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The 'Wall of Idiots' causing uproar in France

The Local/AFP · 25 Apr 2013, 13:04

Published: 25 Apr 2013 13:04 GMT+02:00

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Ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, Interior Minister Manuel Valls, prominent TV presenter David Pujadas and many other mostly right-wing figures are on the panel, that came to light on video footage, secretly filmed inside the union's headquarters.

The panel, hung up on an office wall, is tagged with a sign that reads: "Before adding an idiot, check that he isn't there already."

The video of the panel, published on news website Atlantico earlier this week, has caused an uproar in political circles, drawing shock and condemnation from both right and left-wing politicians.

"There are things that just aren't done. There are codes that must be respected," Claude Bartolone, the Socialist speaker of France's National Assembly said on Thursday.

Shots of the fathers of two murdered girls including Jean-Pierre Escarfail, whose 19-year-old daughter was raped and killed by notorious serial killer Guy Georges, are also pinned onto the huge panel at the Syndicat des Magistrats (Magistrates' Union).

Escarfail had campaigned for judicial reforms after his daughter Pascale was murdered in Paris in 1991 just days after Georges was freed from prison, where he was serving time for rape. 

The right-leaning Institut pour la Justice, which lobbies on behalf of victims of crime, denounced the wall in the strongest terms, in a statement quoted by French weekly Le Point.

"We don't have the words to describe the moral indecency of the presence [on the wall] of Jean-Pierre Escarfail," read the statement.

The IPJ also demanded the dissolution of the Syndicat des Magistrats.

However if any financial punishments are meted out those found guilty should be able to cope with the cost. According to Le Figaro the maximum penalty for "non-public insult" stands at €38.

The union represents nearly a third of all judges in France, and is considered left-wing. Christophe Regnard, president of the rival Union Syndicale des Magistrats, who was himself featured on the "Wall of Idiots," responded in somewhat philosophical fashion on Twitter.

"You're always a fool to someone, as the saying goes. Surprised and saddened to be on the SM's [Syndicat des Magistrats] Wall of Idiots. The judiciary doesn't need this."

The panel, hung up on an office wall, is tagged with a sign that reads: "Before adding an idiot, check that he isn't there already."

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Justice minister Christiane Taubira on Wednesday condemned an "unfortunate act" by the union, and said anyone was free to lodge a complaint over the issue. Several people who figure on the wall have already decided to do so.

Many on the right, however, have claimed the poster board, and in particular its ideological make-up, casts doubt over the impartiality of the Syndicat des Magistrats.

In a letter to President François Hollande, published on Wednesday, Christian Jacob, leader of the centre-right UMP contingent in the National Assembly, said: "This practice is unacceptable...It is a serious breach of the principle of judicial impartiality," according to French weekly Le Point.

The union, meanwhile, said the wall was put up when Sarkozy was president, when "judges were being attacked left, right and centre", adding that the panel was hung up in a private place not accessible to the public.

On Thursday, its president, Françoise Martres played down the affair, calling it "schoolboy stuff" and stipulated that the insulting collage had been "in a private place, not accessible to the public."

The Local/AFP (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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