Strasbourg, 10 December 2009
EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF JUSTICE
MEDIUM-TERM ACTIVITY PROGRAMME
This medium-term activity programme was adopted by the CEPEJ at its 14th plenary meeting
(9 - 10 December 2009)
1. In the Action Plan adopted at the Third Summit (Warsaw, 16 - 17 May 2005), the Heads of State and Government of Council of Europe member states decided to develop the evaluation and assistance functions of the CEPEJ in order to help member states deliver justice fairly and rapidly.
2. The mission of the CEPEJ is central to the activities of the Council of Europe, which is tasked with 'promoting common fundamental values: human rights, rule of law and democracy” by “strengthening democracy, good governance and the rule of law in member states”.
3. A first medium term activity programme was implemented between 2005 and 2009. This second multiannual programme aims to define the main orientations work the work of the CEPEJ within the four next years as well as the working modalities. These orientations were approved by the CEPEJ at its 14th plenary meeting (Strasbourg, 9 – 10 December 2009).
4. The CEPEJ annual activity programmes adopted by the CEPEJ will be guided by these orientations, according to the budgetary resources available. It is understood that changes among these priorities might occur within the targeted period according to the evolution of the situation of justice in the member states and the political decisions taken by the relevant bodies of the Council of Europe.
1. WORKING PRINCIPLES
1.1 To implement the CEPEJ Statute in its entirety
5. The CEPEJ Statute is now sufficiently broad and comprehensive, in terms of both its functions (Article 2) and working methods (Article 3), to enable the CEPEJ to develop its work on evaluating judicial systems and assisting member states in improving the efficiency and quality of those systems.
6. The CEPEJ is urged to pursue the implementation of its mandate to improve the independence, efficiency and quality of justice in all European states, which is a sine qua non condition for any real democracy or pre-eminence of law. The citizen’s trust in an independent, impartial and quality justice is at stake here.
7. Whatever the priorities set, CEPEJ members will bear in mind all the tasks assigned to the Commission, in particular:
§ regular evaluation of the functioning of European judicial systems and appropriate use of the results of this evaluation;
§ development of general measures designed to improve the functioning of judicial systems in member states;
§ targeted cooperation to any member state, at their request, to implement the relevant Council of Europe instruments and the tools developed by the CEPEJ.
1.2 To ensure a wide dissemination, among the administrations and justice professionals of the member states, of the measures and tools designed by the CEPEJ
8. The CEPEJ's members must play an active role for promoting the work of the CEPEJ among:
§ the executive and legislative authorities entrusted with judicial reforms so as to ensure that the CEPEJ's tools are taken into account within the framework of national reforms;
§ bodies of justice (councils for the judiciary, supreme courts, general prosecution offices, etc.), courts (in particular pilot courts) and professional associations;
§ the national correspondents entrusted with the collection of judicial data, namely as regards the Guidelines on judicial statistics (GOJUST)1;
§ their national counterparts in other Council of Europe's bodies with which the CEPEJ is called on to cooperate (CCJE, CCPE, CDCJ, CDPC, CDDH, Venice Commission, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe).
9. The CEPEJ's members are entrusted to inform regularly the CEPEJ on the impact of its works on judicial organisation and national reforms.
10. The CEPEJ's members are urged to promote, and possibly organise, by all available means in the states, namely through ministries (foreign affairs, justice) or judicial bodies (councils for the judiciary, supreme courts), the translation of the main CEPEJ's documents into non official languages, so that they can be understood and directly used, in particular by the justice professionals in courts. A regular assessment of the situation of these translations must be organised by the CEPEJ Secretariat.
11. The dissemination of the documents adopted by the CEPEJ among the administrations responsible for justice, courts and justice professionals must also be improved through the setting up and the regular updating by the Secretariat of electronic mailing lists to be enriched with the active participation of the CEPEJ's members. The regular publication of the "CEPEJ's Newsletter" aimed at this network must be pursued.
