Chairman of the Central Organization for Control and Audit, is now the head of the Judicial Inspection Commission, an organization which monitors the performance of Yemeni judges. Farwan replaced Abdul-Malik Al-Jindari, who was appointed as the head of the Justice Ministry's Technical Bureau.

Saleh was quoted as saying that “judicial authorities should be independent and above any authority and influence.”

Two weeks ago, the President and the Higher Judicial Council dismissed 22 judges without any compensation or benefits and ordered 108 other judges for early retirement.

“Judicial tasks should never be given to those who are not qualified and do not possess the quality of fairness,” said Saleh when the judges were fired from their jobs. “They should be able to be fair in settling people's affairs.”

A year ago, the Higher Judicial Council, the highest judicial institute, sacked 13 judges after 35 judges were fired in 2002 being charged with corruption.

The changes last week included the fourth and largest reshuffling in the judicial system since the reform program, which is supported by The World Bank and donor countries, began in 1997.

In provincial courts of appeal, 159 judges changed posts, while three new judges were appointed to the military court of appeal. Sixty-eight chief judges and 172 session judges of district courts, 124 prosecutors at courts of appeal and 187 prosecutors at district courts exchanged positions. And twenty-three heads of public prosecutions changed places, while 52 judicial officers were appointed at the Attorney General's office.

“The moves made last week were a good step,” said Yemeni attorney Abdul Aziz Al-Samawi. “What is needed is the political will to carry out complete reform of the judicial system, which should be more than just moving judges around. It is important that we fight corruption.”

Analysts have stressed that an overhaul of the justice system is essential to create a better investment environment to help provide a boost to Yemen's sluggish economy. The World Bank reported recently that the country's gross domestic product growth rate has slowed from 3.1% in 2003 to 2.5% last year. With up to 42% of Yemeni people living below the poverty line and as many as 40% being jobless, it is expected that the numbers will continue to climb unless action is taken.

“It is good to see some changes in the judicial system,” said a Yemeni businessman. “One of the reasons there is little investment, from both Yemenis and foreigners, is that businesses need protection. If there is legal protection, we could see an increase in investment.”