Celebrating the UN International Day of Democracy
By Safia Iman
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For this UN International Day of Democracy, we had the opportunity to interview Judge Safia Iman from the United Kingdom. The conversation was centered around the interactions between Democracy and the Rule of Law. Judge Iman started with an invitation to reflect on the meaning of this day for each of us because democracy “lies in the consciousness of people”.
Furthermore, while “Democracy” and “rules of law” are ubiquitous terms, Judge Iman wanted to draw a parallel between them. While Democracy is manifested through elections and majority rules, the invisible forces beneath this are the democratic principles. One of these democratic principles is an “independent Judiciary”. Therefore, you can’t really have democracy without the rule of law.
So, the role of judges in democracy is to maintain an independent judiciary. Judges should be able to exercise their jurisdictions and make their decisions independently and fairly. They need to feel that they are not going to get penalized because of their decisions. Judges have a “duty of care” to ensure decisions are transparent and well-reasoned. When Judicial Independence is threatened, states tend to unravel very quickly.
Indeed, judicial independence is facing many challenges around the world. An obvious one is the covid-pandemic who prevented judges to play their roles effectively for an extended period. But in the long term, the most important threat is technology and AI. The Judiciary now must make decisions on technological issues where there is no societal consensus. Furthermore, with social media, it’s very important for judges to understand how news now spread. Namely, “Fake News”. People who have control over such platform must be mindful that it has the potential to destroy the liberties that constitute the fabrics of our democracies. Among these liberties and principles is “Judicial Independence”.