The court of judges in the first trial against Geert Wilders, which was pulled off the case after dismissal on the grounds of ‘apparent prejudice’, was under heavy pressure caused by media attention and public opinion. The court was insufficiently supervised and did not fully realize her performance would be scrutinized for political prejudices.
That, according to Het Parool (NL), is the main conclusion drawn by the Meijerink commission, which was tasked with investigating the the judicial governance and management of the court case against Wilders. The report can be viewed here (NL; pdf).
The judges in the (first) Wilders trial, particularly Jan Moors (p), if Het Parool is to be believed, felt their integrity had been violated. It was for that reason, they declined to attend the second request for dismissal: They couldn’t bare the presence of so many cameras. According to the Meijerink commission the effect of a dismissal is greater when it concerns ‘an intensive and demanding trial as this case, more so that it played out in the full view of the nation’.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I was raised with the idea that a judge is supposed to be the living example of integrity. A meticulously impartial adjudicator, free of any prejudice, political or otherwise. Someone that is supposed to apply the law, irrespective of a persons identity, race, nationality, gender, religion, status or income or political affiliation. After all, all are equal before the law. That has always been one of the guiding principles of Western case law and jurisprudence.
So, what is the Meijerink commission saying when they conclude that the Amsterdam court ‘did not fully realize her performance would be scrutinized for political prejudices’? I would think a judge would always be aware of the possibility of being scrutinized for and questioned about prejudices of any kind. And the efforts, naturally following, to be as unprejudiced as humanly possible. Or, if such is asking just too much of the judge in question, to have the integrity to decline appointment.
Did the Amsterdam court really underestimate the attention the Wilders trial would garner and thought they could get away with a little (politically correct) prejudice? Is that what the commission Meijerink is admitting? Are they tacitly admitting that the feelings of violated integrity of the judges in the Wilders trial are a result, not of false accusations of prejudice, but of being caught out?
Between the lines, the conclusions of the Meijerink report seem to admit at least some of the courts at times let prejudices creep into their administering of justice. And that extra care must be taken to avoid the ‘appearance of prejudice’ in cases where media attention and public scrutiny is expected to be heavier than usual. I sincerely hope that this is not actually the case. For if it is, we are in a lot more trouble then we thought.