An increasingly important aspect of the CEELI Institute’s continuing engagement with judiciaries across the region involves exploration of the relationships between the judiciary and the media. Discussions and materials addressing this topic is in high demand among judges who are faced with increasing media pressures, especially while handling political sensitive cases and high level corruption cases. Judges must also increasingly negotiate the potential pitfalls surrounding the use of social media platforms. Judges are concerned about their rights to privacy in an age of increasing media attention, and are also unclear on where the boundaries should be set in dealing with the press. They are also challenged in balancing the public’s interest against the rights of the parties before the court. The CEELI Institute has been honored to work with an increasingly diverse cadre of experts in this field, to explore these critical issues. We also work to foster communication skills of courts and judges in dealing with the public, and in responding to outside scrutiny. These issues are increasingly incorporated into many of the judicial programs now organized by the Institute.
As part of our continuing engagement with the judiciaries from across the Central and East European region, the CEELI Institute recently co-sponsored an event, in cooperation with the Supreme Court of Macedonia addressing the ongoing challenges to judicial independence across the region—both within and without the EU. The program, held in late October, at Lake Ohrid, drew over 70 participants, including judges from Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Kosovo, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia and Slovenia. The event provided a critically important platform for judges to exchange views and experiences in how best to respond to increasing external pressures on the judiciary. Particular attention was devoted to how judges can most effectively cope with pressures from the media, from the government and from external political sources, without compromising their integrity. For judiciaries still emerging from communist past, these issues have never been fully resolved. Judges in the region must continue to grapple with balancing their accountability and independence. This event was also generously supported by the US Embassy in Skopje and by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL).
The CEELI Institute was delighted to join with the IBA in hosting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on September 23, in Washington, DC, at the IBA Rule of Law Forum. CEELI Institute Founder and Board Chair Homer Moyer moderated a discussion with the Justice on issues related to the role of the judiciary, the meaning of the Rule of Law, and the application of international law as a reference point for the Court. The Justice also took questions from the audience. It was an inspirational and informative session, and we were thrilled to be a part of it.
Over the past year, the CEELI Institute and the International Bar Association (IBA) partnered to organize a ground breaking program bringing together young lawyers from the Middle East to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the role international law can play in resolving this conflict. This diverse group of young lawyers has met quarterly at the Institute in Prague for a series of three-day meetings, during which participants came to know one another, and employed communication techniques that enabled them to speak honestly, exchange views, examine applicable principles of international law, and jointly explore difficult, emotional issues affecting Israel and Palestine.
On Friday, September 23, in the context of the IBA’s annual Rule of Law Forum, in Washington, the two organizations co-hosted a panel that examined, for an audience of over 300 people, this unusual process and the experiences of some of the young lawyers who participated in this dialogue. The Israeli, Arab, and American mentors who conceived, organized, and facilitated these discussions also shared insights about what they observed and learned from their engagement in the project. Together with a panel of experienced former diplomats and negotiators who have dealt with the complex issues that plague the region, the group addressed 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.
The CEELI Institute is hosting training for Ukrainian lawyers dedicated to the legal defense of journalists and bloggers across their country. In cooperation with the Regional Press Development Institute (RPDI), a Kiev-based NGO, CEELI is bringing these lawyers together for a seminar in Prague, as a follow-up to similar programs that were held in April and October 2015. After focusing on topics such as the protection of whistle-blowers, libel laws, media self-regulation, and comparative EU media law, this next phase (March 2016) focuses both on experiences with pursuing Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) cases at the European Court of Human Rights, and with the legislative transformation affecting state media in Central Europe. The topics, selected by the RPDI, reflect the immediate challenges facing Ukraine today. As the country continues undergoing a deep and uncertain transition, the degree to which its reform efforts are successful will have a profound impact not only on Ukraine itself, but on the entire region. Facilitating the exchange of expertise and best practices between Ukrainian legal professionals and their colleagues from EU countries helps increase the chance that the reforms will succeed.