Now I’ve been in many a court in Scotland and popped my head into a few abroad. But the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts were still news to me until I came across a story in the Irish Times in which a retired Scottish Judge was being taken to task for not just visiting but serving there.
Lord Angus Glennie who, to be fair, served in Scottish Courts with distinction until his retiral a few years back is sitting as a Judge in that institution. The reason he was mentioned was that two retired Irish Judges had been forced, or at least decided to withdraw from that sinecure, but he remained. Criticism of the Irish involvement came from both legal and political circles.
Ivana Bacik, Leader of the Irish Labour Party stated that Irish Judges sitting there was “a mechanism to support an oppressive regime”. Bill Shipsey, a retired Irish senior counsel and an executive member of Amnesty International wrote that Lord Glennie and other international judges shouldn’t ignore human rights abuses by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It’s clear that whatever skills international judges may bring, what really matters is the veneer of legitimacy given to the institution. These courts may largely be dealing with finance and commerce but its underpinning a regime that treats its own and others reprehensibly.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al- Maktoum’s the ruler of Dubai and the Vice-President of UAE and indeed it seems it was the despot himself who swore Lord Glennie into his new role. But he’s far from a benign ruler. Human rights abuses are prevalent in those parts and imprisonment of many’s routine. The Sheikh’s also known in courts in the UK as he’s been embroiled in a London court action where his behaviour towards family has drawn scathing criticism from their Lordships.
Lord Glennie’s retired and there’s less conflict than at least one of the Irish Judges who still had a formal role. But he’s in receipt of a far from modest judicial pension paid for out of the public purse. I hope that he’ll reconsider his position, as did a former Irish colleague and that the Lord President will make it clear to him and others that its simply unacceptable to sit there.