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.

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.

Strengthening Judicial Independence & Accountability: Roundtable of the Central & Eastern European Judicial Exchange Network

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The Roundtable on “Balancing Judicial Independence and Accountability,” took place on June 6-7, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. More than 30 non-high court judges and court administrators from 18 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as 3 judges from the Netherlands and the United States, participated in the Roundtable.

The Roundtable looked at current challenges faced by the judiciary in Network member states and considered appropriate efforts to promote and strengthen judicial independence and accountability. Particular attention was given to the issues of independence and separation of powers, protection for judges from removal without cause, and public pressures on judges. This event was an extraordinary opportunity to exchange experiences and best practices between participants of Network member states.

This Roundtable made particular use of and reference to the Network’s own manual on international standards governing judicial Integrity, which was recently completed by members of the Network. This tool aims to serve as a useful guide to facilitate the day-to-day work of judges and judicial staff worldwide, and was formally rolled out for presentation during the meeting. You can find manual on the CEELI Institute webpage here.

The event was organized as part of the CEELI Institute’s support for its “Central & Eastern European Judicial Exchange Network” which aims to support non-high court judges and court administrators in their work to improve judicial integrity and court efficiency (for more information please click here).