Strasbourg, 3 April 2014
BUREAU OF THE CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL
OF EUROPEAN JUDGES
Report of the 16th meeting
Strasbourg, 17 March 2014
Document prepared by the Secretariat
Directorate General I – Human Rights and Rule of Law
1. The Bureau of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) held its 16th meeting in Strasbourg on 17 March 2014. The meeting was chaired by Mr Bart van LIEROP (The Netherlands), President of the CCJE.
2. The following members of the Bureau were also present:
· Mr Bart van LIEROP (The Netherlands), President of the CCJE;
· Mr Richard AIKENS (United Kingdom), Vice-President of the CCJE;
· Ms Nina BETTETO (Slovenia);
· Mr Johannes RIEDEL (Germany).
3. The agenda is set out in Appendix I.
II. SITUATION OF THE JUDICIARY AND JUDGES IN THE MEMBER STATES OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE (DISCUSSION ON RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AND FOLLOW-UP BY THE CCJE)
4. The members of the Bureau and the Secretariat discussed the follow-up to the Situation Report on the judiciary and judges in the Council of Europe member States (updated version n° 1 (2013)) adopted during the 14th plenary meeting of the CCJE in Strasbourg on 13-15 November 2013. The impact of this report was also discussed.
5. The positive reactions to this report were highlighted, in particular by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which in the course of its 1194th meeting on 12 March 2014 took note of the report and “underlined the importance of standards relating to the status of judges and the exercise of their functions to improve respect for the rule of law across Europe”.
6. The members of the Bureau also mentioned the positive effect of this report for all stakeholders, including those who forwarded information and complaints to the CCJE which were subsequently highlighted in the report.
7. As regards the next edition of the report to be adopted in 2015, it would also be in full conformity with the CCJE Terms of Reference (ToR) for 2014-2015 which specified among the main tasks that “the CCJE shall provide targeted cooperation at the request of member States, CCJE members, judicial bodies or relevant associations of judges, to enable States to comply with the Council of Europe standards concerning judges”, as well as provide “regular information on the situation of judges in Europe”.
8. The members of the Bureau proceeded to discuss the process of preparation of the next edition of the report. It was underlined that information, complaints and requests of assistance are being submitted to the CCJE at an increasing scale. It was even felt that the CCJE might have to face a substantially increased workload because of this, especially due to requests of assessment of draft legislation and expert opinions.
9. It was decided to request the Secretariat to prepare the list, on a chronological basis, of all complaints about the situation and status of judges and requests of legislative assessment. Such list will provide the necessary overview of all information which will have to be reflected in the next edition of the report.
10. As regards particularly the requests of legislative assessment, the members of the Bureau noted that already two such expert assessments were prepared and sent to the requesting authorities in Turkey – the Comment on the Draft Law to Amend the Law on the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and Related Laws; and in Georgia - the Comment on the draft Law on establishing the temporary State Commission on studying the miscarriages of justice. Both assessments were highly appreciated by the requesting authorities.
11. In addition, the CCJE has also received a request for assessing the draft law on the restoration of trust in the judiciary of Ukraine (so called lustration law). This was a really urgent and important issue vis-à-vis the independence and status of judges in Ukraine. The members of the Bureau were already informed that the former CCJE President, Mr Gerhard REISSNER, was requested to undertake this assessment, along with a trip to Ukraine, within the framework of the project implemented in Ukraine by the Council of Europe. The objective of the project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, was to strengthen the independence, efficiency and professionalism of the Ukrainian judiciary and to facilitate institutional and legislative reforms of the justice system in Ukraine in line with European standards.
12. The members of the Bureau also discussed another mission on the same subject undertaken by the Vice-President of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) Mr Georg Stawa, who undertook it on behalf of the Austrian Ministry of Justice.
13. It was decided to coordinate the CCJE action on this draft law with the two above-mentioned missions.
14. As regards other requests of assistance, the complaint from Spain was particularly discussed (the conclusions of the Chairpersons of the Courts of Appeal of Spain regarding the negative consequences of the reform of the High Council of the Judiciary). It was decided to contact the CCJE member in respect of Spain and to find out the current status of this reform.
15. Mr Bart van LIEROP emphasised that all assessments, comments and recommendations made by the CCJE in respect of similar or other requests of assistance and expertise, should continue to be made public in order to provide for the transparency of the CCJE work and contribute to dissemination of its standards as widely as possible.
16. The members of the Bureau agreed that, upon receiving complaints or assistance requests, as a matter of principle, the member of the CCJE in respect of the country, about which the complaint was made, should be consulted first.
17. It was observed that, since the CCJE might have to deal with increasing number of requests of legislative assessment, there would be a need to establish a formal procedure to regularise the rapid response by the CCJE to such requests.
18. The Secretariat provided information about recent discussions on the same subject in the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) and transmitted to the members of the Bureau the copy of the letter by the CCPE President Mr Antonio Mura addressed to the Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
19. The members of the Bureau discussed the possible establishment of the CCJE Task Forces in cases of requests of legislative assessment which would be in charge of preparing the CCJE opinions, in consultation with the CCJE Bureau. It was decided to come to the issue of the Task Forces later in order to determine their exact composition and competence as well as working methods.
