Judges threaten to sue government over unmet demands [Archives:2008/1147/Local News]

April 17 2008

By: Saddam Al-Ashmori
For The Yemen Times

SANA'A, April 15 ) Members of the Judicial System Employees Association established in February have announced that they will sue the Ministry of Justice if their demands aren't met.

Judge Abdulkarim Mahboob, founding member of the association and chair of its preparatory committee, maintains that they'll seek their rights to better wages, hardship allowances, promotions, etc., even if it means they must take the issue to the Supreme Court.

“A judge's salary doesn't exceed YR 100,000 (approximately $500) and this is ridiculous!” he says, adding that members decided to create the judicial association when they found that this is the only way to be represented and obtain their rights.

Deteriorating living conditions and economic hardships – from which judicial employees, like most Yemenis, suffer – are the primary reasons 28 judges and a prosecutor decided to establish such an association.

While, in reality, the group still is being formed, members were shocked last week when the Supreme Judicial Council summoned them for questioning, instructing the judicial inspection body to bring in the judges for investigation on grounds of illegally calling for the association's establishment.

Council chair Judge Essam Abdulwahab Al-Samawi issued 2008's order No. 9 stipulating that appropriate legal action be taken against association members.

The summons comes after numerous amendments restructuring Supreme Council units, including the administration. The order also falls near the April 13 court session, wherein the administration unit was to look into a complaint raised by several judicial employees demanding the annulment of numerous decrees violating the Judicial Authority Law regarding promotions and settlements.

According to association members, these decrees dictate promoting some judges while passing over more deserving ones. However, Al-Samawi declared to official media that any type of political collusion or organization by judicial staff violates the law and is prohibited. He made this statement a week after the association's launch, further threatening that any violators will be prosecuted.

Reacting to the judge's statement and his summons, the association's founding members expressed their resentment and shock at the council's degree of inaccuracy, stressing that their group is a professional apolitical association and their legal right, especially as it seeks to defend the judiciary's independence, as well as rehabilitate and build up judges' capacities.

Mahboob doesn't believe this issue falls within the council's jurisdiction and that it interferes with the responsibilities of the Social Affairs Ministry, which supervises such unions and non-governmental organizations.

Judge Ahmed Saif Hasid, one of the association's 28 founding judges, commented that the group will be a tool to demand and protect employees' rights apart from politics. Judge Abdulrahman Dabwan, also a founding member of the association, further notes that its creation is a reaction to the deteriorating level of the judicial system and the dire need to reform it. Independent judiciary research and study at the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, known as HOOD, affirms that forming such an association is a legal right under Article 58 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In a press release, HOOD emphasized that in the absence of the Judicial Forum, an organization created to represent judicial employees, Yemen's judicial system will remain inefficient and imbalanced.