Strasbourg, 6 November 2001
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on the independence of judges, their appointment and careers, and funding of the courts: reply submitted by Cyprus
In response to the questionnaire of the Chair of the CCJE-GT forwarded to the Cyprus delegation for reply, please find hereinbelow the following brief answers on the three separate themes selected for discussion following the same order. Certain answers are grouped together for convenience.
I. The independence of Judges
1. The independence of Judges is guaranteed by the Constitution which entrenches the strict separation of powers establishing three separate, independent and autonomous branches of the State. Part X of the Constitution (Articles 152-164) deals exclusively with the establishment of the Supreme Court and the lower Courts.
2. The separation of powers, the relevant laws establishing the first instance Court system and the autonomy recognised to the judiciary in rule making and exercise of its jurisdiction, safeguard the independence of judges.
3. The irremovability of judges is constitutionally and legislatively recognised and a judge on appointment is considered a permanent member of the judiciary of the Republic and can only be dismissed on the same grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court, that is, on the ground of misconduct. A Judge shall be retired on account of such mental or physical incapacity as would render him incapable of discharging his duties.
4. Judgments and decisions are reviewable only by the Supreme Court acting as the final Appelate Court according to Constitutional provisions.
5. A case can only be withdrawn from a Judge on grounds of self-exemption as in the case where a judge has tried the same litigant before and has passed judgment upon him or where he is closely related to the litigant and feels that the case should be tried by another Judge to safeguard impartiality. Otherwise, all cases alloted to Judges by the Registrar must be handled and tried by them.
II. The appointment of Judges and their career
1. Judges in Cyprus are appointed to the bench from the members of the legal profession who must be registered and practising advocates, of at least 7 years standing or exceptionally, for candidates of outstanding merit, of 5 years standing.
2. Judges are appointed on the basis of their qualifications selected by the Supreme Council of Judicature (composed by the members of the Supreme Court) from the ranks of advocates on account of their professional proficiency and high moral standing.
3. A Judge must prior to appointment be a registered advocate which presupposes at least a university degree in law.
4. See the answer on item 1 above.
5. No age requirement exists in the Constitution or relevant laws, provided the conditions stated in items 1 and 3 above are satisfied.
6-9. Judges of first instance courts are appointed by the Supreme Council of Judicature, while Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of the Republic. As a rule and by convention the President of the Republic prior to any such appointment seeks the advice and consults the Supreme Court as to the suitability and efficiency of the person to be appointed. From the Republic’s Independence in 1960 with only one exception, all judges appointed to the Supreme Court have come from the ranks of the first instance Courts.
As stated above the Supreme Court is solely responsible for the appointment of Judges.
10. Only the Supreme Council of Judicature which is completely autonomous and independent of the government and the administration selects, appoints and promotes Judges.
11-12. Promotion is within the sole responsibility of the Supreme Council of Judicature and is done strictly on merit and efficiency in discharging judicial duties, ensuring thus objectivity, although no written set of rules exists.
13. Covered by the answer in item 3 Part I.
14. No. The system works well and ensures independence and impartiality.
III. The Funding of the Courts
1-3. The Judiciary’s budget is included in the state comprehensive budgets approved by the House of Representatives after submission to the House by the Executive. The judiciary submits its proposals for its funding to the Ministry of Finance covering both the emoluments of the judicial officers and other general administrative expenses. It is worthy to note that the remuneration of judges with the exception of district judges is fixed, while the emoluments of the Supreme Court Judges are directly charged on the Consolidated Fund and are therefore not dependent on the approval of the budget.
4. The support staff and equipment for Judges is basically sound but in need of further enhancement. The recruitment of more support personnel will prove beneficial for the smoother running of the whole system and the judiciary is in constant communication with the Executive for employing more personnel. Likewise, the process of appointing more judges as well as Managers for administration purposes has been set in motion.
As regards automation and data processing facilities, a scheme for introducing a complete computerization of the court records and judgements is under study, while certain computer “skynet” programmes have been introduced already for quick access to legal information data. All Court stenographers are equipped with P.C.s and printers and Judges act quite efficiently and without undue delay.
5. Same as above.
6. The judiciary is supported by a system of Registrars with appropriate personnel to whom the whole administration is assigned. Each Court however functions under the direct guidance of the president of the Court who oversees the whole functioning of the Court and is responsible for its smooth operation.
7. The funding of the Courts should be completely independent and autonomous so that the judiciary would more efficiently man the whole system and provide the necessary equipment without being dependent on the executive.