Says justice “not a priority for political power”
In (a fairly explosive) interview, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ), Henrique Araújo, denounced the “installed corruption” in Portugal and criticised political power for its unwillingness to make the judicial sector a priority, writes Lusa today..
“Justice is not a priority for political power (…) I don’t see that there is any will on the part of the politicians to change anything,” the STJ president has told ‘Nascer do Sol’.
Indeed, Nascer do Sol’s cover photograph (above) higlights the quote “it’s not a simple perception, it’s a certainty!”
Among the problems to which he advocates action, Henrique Araújo referred to mega-cases and procedural laws, where he emphasised there is “a lot of work to be done”; the end of the suspensive effect of judicial decisions in appeals to the Constitutional Court, which he said would be “easy to change”; and, above all, the fight against corruption, which he claims is “rife in the country”.
On that last point, Araújo says he would like to see the creation of the crime of illicit enrichment.
He told NdS: “It would be a good instrument for combating the phenomenon of corruption that is rife in Portugal and which has a very strong expression in public administration (State and council entities).
“This isn’t just a perception, it’s a certainty,” he insisted: “We know that corruption cases have increased and, although investigations into this type of crime have increased, results fall far short of what is known to exist.”
Despite admitting to having an “excellent institutional relationship” with the Minister of Justice, he noted that Catarina Sarmento e Castro has not yet managed to implement the necessary changes, or even pay any kind of meaningful attention to proposed alterations.
“She’s a person of dialogue, she wants to change the situation and she wants to solve the problems. But I feel there is something that transcends her and that may be preventing her from carrying out some of the things she would like to,” he said.
Recognising that, despite warnings made over time, “nothing” significant has changed in the justice system since he himself took over as president of the STJ (around two and a half years ago), Araújo also stressed the need to enshrine the separation of the judiciary from political power through real financial autonomy – to be carried out by the Superior Council of the Judiciary (SCJ).
“It’s the Ministry of Justice that provides the (financial) means for the courts and this is wrong. Everything should be concentrated in the SCJ. The State Budget should allocate money to the SCJ, which it should be able to supervise. Only in this way can we talk about a complete separation of powers,” he told his interviewers.
Finally, Henrique Araújo also criticised the amnesty law (which has freed over 230 young offenders) brought in as a result of Pope Francis’ visit to Portugal last August – particularly on the issue of disciplinary offences subject to suspension sentences, as happened among judges, with the SCJ dismissing nine cases of serious and very serious offences. “This law, by giving them amnesty, by erasing these offences, is sending a very bad signal to society,” he said.