1.3 To contribute to the smooth functioning of the human rights protection machinery of the Council of Europe
12. The already well-established ties between the CEPEJ and the European Court of Human Rights have to be further reinforced, particularly to support states in the complete and effective implementation of general measures resulting from the full execution of the Court's decisions regarding namely Article . of the European Convention of Human Rights. The objective is indeed to avoid similar repeated violations at national level and thus to relieve the Court in Strasbourg. The priorities of the CEPEJ are set in particular with due regard for the cases before the European Court of Human Rights. The CEPEJ implements its activity programme in coherence with the case-law of the Court.
13. The CEPEJ should act as an early warning and alert body in order to identify structural weaknesses in judicial systems and allow anticipating new problems. It would thus be the "aide-de-camp" of the European Court of Human Rights.
14. Drawing on the Action Plan adopted at the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government, and on the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union concluded in May 2007, the CEPEJ must pursue its action aimed to strengthen interactions with the various relevant EU bodies.
15. The enhanced cooperation must focus on the implementation of the Multiannual programme for an area of justice, liberties and security to serve citizens (Stockholm Programme) of the European Union (to be adopted in December 2009), which refers to the strengthening of mutual confidence through the evaluation of the functioning of justice systems. Thus the CEPEJ must work together with the European Commission and the EU member states to define concrete modalities enabling that its process for evaluating European judicial systems is usefully taken into account and concretely used for the EU's own needs.
16. Moreover, the communication by the European Commission of 4 February 2008 establishing a Justice Forum invites the partners, under its chapter 2.0, to work efficiently with the Council of Europe, in particular with the CEPEJ. The Forum is invited to draw on the CEPEJ to strengthen mutual confidence between European justice systems, which is a guarantee for the smooth implementation of the mechanisms in the justice field; to develop joint initiatives to improve the quality of justice; to work in a constructive manner for making use, within the European Union, of the results of the CEPEJ's works.
17. The participation of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the relevant commissions of the European Parliament (in particular the LIBE commission) in the work of the CEPEJ should be encouraged, as well as the development of an appropriate framework enabling the CEPEJ to inform the relevant bodies of the EU on its findings could contribute to this cooperation.
18. Within the Council of Europe, it is worth developing further links between the CEPEJ and the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) and the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) to strengthen synergies between these bodies. Cooperation with the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ), the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) and the Venice Commission must also remain a priority for the issues regarding the functioning of justice. Working relations could also be strengthened with Parliamentary Assembly, in particular through the setting up of regular hearings of the CEPEJ before the Commission of legal affairs and human rights.
19. The work of the CEPEJ should be widely accessible to international bodies seeking to improve the efficiency of justice (namely the World Bank, The Hague Conference on international private law) , so that they can draw on its achievements in the course of their own activities. In its endeavours, the CEPEJ should also have regard, as far as possible, to the work done by other bodies, in the interest of effective action, credible proposals and a consistent political message.
20. In an effort to improve dialogue between users of the justice system and policy-makers, the CEPEJ must continue its activities aimed at professional organisations in the judicial sphere, competent NGOs, academics and the users of justice.
21. Its work thus needs to be made accessible to them, including through consultation and exchanges of views on specific issues. The CEPEJ will see to it that the judicial professions are properly represented in the framework of its working groups. It must endeavour to participate, as far as possible, in any events to which these organisations may invite it.
22. The CEPEJ should also develop appropriate modalities which would enable it to take into account the voice of the users of justice and endeavour to promote the necessary dialogue between the civil society and the bodies responsible for the public service of justice in order to contribute to the proper consideration of the expectations of the society as regards the functioning of justice.
23. In accordance with Article 3.e of its Statute, the CEPEJ must further develop networks of judicial professionals to collect information, ideas and comments as regards it own achievements from those bodies who are making the justice system function on a day to day basis and to facilitate the ownership of the measures it develop by those who are the main targets of these measures. The networks could also serve as laboratories where the tools set up by the CEPEJ could be trialled to make it sure that they can be applied to all member states.
