Siraj Desai is a politicised judge - SAZF

Rolene Marks responds to BDS pushback against the Federation's complaint

Siraj Desai is a Politicised Judge and Must Be Held Accountable

The histrionics by the BDS movement and its factions in response to the SAZF’s complaint to Judicial Complaints Commission (JCC) about Judge Siraj Desai are an attempt to distract the public from the core issues. Judge Desai has been a High Court Judge and now holds a senior position in our legal framework as the Ombud for Legal Services, and should thus be held accountable for his highly politicised actions.

Judge Siraj Desai’s political utterances and activities over many years have breached the Judicial Code of Conduct, which includes provisions against becoming involved in political controversy or activity, using the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of others, and failing to recuse himself from a case in terms of which there was a real or reasonably perceived conflict of interest.

Last year Judge Desai was interviewed on an Iranian YouTube channel, and made inappropriate remarks that the United States, an important trade and diplomatic partner of South Africa, was the “Great Satan”. In addition he made a comparison between former President Nelson Mandela and the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran.

It should be noted that the Ayatollah was a despot who committed numerous human rights abuses. This includes the use of Iranian children for the clearing of minefields which killed tens of thousands throughout his war with Iraq amongst many others. Judge Desai has also publicly supported and welcomed the extremist organisation, Hamas, to South Africa, and presided over a case involving BDS, in which he awarded it in their favour, without disclosing a conflict of interest in the matter. He has also in the past been an organiser for the BDS including leading an expedition to the Gaza Strip.

The BDS movement in South Africa, with its history of antisemitic behaviour, chooses to focus on conspiracy theories such as the fact that the document was notarised in Israel. The SAZF initiated the complaint against Judge Desai, which was signed off by a Professor and one of the organisation's most senior members. He happens to currently be resident in Israel, and therefore the complaint was notarised there. Statements on this issue also continue with ridiculous comparisons to apartheid, whilst a political party representing the interests of religiously conservative Muslim Israelis has been sworn into the new Israeli government coalition.

The BDS must not try to distract from the substantive issues at hand, namely the role that Judges play in our society and their responsibility to abide by the Judicial Code of Conduct. Judge Desai is entitled to his views, but as Judge he is bound by the Judicial Code of Conduct. As such, he ought to be held accountable.

Rolene Marks

Spokesperson SAZF Legal Forum