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

Image

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 

Image

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.

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

Image

The CEELI Institute is delighted to be able to announce the continuation of its groundbreaking program bringing together young lawyers from the Middle East to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role that international law can play in its resolution. This program has been generously supported by the International Bar Association for a second year. The program extension will allow us to continue to bring together the diverse group of young lawyers on a quarterly basis at the Institute in Prague, during which participants are able to speak honestly, exchange views, examine applicable principles of international law, and jointly explore difficult, emotional issues affecting Israel and Palestine. This program was highlighted last year at the IBA’s annual Rule of Law Forum, in Washington, for an audience of over 300 people, where the young lawyers themselves spoke of the unusual nature of the project and their personal experiences as participants in this kind of dialogue.

The Israeli, Arab, and American mentors who conceived, organized, and facilitated this project will continue to facilitate it, augmented by a roster of experienced former diplomats and negotiators who have dealt with the complex issues that plague the region. We expect the group to continue to address 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.

Supporting Judges Who Deal with Terrorism Cases

Image

In March, the CEELI Institute continued its ongoing efforts to support judges in countries on the front lines in the fight against terrorism, with support from the US Department of State’s Counterterrorism Bureau. The most recent program was designed to support judges from the Western Balkans and brought together judges and prosecutors from seven Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. These countries continue to be on the front line of European counterterrorism threats, as they sit directly abreast of the main transit routes for Syrian and other refugees, and see first-hand the phenomenon of returning foreign terrorist fighters. The intensive three-day exchange focused on useful practices for judges adjudicating cases involving terrorism and other national security issues, with special reference to The Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses, a Good Practice document based on relevant international guidance and developed under the auspices of the 30-nation Global Counter Terrorism Forum (www.thegctf.org).

The March program was held in Prague, and we again welcomed a representative from the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (www.theiij.org), a valuable CEELI partner on our counterterrorism programming efforts. Judges from the United States and Germany with specialized experience in counterterrorism adjudication facilitated highly interactive exchanges, using firsthand experiences, case studies, and hypothetical problems to engage the assembled group and drive the conversation. Valuable regional insights were provided by a Brussels-based counterterrorism expert from Slovenia. Additional contributions were provided by the US Department of Justice’s Resident Legal Advisors from Turkey and the US European Command (Stuttgart), both career prosecutors.

The CEELI Institute’s judicial counterterrorism efforts represent a unique opportunity to work directly with judges who are struggling to handle terrorism cases in a region plagued by new threats and challenges. These judges are often grappling with issues of first impression involving new laws, new kinds of cases and evidence, new factual scenarios and new sentencing challenges. This program provided them an important opportunity to share experiences and good practices in addressing these key issues. The judges were highly motivated and engaged.
The next stage of this project will involve a similar program for judges in the Middle East/North Africa region, to be held in fall 2017. We are also working on developing a case management tool/checklist we hope will serve as a universally applicable tool for judges who will be overseeing complicated terrorism cases in the future.

 

“Legislating from Strasbourg” The Impact of Jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights

Image

2017-02-07 at 09-11-36The CEELI Institute was delighted to be able to host a conference on “Legislating from Strasbourg” to examine how the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, and other international human rights law sources influence the enactment and implementation of domestic legislation in COE member countries. The program gathered scholars from a number of COE member countries, with primary involvement being from Masaryk University’s Judicial Studies Institute, in Brno, Czech Republic, and the University of Oslo’s PluriCourts Project, in Norway. The panelists looked (with particular reference to the experiences in Norway, Czech Republic and Slovakia) at the impact of international human rights rulings on national courts, ministries, parliaments and society; challenges that national governments face in implementing international human rights rulings; the role of the media in influencing understanding and acceptance of European Court and international tribunal rulings; and the role of national constitutional courts in implementing and interpreting such rulings.