The rule of law is not a campaign tool

12 December 2016

The rule of law is not a campaign tool

Foto: SP

On Friday I decided not to react to the guilty verdict in the trial of Geert Wilders, the far right leader arraigned for leading a chant calling for Moroccans to be deported. As a politician in a democracy it isn’t your place to comment on the judicial power. We do after all have a separation of powers in the Netherlands, and however tempting it may sometimes be, it behoves us to keep our views to ourselves.

One person who attaches rather less worth to this duty to abstain from commenting on trials, and to the rule of law in general, is Wilders himself. For weeks now he has been accusing the judges of conducting a political trial. Rather a serious accusation in a constitutional democratic state, but evidently no evidence of the veracity of the assertion was considered necessary.

You might put this down to frustration, but in reality it’s nothing of the sort. Wilders has elected quite consciously to launch an attack on our rule of law and on anyone suspected of going against him. He is making the courtroom into an election rally. Constant attacks on the system of justice undermine the confidence people have in the rule of law. Our constitutional state is too important for that.

Judges are independent and act on behalf of us all. This is because in our constitution we have decided that lawmakers make laws and judges pass judgment as to how well we have kept within these laws, independently of the political branch. Apparently, according to Wilders, these rules don’t apply to him.

What kind of representative of the people are you if you are constantly undermining the power of the judiciary and turning your nose up at the independence of the courts? Immediately after the verdict Wilders announced that he found no part of the judgment acceptable. So how can you expect the rest of the population to obey the law?

Our democracy benefits from politicians who in good faith allow judges to do their work. The court of law is too important to allow it to be undermined by campaigning politicians who care nothing for the constitutional state. Freedom of expression is a very good thing, one which we support. But keep your hands off the rule of law.

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