Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I'm in Jerusalem for a conference at the Hebrew University Law School on judicial independence and international courts. True to my Right Coast roots, I seem to be the most sceptical participant: both about the creeping (or galloping) judicialization of international politics and about the very possibility of "judicial independence" on international courts, when most of the judges come from dictatorships which have none-too-subtle ways of making sure their appointees follow the party line.
Meantime we visited the Israeli Supreme Court this afternoon: a graceful and aesthetic building in a country where you can't take those qualities for granted. I sat in on a criminal appeal: a Russian immigrant who got into a drunken fight and badly injured his "opponent" and got a long prison sentence from the trial court. There was a panel of three Supreme Court Justices: an Orthodox Jew (with skullcap), a secular Jew (no skullcap), and an Israeli Arab. The Justices spent nearly an hour questioning the prisoner - who was present in the dock - about what happened. It was all through an interpreter, of course, since the prisoner spoke only Russian. There was something especially touching about the Israeli Arab Justice courteously putting questions in Hebrew to this very rough-looking Russian customer.