III. PREPARATION OF THE CCJE OPINION No. 17
20. The members of the Bureau examined the draft structure of the Opinion No. 17 on justice, evaluation and independence (Document CCJE-GT(2014)1), prepared by Ms Anne SANDERS, scientific expert, on the basis of the responses to the relevant questionnaire submitted by the member States. The Bureau also examined the summary of these responses prepared by the expert (Document CCJE-GT(2014)2), and expressed its high appreciation for her work and the usefulness of these documents for the preparation of the draft Opinion.
21. The Bureau briefly discussed the modalities of the preparation of the Opinion in the course of the 26th meeting of the Working Group (17-19 March 2014, Strasbourg) and co-ordination with the expert. The Opinion’s subject matter – evaluation of the judges’ performance - was relatively new at international level and it seemed that there were little sources to rely upon, except the responses of the member States to the questionnaire. Furthermore, it seemed that the practices in different countries varied quite considerably. Therefore, the task was far from easy and it required a careful examination and approach.
22. As regards the CCJE 2013 Opinion No. 16 on relations between judges and lawyers, its positive impact was emphasised. Mr Bart van LIEROP mentioned its application in the Netherlands for the training of lawyers, Ms Nina BETTETO underlined the application of this Opinion by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which, as an observer to the CCJE, participated in the process of its preparation.
IV. OTHER ACTIVITIES OF THE CCJE
23. The Bureau discussed the coordination with other bodies of the Council of Europe, in particular the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) and the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ). The Secretariat was requested to maintain close co-operation and exchange of information with these key intergovernmental committees and to inform the CCJE about their activities. These bodies would continue to be invited to the CCJE plenary meetings, in line with the CCJE Terms of Reference.
24. The members of the Bureau noted the presentation made by the former CCJE President Mr Gerhard REISSNER to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe during its 1194th meeting on 12 March 2014. Mr REISSNER focused on the CCJE activities and achievements in 2013 as well as on future plans. The Committee of Ministers (CM) reacted very positively and several delegations, which spoke on the subject, underlined the importance of the CCJE work and implementation in Europe of the standards developed by the CCJE. The delegation of France even proposed an amendment to the Decision of the CM reinforcing its support for the CCJE activities. In the Decision, the CM welcomed the CCJE Opinion No. 16 on relations between judges and lawyers as well as the Situation Report on the judiciary and judges in the Council of Europe member States (see also above in section 5).
25. Mr Bart van LIEROP reported on his forthcoming mission to Sofia for participating, on 1-2 April 2014, in the conference organised by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice within the framework of Norway Grants on the subject of the judicial integrity. The Bulgarian side would also present the draft of a new Strategy for Judicial Reform. Mr van LIEROP would make a presentation on the principle of integrity - probity, dignity and honour, and highlight the Council of Europe standards.
26. Mr Bart van LIEROP and Ms Nina BETTETO reported on their participation, on 31 January 2014, in the opening of the judicial year at the European Court of Human Rights, which included a seminar on the topic of “Implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights: a shared judicial responsibility?”
27. Ms Nina BETTETO also reported on her work as expert within the framework of the project “Strengthening the capacity of the judiciary as regards the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina“ implemented by the Council of Europe. In particular, she participated in an assessment mission for consultations with the key stakeholders of the project and prepared an analysis of the evaluation criteria for judges in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The members of the Bureau stated that they got acquainted with the analysis and praised it as a highly informative and valuable document.
28. The members of the Bureau noted that Judge Thomas Stadelmann from Switzerland wrote a book on the evaluation of judges (subject of the Opinion No. 17) which was discussed at one of recent international symposiums in St Gallen. It was decided to invite him to one of the CCJE meetings. Mr Johannes RIEDEL will contact him.
V. OTHER BUSINESS
29. The Secretariat confirmed that the meeting with Mr Andrew Drzemczewski, Head of Legal Affairs and Human Rights Department and Head of the corresponding Committee’s Secretariat at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, would take place on 18 March and presented some recent documents to be acquainted with before the meeting.
30. The next meeting of the Bureau would presumably take place on 23 June 2014 in Berlin.
AGENDA / ORDRE DU JOUR
1. Opening of the meeting / Ouverture de la réunion
2. Adoption of the agenda / Adoption de l’ordre du jour
3. Communication by the President, members of the Bureau and the Secretariat / Communication du Président, des membres du Bureau et du Secrétariat
4. Preparation of the 26th meeting of the CCJE-GT and the draft Opinion No. 17 on « justice, evaluation and independence » / Préparation de la 26ème réunion du CCJE-GT et du projet d’Avis n° 17 sur « justice, évaluation et indépendance »
5. Situation of the judiciary and judges in the member States of the Council of Europe (discussion on recent developments and follow-up by the CCJE) / Situation du pouvoir judiciaire et des juges dans les Etats membres du Conseil de l’Europe (discussion sur les développements récents et le suivi par le CCJE)
6. Other work of the CCJE / Autres travaux du CCJE
· Participation of the CCJE in other meetings in and outside the Council of Europe /
Participation du CCJE à d’autres réunions au Conseil de l’Europe ou en dehors
7. Any other business / Divers