Training on Application of EU Instruments in Criminal Law

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In February and April, the CEELI Institute hosted three sessions of a new program, focused on application of EU instruments in criminal justice. Organized in cooperation with the Association of Croatian Judges, the program brought together in total 83 criminal judges from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The program focuses on tools providing access to the full extent of rights guaranteed by EU law, specially on applying the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the Directives on the right to information in criminal proceedings, and the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings.

The program is led by Marin Mrčela, President of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) and Judge at the Croatian Supreme Court, and funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014-2020).

Providing Lifelines for Syrian Judges in Exile

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In April 2018, the CEELI Institute resumed a program in partnership with the Swedish-based International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC), focused on offering a professional lifeline to Syrian judges who are now in exile in Turkey but who hold on to the hope of one day returning to their country to rebuild the justice system.  Many of the exiled judges remain actively involved with international organizations that are working with refugees in Turkey, for example, by assisting with efforts to maintain basic public records of births, death, and marriages, in the absence of any formal mechanism for recording such crucial life events.  All of these Syrian judges are looking ahead to possible scenarios that might occur in Syria after the conflict ends.   

In April 2018, the Institute convened a program in Gaziantep, Turkey, to facilitate discussions among the judges and to explore core issues related to their role in the emerging post conflict society; where both the rule of law and democratic values will not be firmly established.  The special focus of this session was on constitutional issues related to the judiciary. Our goal is to promote discussion and engagement on the challenges Syrian judges face, and on the ways in which the judges can begin to prepare for their roles in an immediate post-conflict environment. The roundtable allowed us to frame priorities for further programmatic efforts, as we hope to continue and expand this work.  

At present, the Syrian judges feel cut off and removed from the larger world.  These efforts are intended to support their morale, and to also provide opportunities to engage with our networks of judges from other countries that have emerged from conflicts.  The CEELI Institute roundtable explored challenges and scenarios that took place in other countries following an armed conflict (including Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia), and the difficult work ahead, including reconstructing land and personal registries, reestablishing public administration, and regaining public trust in the judiciary. Ultimately, the success of post conflict processes in Syria will depend on the expertise and readiness of Syrian judges as actors in this effort. The effort is funded by the Swedish International Development Administration (SIDA). 

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.