2017 Conference of Chief Justices of Central & Eastern Europe –Budapest, Hungary, June 4-7, 2017

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The CEELI Institute was delighted to again join in supporting the Seventh Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe, hosted in Budapest by the Supreme Court of Hungary from June 4-7, 2017.  The Conference itself was launched in Prague, at the Institute, with support from the U.S. Department of State, and with the commitment of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Conference is now a self-sustaining body that meets annually in one of the countries represented, and provides the opportunity for the Chief Justices to discuss common challenges, share ideas, and work towards solutions. Front and center among this year’s discussions were the ongoing challenges to judicial independence that continue to be seen and felt across the region.

The Conference continues to flourish and since its inception has rotated between member states, each year hosted by a Chief Justice from a different country. Conferences over the past several years have been hosted by Chief Justices from Albania (2012), Montenegro (2013), the Republic of Georgia (2014), Croatia (2015), and Serbia (2016). The 2018 Conference will be hosted in Vilnius by the Supreme Court of Lithuania.  The CEELI Institute is delighted to continue to play an active and important role in the organization and continuity of this program.

Among the achievements of the Conference has been the signing, in 2015, of the Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, known now as the Brijuni Statement (after the seaside town in Croatia where the 2015 Conference was held). The Brijuni Statement is modeled after a similar effort undertaken by the Conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific, which resulted in the adoption of the Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary in 1995. The Brijuni Statement is a reaffirmation of a long-held and shared belief amongst its signatories in judicial independence and the obligation to uphold the rule of law. 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, and the Statement has been available on the CEELI Institute website. It joins other useful legal instruments addressing judicial independence, the drafting of which have been supported by the CEELI Institute, including the Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice: A Thematic Compilation of International Standards, Policies and Best Practices.

Roundtable: Supporting Syrian Judges 

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The CEELI Institute organized a roundtable with Syrian judges currently living in Turkey, where they sought exile after fleeing the conflict and with it the increasing government and military interference in their duties. While some of them remain active in work of international organizations focused on maintaining basic public records of births, death, marriages etc., all of them are looking ahead at possible scenarios that might occur in Syria after the imminent conflict ends.  The CEELI Institute roundtable, organized together with the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC), looked at some of the challenges and scenarios that took place in other countries following an armed conflict (including Bosnia i Herzegovina and Croatia), and the difficult work ahead, including reconstructing land and personal registries, public administration, and – ultimately – the functioning and trust in the judiciary as such. These steps will have to take place in some form whatever the exact political outcome of the post-war order will be, and to compare experience from other countries can help build the expertise and readiness of Syrian judges as actors in this effort.

Strength in Diversity: CEELI Expands Its Institutional Partnerships Across Europe

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In February, the CEELI Institute staff was delighted to welcome the leadership of the highly respected Italian organization, the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, for in-depth meetings on future program collaboration and engagement. The CEELI Institute greatly values our increasing roster of programmatic partnerships with institutions across Europe. These collaborations are important in helping us to expand both the quality and scope of our programs. Institutional partnerships allow the participating organizations to tap into a deeper pool of experts, a greater diversity of participants and an increased level of substantive expertise. The staff collaboration and interactions that accompany partnerships encourage consideration of different perspectives and facilitate creative thinking about program design and delivery. Other recent joint efforts have involved programs organized in partnerships with the Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, based in Valletta, Malta, and the Judicial Studies Institute, at Masaryk University, in Brno, Czech Republic.

CEE Judges Take on Corruption

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In January, the CEELI Institute hosted the latest meeting of our Central and East European Judicial Exchange Network, comprised of some of the best and brightest young judges from eighteen countries in the region who have come together to share their best practices on issues of judicial independence, integrity, and accountability. This project is funded through a generous ongoing grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (NL). The program focused on supporting judicial efforts to combat corruption both within and without the profession. In addition to examining issues of transparency in the conduct of the judicial profession, participating judges also examined issues related to the adjudication of corruption cases, including the unique evidentiary issues presented in such cases and the need for judges to understand complex financial documents and testimony by experts versed in forensic accounting techniques. The judges also used the meeting as an opportunity to continue updates to Network‘s The Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice: A Thematic Compilation of International Standards, Policies and Best Practices. The Manual represents a systematic effort to survey relevant international standards applicable to the judiciary, and is now in wide use by courts across the region. The Manual provides easily accessible, substantive legal support for issues related to the status, work, rights, and responsibilities of judges. It has proved useful to judges who are pushing back against governmental infringements on their functions.

 

CEELI Judicial Manual Put to Work in Drafting the Georgian Judicial Strategy

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The CEELI Institute is pleased to report that it’s Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice continues to be put to good use by judicial practitioners across the region. Most recently, our colleagues in the Republic of Georgia report that the Manual was used extensively by the High Council of Justice in the process of drafting Judicial Strategy for Georgia for 2017-2021. They note that the Manual was one of the guiding documents used in determining the main directions of the judicial strategy and the content of the strategy‘s sub-chapters. As one of the judges noted, the drafters and researchers appreciated the flexibility of the manual and the availability of a keyword system that facilitated the research. The CEELI Manual represents a systematic effort to survey relevant international standards applicable to the judiciary, and provides easily accessible, substantive legal support for issues related to the status, work, rights, and responsibilities of judges.