CEELI is proud to announce the publication and release, in partnership with the Association of Croatian Judges, a new monograph on Application of EU Instruments in Criminal Justice.” The publication represents the culmination of a new project this year, funded by the European Commission, to provide much needed training for judges from the eastern countries of the EU on relevant EU law, instruments and directives governing the application of criminal law. Program sessions brought together 83 judges from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, and focused on the role of judges in insuring that defendants in criminal cases have full access to their rights guaranteed by EU law. The course specifically focused on application of EU Directives on the right to information in criminal proceedings and on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings. The report is co-authored by Judge Marin Mrcela, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Croatia and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law Osijek, Croatia, and Zuzana Vikarská, MJur, MPhil, Ph.D., who is a lecturer in constitutional law and human rights at the Law Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno, and a law clerk at the Czech Constitutional Court. Justice Mrčela also serves as President of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). This project was funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014-2020). A copy of the Report can be found on the CEELI Institute Website: http://ceeliinstitute.org/judicial-materials/application-of-eu-instruments-in-criminal-justice/
With the ongoing support from the US State Department’s INL Bureau, the CEELI Institute’s Network for Rising Judges from Central and Eastern Europe continues its robust schedule of activities for a seventh year. The Network engages over 150 judges from 18 countries of the region, and continues to focus on issues that are of priority to the region’s young judges as they negotiate an increasingly challenging environment, complicated by attacks on judicial independence, expanding caseloads, and other external pressures on the profession. The Network’s most recent gathering was in Prague, at the Institute, in late February, where special focus was given to issues of fighting corruption in the judiciary through the use of greater transparency in court administration and procedures. The Network’s core working group is also in the final stages of completing a report providing Practical Guidelines on the Use of Social Media by Judges, and continues to edit and expand its Manual on Integrity, Independence and Impartiality of the Judiciary, a compendium of relevant international standards and guidance. Through the coming year, we look forward to further Network activities, to include webinars on relevant topics, in-country events in Poland (highlighting the need for judicial independence), Georgia (addressing challenges arising for judges from social media), and ongoing cooperation with the United National Global Judicial Integrity Network. CEELI also continues to mentor Network judges by incorporating them, where possible, as faculty in other CEELI training events.
Over the past year, CEELI has worked closely with NGOs from across Central and Eastern Europe who actively engaged in developing tools to more effectively monitor “Politically Exposed Persons” of PEPs, a category that includes parliamentarians, the judiciary, and senior government officials. PEPs, in most countries, are subject to enhanced legal requirements to publically disclose their assets. The efforts of these NGOs (and of the lawyers and journalists that work with them) include both the development of searchable public data bases and other public advocacy tools that can be used to draw public attention to official corruption and highlight cases of unexplained wealth. Such tools and advocacy campaigns represent a new, more aggressive approach to documenting and publicizing public corruption; findings related to substantial unexplained wealth can be shared by NGOs with financial intelligence units (FIUs), banks and law enforcement agencies. NGOs in Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine are currently among those in the forefront of these efforts.
CEELI’s efforts include quarterly sessions in Prague that are designed to facilitate coordination of ongoing regional efforts, the exchange of best practices, and the development of technical and systemic improvements to current databases. Specific issues include review of the ideal content and organization of PEP databases; considerations related to privacy protections and protection of personal data; standards for collecting data from the public registers; assuring information reliability; best practices for triggering responsive reactions by foreign law enforcement; analysis of financial records; identification of beneficial owners; and technical solutions for problems encountered by end users of PEP databases, including website security. CEELI is also currently working with regional NGOs to explore ways of developing a regional or global PEPs database.
As governments across Europe continue to restrict the independence of the judiciary, limit the free function of the media and generally curb civil and human rights, the CEELI Institute is increasing its efforts to work with lawyers and civil society across the continent to mount effective legal responses. This includes efforts aimed at increasing the capacity of lawyers to enforce rights guaranteed under the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. During the first week of April 2019, CEELI kicked off what will be a series of programs designed to train lawyers on effective use of EU law to protect human rights throughout Europe. To this end, CEELI has assembles an extraordinary faculty of European legal experts from across the continent, including prominent law professors, practitioners at the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, and representatives of European Institutions. Topics to be addressed include review of the human and civil rights that are protected under the Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR); examination of procedures for using and triggering Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU), which provides for suspension of rights of EU member states for human rights violations; use of EU laws to respond to restrictive national legislation that interferes with independent operation of the judiciary; admissibility of claims before EU Courts; examination of EU and ECHR case law limiting restrictions of fundamental rights; and skills for researching and accessing relevant EU documents. As is always the case with CEELI Institute programming, the program is designed to be highly interactive and includes case studies and small group activities, in addition to traditional lectures.