The Judicial Conduct Committee has finalised its investigation into allegations of “misconduct” against Judge Siraj Desai, lodged in 2021 by a South African-based Israeli pressure group.
Headed by Justice JA Dambuza, the decision she arrived at by dismissing 99% of the complaints, is a major setback for the SA Zionist Federation’s vindictive campaign against Judge Desai.
Judge Dambuza’s scathing rejection of all the complaints barring one, is by all accounts a humiliating experience for the SAZF who in all probability expected Judge Desai to be severely reprimanded and punished for his unapologetic stance on Palestine.
The decision made in terms of Section 17 of the Judicial Service Commission Act, runs into 17 pages. It sets out the series of complaints based on a number of events citing Judge Desai’s alleged “misconduct” during the period 2009 to 2020.
Judge Dambuza deals with the merits of each complaint in sequential order starting with the first one headed “The Gaza March and BDS Campaign”.
She found that the alleged violation took place 12 years prior to the lodging of the complaint and to top it all, details were “extracted from various press releases”.
The second bizarre complaint is headed “Cape Town Public Dinner – March 2011”. Here again the complaint relies on a newspaper report which cites Judge Desai at a public event with former Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils.
The allegation by SAZF is that Judge Desai is reported to have said that the Israeli occupation of Palestine was one of the longest continuing breaches of human rights in the world.
However Judge Dambuza points out that an important part of the report was omitted in the copy that was attached to the SAZF complaint. Crucially the missing part reveals that Desai and Kasrils came out in support of a Holocaust survivors’ South African campaign for a boycott of Israel.
The next complaint dismissed by Judge Dambuza, relates to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held in Cape Town during November 2011. The allegation is that by chairing it, Judge Desai facilitated the “hearings of the Tribunal” that concluded Israel should be boycotted and turned into an international pariah.
In this vein Judge Dambuza deals with a host of complaints she didn’t find to have any merit.
A bizarre one relates to Judge Desai’s interaction during 2018 with Palestine’s resistance movement Hamas. The allegation is that Judge Desai flouted Judicial Codes by promoting Hamas.
An equally outrageous complaint not given any credence by Judge Dambuza, dealt with allegations of an interview by Judge Desai with an Iranian news channel.
Clutching at straws has been my reading of the attempt by the SAZF to crucify Judge Desai.
Though the Judicial Conduct Committee was clearly not impressed with the arguments presented by the SAZF, expect the pro-Israel group of apologists to crow over a minor concession provided by Judge Dambuza.
It relates to Judge Desai appending his signature in support of BDS. Short of a rebuke, Judge Dambuza cautions him to avoid political controversy.
In jumping with misplaced glee to conceal their embarrassing bruising at the hands of the JCC, the SAZF has by all accounts failed dismally.
Judge Desai’s formidable reputation as a doyen of human rights committed to justice, remains unscathed.
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