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.

 

Evaluation of Judges: An Interactive Webinar Held on December 18, 2015

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bara webinarOn December 18, 2015, the CEELI Institute, as part of its Central and Eastern European Judicial Network program, organized an online workshop on the “Evaluation of Judges.” The webinar was led by Mr. Pim Albers, an independent Dutch expert with global expertise in issues related to the judiciary and court administration. Mr. Albers gave an in-depth overview of international standards related to the evaluation of judges, how to develop and use clear performance standards and neutral performance indicators, and shared his experiences from recent initiatives on the evaluation of judges in Ukraine and Moldova. All ten judges from across the CEE region who participated in the event appreciated the presentation and supplemental discussion, as methods used for evaluating judges remains a highly charged and politically controversial issue across this region. The CEELI Institute intends to continue to initiate dialogue on this particular issue, and involve more international experts and judges to participate. Similar events are planned for late February/early March 2016.

A Landmark Statement of Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary: Completed with CEELI Institute Assistance

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BrijuniWith CEELI Insitute support and encouragement, the Supreme Courts of Central and Eastern Europe have joined together to sign a landmark Statement of Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. The Principles were approved at the Annual Conference of the Chief Justices, hosted by the Supreme Court of Croatia, in Brijuni, Croatia, in October 2015. Justices from the Supreme Courts of 16 participating countries from the region signed the Statement. It represents the culmination of three years of work by the Justices.

The Statement is to some extent modeled on the 1997 Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, drafted and signed by the Conference of Chief Justices of the Asia Pacific Region. The “Brijuni Statement of Principles“ will now stand alongside the Bangalore Principles and other key international instruments which provide a foundation in international law for the concept of an independent judiciary as fundamental to the Rule of Law. As the Brijuni Principles themselves state: “[T]he implementation and protection of all rights depends on the existence of a competent, independent, and impartial judiciary.“ As was stated by the Hon. Branko Hrvatin, President of the Supreme Court of Croatia, “The Brijuni Statement represents the unwavering commitment by the Judiciaries of Central and Eastern Europe to the rule of law, and to a shared belief in judicial independence.“

Significantly, the Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe was originally launched with INL support, at the CEELI Insitute in Prague, back in 2011, with participation of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Since then, it has become a self-sustaining annual effort, largely organized and financed by the participating Courts themselves. The CEELI Insitute, along with our board member, Judge John M. Walker, Jr., of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, continue to be actively involved in supporting the efforts and organization of the Conference. Judge Walker was instrumental in bringing the Brijuni Statement to completion.

A copy of the Brijuni Statement is available on the CEELI Institute website at www.ceeliinstitute.org, and we will be printing hard copy versions for distribution to the participating courts. The original, signed copies of the Brijuni Statement will continue to be preserved and maintained by the Supreme Court of Croatia.

The Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe Undertakes a Landmark Step in Approving The Statement of Principle of the Independence of the Judiciary

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Brijuni ConferenceThe Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe is a self-sustaining organization whose members are the Supreme Court Chief Justices who lead the judiciaries of twenty-three nations from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus, including the Balkan Peninsula. The Conference meets annually in one of the member countries to address the many common challenges faced by the Chief Justices in improving their countries’ judiciaries, promoting judicial independence, strengthening integrity and accountability, improving court management, fighting corruption, and building public support for the courts. The CEELI Institute has been honored to support the work and mission of the Conference since its inception in 2011.

This year’s Conference was hosted by the Supreme Court of Croatia, from 11-14 October at the seaside Croatian town of Brijuni. Notably, this year’s session saw the culmination of work over the past three years, with the signing by the assembled judges of the Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, known now as the Brijuni Statement. As noted by this year’s Conference host, the Honorable Branko Hrvatin, President of the Supreme Court of Croatia, the Brijuni Statement represents a “clear commitment by the Judges of Central and Eastern Europe to the Rule of Law.” The Brijuni Statement reaffirms the fundamental principles of judicial independence and integrity, and adds to the body of international instruments that recognize that true judicial independence, both institutional and individual, is indispensable to the successful functioning of the judiciary under the rule of law.

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’s efforts have supported the work of the Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe since its inception in 2011. Indeed, the formal organization of the Conference was preceded by two Judicial Integrity Roundtables held at the Institute in 2007 and 2010. 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, who attended the first Conference, 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. 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), and, most recently, Croatia (2015).

The CEELI Institute continues to provide guidance and expertise to the Conference through CEELI Institute Board member, Judge John M. Walker, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Walker also enlisted the support of Judge Clifford J. Wallace, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, whose extensive experience includes establishing a similar conference for the countries of Asia and the Pacific. Both judges, who are active in rule-of-law development, have an on-going role in supporting and advising the Conference on behalf of the Institute.

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. The Brijuni Statement will be published and hosted 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.

Strengthening Judicial Integrity: International Judicial Conference in Zadar

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On September 18-19 2015 the International Judicial Conference co-organized by the CEELI Institute and Association of Croatian Judges (ACJ), Zadar Brunch took place in Zadar, Croatia. The conference addressed the topics of evaluation of judges, judicial ethics and effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights. Participants included 50 judges from Croatia and throughout the Western, Central and Eastern Europe.

Judge Branko Hrvatin, President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia opened the conference along with Justice Duro Sessa from the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia and the president of the ACJ, Judge Jadranka Nižic-Peroš, President of Association of Croatian Judges, Zadar Branch and Barbora Jungová, the CEELI Institute representative. The first session addresses the topic of Evaluation Judges. The session was moderated by Justice Duro Sessa, Judge Marianne de Rooij and Judge Karina de Koning both from the Netherlands and Judge Levente Simon from Hungary. The moderators shared their experiences about the methods of assessment of the judges ‘work. They debated the questions on how to develop effective criteria and indicators to evaluate judges ‘work and how to find the right balance between qualitative and quantitative criteria in order to not interfere to judge’s independence.

During the next session on Judicial Ethic the moderators Judge Davor Dubravica from Croatia and Judge Lukasz Piebiak from Poland as basis for discussion presented findings from GRECO IV evaluation round of 29 countries regarding judicial ethics. The focus was given to system of ethical rules and conflict of interest including declaration of assets and its effective monitoring, examples of different approaches to accessory activities of judges, post-employment restrictions, supervision and disciplinary proceedings system and others. The presentations lead to fruitful discussion on implementation of Code of Judicial Ethics in the practice and legitimacy of imposing disciplinary measures in case of its violence. The participants agreed that appropriate training of the judicial members in ethical code is necessary.

The second day of Judicial Conference started with the presentation of the Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice presented by Judge Cristi Danilet from Romania. The Manual which has been develop by judges participating in CEELI Judicial Network compiles thematically more than 130 international standards related to judiciary. It provides easy to use reference tool to facilitate day to day work of judges worldwide. You can find the Manual free of charge on the CEELI website.

Effectiveness of the European Human Rights Convention” was the last topic discussed during the Judicial Conference in Zadar. Judicial aspects of the Convention were presented by Mr. Kresimir Kamber from European Court of Human rights and Judge Marijan Bitanga from Croatia. The discussion looked at the ECHR system from the perspective of a national judge, and examined issues such as whether national judges are sufficiently informed on the ECHR case-law developments; the complexity of questions related to the direct adjudication of human rights issues in national judicial practice; and the extent to which there is harmony of the “European constitutional order” in domestic contexts.

The extensive cost sharing for this conference has been organized with costs being split between the CEELI Institute (under INL grant support), Association of Croatian Judges, Zadar Branch, the Association of Croatian Judges – Central Office, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the University of Zadar and the Zadar Provincial Government.