The new role of French judges, according to a report that will be submitted to the government in January 2014
The creation of a system of international criminal justice was one of the greatest political upheavals of recent decades. The fact that international criminal law has been allowed to question national sovereignty is a revolution in itself. The detractors of international justice contend that it is simply the justice of the victors. Could they be right? Have law and ethics been muddled? Have the trials conducted in its name helped heal the victims? Can justice prevent civil war? A former magistrate, Antoine Garapon heads the Institut des hautes études sur la justice.
What is the meaning of a sentence? This is the issue that the present book faces squarely and directly, from the philosophical, ethical and political angles. The authors goal is less to confront different viewpoints than to defend a shared belief: a just sentence is one that restores bonds. Antoine Garapon is a former juvenile judge. Frédéric Gros is a philosopher. Thierry Pech is a researcher.
Imagine for a moment that you assist at a trial for the first time. There is no doubt that you would be struck by the strange procedure which happens in front of you, the judicial discussions. It is true to say that before being a moral faculty, judging is firstly an event. According to the author, before there were laws, judges and courthouses, there was a ritual. This book aims to unveil all these facets, showing by example how the public gallery is there to culpabilise and inhibit the defendant, in order to make him submit to the judicial order. Can judges avoid staging trials in order to judge well ?
The multiplying cases, the explosion of litigations, the sensational trials which catch the attention of the public : all are evidence of a growth in power of the judicial system, which we expect to be, at the same time, the arbiter of morals, the guarantee of public morality and responsible for the salvation of the people. But why dont we ask what things it cannot provide ? Isnt the idea of a judicial democracy just an illusion, which serves to hide serious problems ? The power of the judicial system is more worrying than exciting. It is an indicator of the discreditation of the State at the same time as a reduction in social cohesion. In the face of the fragility of democratic society, this book is a thorough reflection on the exercise of public power, affirming that the real role of the judge is not to take the place of the politic, but to diffuse the risk of democratic implosion by remaining the guardian of the promises at the very heart of republican laws. Antoine Garapon, a former judge and member of the editorial team of the journal Esprit, is the head of the Institute of Advanced Judicial Studies.