NGOs as Judicial Watchdogs: A New Report and Recommendations

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visegradThe CEELI Institute is gratified to have participated in the preparation of a landmark effort to promote and define the role of NGOs in monitoring court proceedings and the function of the judiciary. The final project report, NGOs and the Judiciary: Watchdog Activities, Interactions, Collaboration, and Communication, was recently published by the Warsaw based Polish NGO, the Institute for Law and Society (INPRIS).

The publication represents the culmination of a two-year effort, funded by the International Visegrad Fund (www.visegradfund.org) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. The CEELI Institute was one of six key NGOS contributing to this effort, along with counterparts in Poland, Slovakia, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia.

The report establishes key recommendations and good practice guidance for civil society organizations that are engaged in monitoring of the judiciary and judicial function. The recommendations have general applicability well outside the context of Central and Eastern Europe, and are models for NGO watchdog activities, and for NGO interaction with the judiciary.

The recommendations emphasize the important role that NGOs and civil society play in assuring the transparent and effective operation of the judiciary, the need for cooperative engagement by NGOs and courts in the process of judicial monitoring, the role of NGOs in judicial training and education, and the need for NGOs to engage in shaping and informing public debate and discourse on the operation and reform of the judiciary.

The full report is available on the INPRIS website: http://www.inpris.pl/en/whats-going-on-at-inpris/article/t/publikacja-inpris-organizacje-obywatelskie-a-sadownictwo/. The report is also available for download on the CEELI Institute website: http://ceeliinstitute.org/annual-reports/

CEELI at The Hague: An Update on CEELI Judicial Tools

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cristi-at-hagueCEELI Institute Executive Director Christopher Lehmann and Judge Cristi Danilet from Romania recently led a panel at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Administrative Courts (IACA) held in the The Hague in May, where they were asked to present the CEELI Institute’s The Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice. The Manual is a unique tool, representing a systematic survey of virtually all relevant international standards applicable to the function, performance and operation of the judiciary. It cross-references over 130 international conventions and other sources of public international law, organizing relevant sources according to thematic categories of interest and use to judges in their work. The tool is, in short, a map to the judicial profession and the international standards that underpin it. The Institute is deeply grateful to the young judges from Central and Eastern Europe who worked so hard to bring the Manual to publication.  The Manual represents an extraordinary commitment of time and effort by the judges, who undertook extensive independent research and editing, coming together periodically at the Institute to coordinate and collaborate on their work. It is already being widely used and referenced in the region. It is particularly useful in societies still undergoing transitions, and where the judiciaries are still struggling to assert and establish their full independence.

The IACA special session was dedicated exclusively to the us of the Manual and was attended by an audience of over 70 international practitioners and judges. The Manual can be found on the CEELI Institute website: http://ceeliinstitute.org/judicial-manual/

US and Pakistani Judges Meet at the CEELI Institute

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dsc00863The CEELI Institute was delighted to recently welcome our first-ever delegation from Pakistan. In late August, the US Embassy in Islamabad (INL), the US Department of Justice (OPDAT) and the US Federal Judicial Center organized a joint exchange at the Institute bringing together Judges of the Lahore High Court (Punjab Province) and the US federal judiciary for several days of in-depth dialogue on issues of case management and court administration.  Among those participating in the discussions was Federal Judicial Center Director, Judge Jeremy Fogel.

Voices of the Next Generation: Bringing Change to the Middle East

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Over the past year, the CEELI Institute and the International Bar Association (IBA) partnered to organize a ground breaking program bringing together young lawyers from the Middle East to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the role international law can play in resolving this conflict. This diverse group of young lawyers has met quarterly at the Institute in Prague for a series of three-day meetings, during which participants came to know one another, and employed communication techniques that enabled them to speak honestly, exchange views, examine applicable principles of international law, and jointly explore difficult, emotional issues affecting Israel and Palestine.

On Friday, September 23, in the context of the IBA’s annual Rule of Law Forum, in Washington, the two organizations co-hosted a panel that examined, for an audience of over 300 people, this unusual process and the experiences of some of the young lawyers who participated in this dialogue. The Israeli, Arab, and American mentors who conceived, organized, and facilitated these discussions also shared insights about what they observed and learned from their engagement in the project. Together with a panel of experienced former diplomats and negotiators who have dealt with the complex issues that plague the region, the group addressed how international law can help lead to potential solutions and compromises, which could bring about change in one of the most persistent conflicts and gravest threats to the rule of law in the world.

Belgrade: The 2016 Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe

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chief-justices-smaller-gox_6519_resizeThe CEELI Institute was delighted to again support the work of the Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe, which was hosted in June of this year, in Belgrade, by the Supreme Cassational Court of Serbia.  The Conference is now a self-sustaining body that has met annually since its inception in 2011, allowing the Chief Justices to discuss common challenges, share ideas and work towards solutions. This year saw two additional signatories—Serbia and Georgia– to the Conference’s Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, known now as the Brijuni Statement (due to its original drafting and signing in 2015 at the Croatian seaside town of Brijuni).  That statement reaffirms regional commitments to judicial independence and the rule of law—and is more important than ever in a time of increasing threats to the independence of the judiciary across the region. The CEELI Institute is gratified to be able to support the publication and distribution of the Brijuni Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, which is available on the CEELI Institute website. We very much look forward to next year’s Conference, to be hosted by the Supreme Court of Hungary.