ISS warns against comments undermining courts

The ISS's Gareth Newham says irresponsible comments affect how people perceive the courts.

Picture: Saps.

JOHANNESBURG - The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has warned that reckless comments undermining the legitimacy of the judiciary erodes public confidence in the justice system as a whole.

The organisation has held a discussion looking at recent comments made by senior political figures attacking the judiciary.

Eyewitness News reported last week that Police Minister Nathi Nhleko told Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) managers in March that he believed it had become commonplace for judges to collude to produce tailored judgments.

The institute's Gareth Newham says comments like these affect how people perceive the courts.

"If politicians, who have huge sway over South Africans, engage in statements that question the courts, this could further reduce the number of people trusting the courts."

Newham says this has real consequences.

"When people at community level decide they won't worry about calling the police because they don't trust the police and believe they will bring the people before the courts, then they will take matters into their own hands."

The ISS added that Nhleko's comments about the judiciary encourages distrust in the justice system among members of the Ipid.

Newham says the minister's comments to Ipid managers are of serious concern.

"The political head has an oversight responsibility of Ipid and is telling officials that they mustn't trust the criminal justice system and judges particularly."

He says the comments are particularly worrying considering the context in which they were made.

"It's saying to people who are responsible as senior managers that it doesn't matter what your work is, the judges won't look at the law when making decisions."

Nhleko claims he was merely urging Ipid managers to remain independent.