The Treason of the Magistrates

PARIS – In democracies, justice is supposed to be independent. Some prosecutors and investigating magistrates, however, conveniently forget this. Indeed many among them are deeply enmeshed in politics, pursuing agendas – and vendettas – of their own.

The phenomenon of politicized prosecutors and investigating magistrates is becoming global, arising in democracies as diverse as Japan, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, and Argentina. In all these countries, prosecutors and magistrates hurl accusations of corruption against governments and ruling parties – charges that also happen to suit the political and institutional interests of the magistrates.

Japan ’s state prosecutor has, for example, accused Ichiro Ozawa, the General-Secretary of the newly elected Democratic Party of Japan, of having received illegal funds to run the DPJ’s recent campaign against the Liberal Democratic Party. That three close aides to Ozawa have been indicted only months after the DPJ’s victory strikes many Japanese as odd, given the well known corruption of the LDP when in power.

But the LDP worked hand in glove with Japan’s deeply entrenched bureaucracy, of which the prosecutors are a part. The DPJ has vowed to shake up the cozy relations between Japan’s bureaucrats, politicians, and big business. By indicting people close to Ozawa, the prosecutors appear to be acting in defense of the status quo .