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November 26, 2018

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u GLOBAL PATTERNS Senior correspondent u world's news. Ned Temko connects Ned Temko connects key themes in the key themes in the LONDON – What's the difference between the United States and, say, Russia? Or Turkey, Venezuela, or the Philippines? Spoiler alert: It's not hot dogs or apple pie. It's not even just the fact that no American president has muzzled, jailed, or, in some cases, killed real or perceived rivals, as have leaders of those and other authoritarian regimes. The fundamental dividing line, which is becoming increas - ingly stark worldwide and spotlighted by the controversy around President Trump's postelection shake-up of the Justice Department, is the existence of the rule of law underpinned by an independent judiciary. Even in settled democracies, that arrangement carries an inherent tension by allowing often unelected jurists to set legal limits on elected gov - ernments. Not just in the US but in other countries with judicial oversight, politicians have bristled not just at specific court challenges but at the fact that judges can make them in the first place. In countries where the roots of democracy are more fragile, there is a widening trend to do away with such oversight altogether. With the rise of as - sertively nationalist, populist politics in many countries, human rights monitors have highlighted judicial oversight as critical to protecting the status of minority communities as well as voices critical of those in power. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fired thousands of judges in the wake of a failed 2016 coup. Under a new Constitution, he has ensured political control over all judicial appointments. Since his reelection this year, he has undertaken a further wholesale reshuffle of the judiciary. In Poland and Hungary, which joined the European Union after the fall of the Soviet Union, right-wing governments have been doing much the same. The Polish government last month overrode EU objections and named 27 new judges to the Su - preme Court, in effect preempting future challenges from that quarter, a move since challenged by a ruling by the EU's own Court of Justice. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's chief justice has been called out by a panel of the country's senior judges, accusing the government of meddling in the process of judicial appointments and promotions. In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro used a pliant Supreme Court to neuter the effect of his party's parliamentary election defeat in 2015 and, since then, to cement his hold on power. In the Philippines, one of the few checks on President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign of extrajudicial killings has been Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom he publicly called his "enemy." In May, just ahead of a vote by his parliamentary supporters to impeach her, her high-court colleagues voted her out. The idea of an independent judiciary isn't an academic matter. When I was covering the Soviet Union in the 1980s, I remember trudging through the snow one morning to a Moscow courtroom to witness an almost Kafkaesque example of the real-world implications when such independence is absent. The case involved a man named Viktor Tomachinsky, a small-bore dissident subject to small-bore harassment by the KGB. He had finally been told by the secret police that he'd be allowed to immigrate to the West. When the authorities reneged, Mr. Tomachinsky decided to sue the KGB for "lost earnings" abroad. The case was duly heard by a visibly bemused and palpa - bly not independent judge in Chamber No. 31 of Moscow City Court. At the end of Tomachinsky's presentation, she withdrew to a back room and emerged 15 minutes later to announce "We do not have jurisdiction." That very night, I was later told, Tomachinsky was arrested. Two years later, he died in prison. A cautionary note has come from Hong Kong, the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and still enjoy - ing a measure of autonomy under the principle of "one country, two systems." In October, a retiring justice from the Court of Final Appeal voiced confidence that "the rule of law is going strong." But he also warned that its future could not be taken for granted. Urging citizens to use their voices and their votes, he said: "If we as a community insist on the rule of law, it cannot be taken from us easily." Echoing a phrase championed by, among others, Thomas Jefferson, he added: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." How nationalism corrodes justice u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u u Get free Monitor newsletters You and your friends can have Monitor journalism delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing to our weekly specialty newsletters, including book reviews, global progress, science news, US politics, and more. Go to THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | NOVEMBER 26, 2018 11

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