24. Priority should be given to the continuation of active and regular cooperation with the already established CEPEJ's Network of pilot courts and Network of national correspondents in charge of the collection the data for the evaluation of judicial systems.
25. Moreover, the CEPEJ must be able to draw, within the framework of its activity programme, on the Lisbon Network of training bodies for judges and prosecutors, due to become a Network according to Article 3.e of the CEPEJ's Statute. Thus the issues of judicial training, which are essential for improving the efficiency and quality of justice, would be better taken into account within the CEPEJ's work. Similarly, these training bodies could better include issues on efficiency and quality of justice into their training curricula, in particular through the CEPEJ's tools which could thus be better known and better used by justice professionals.
26. Lawyers are key players in the functioning of justice and contribute to the quality of the system. Therefore it is worth for the CEPEJ addressing further issues regarding the organisation and the role of lawyers by strengthening its cooperation with the CCBE and finding new ways for drawing on networks of lawyers in Europe.
27. Finally the CEPEJ must remain tied with the academic world. Therefore a network of universities and research institutes should be set up with those bodies willing to cooperate more closely with the CEPEJ. The network could include namely the institutes and universities which have contributed to scientific researches from the reports evaluating judicial systems, the instances where scientific experts cooperating with the CEPEJ are working as well as research bodies which have solicited the CEPEJ for specific contributions.
28. The CEPEJ must remain a privileged forum to exchange experiences and best practices in the field of justice. Therefore the CEPEJ must further develop its own communication means (web site, newsletter) so as to:
§ promote its work among policy-makers in the member states and the European legal community;
§ enhance its role as a key source of information on the main issues relating to the functioning of judicial systems.
29. The CEPEJ should continue to act as a driving force and a pool of information for the European Day of Justice (25 October every year), which it helped institute, together with the European Commission. The aim remains to raise public awareness of judicial systems and sensitise policy-makers and legal professionals to user needs and wants. The CEPEJ must convince more member states and judicial institutions to participate actively in this event, drawing in particular on its members and on its Network of pilot courts. Transfrontier initiatives implemented within the framework of the Day should be supported in particular.
30. In the same spirit, the CEPEJ must play an active role in the organisation of the European Prize for innovative practice contributing to the quality of civil justice, the “Crystal Scales of Justice” award, so as to highlight and spread best practices – some of which could be used in the work of the CEPEJ to develop general measures. This Prize, co-organised by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, must be opened to initiatives taken both in the civil, commercial and administrative law fields and in the criminal law field.
2. MEDIUM-TERM PRIORITIES
31. Within its six first years of existence, the CEPEJ has developed essential tools and working processes offering policy makers and justice professionals in the member states concrete measures in line with the reality of the day to day functioning of justice, to improve the efficiency and quality of justice. Thus, within the framework of this medium term programme, the CEPEJ must seek to consolidate this acquis and to promote a better knowledge and use of its tools rather than to seek to further diversify its activities.
32. Therefore the CEPEJ must further develop its activities around three complementary pillars:
§ the evaluation of the functioning of justice,
§ the analysis of timeframes of proceedings and judicial time management,
§ the promotion of the quality of judicial systems and courts.
2.1 To evaluate judicial systems on a regular basis and analyse the results
33. The cycles for evaluating the functioning of justice in the 47 Council of Europe's member states is now based on a solid methodology, which has been successfully trialled and which is widely acknowledged. From a stabilized Evaluation scheme and a strengthened Explanatory note and relying on the network of national correspondents, the process can be pursued every two years. The electronic version of the questionnaire aims to facilitate the coordination of national data collection by the correspondents as well as data processing by the experts and the Secretariat.
34. The evaluation reports must further draw on statistical series in order to analyse evolutions in the justice systems of the member states and identify European trends.
35. The Guidelines on judicial statistics (GOJUST)2 must orient progressively the action of national correspondents, and even the organisation of national systems of justice statistics, so that the CEPEJ can work on homogenous data. The CEPEJ's members are urged to promote this tool and aim to enable each member state to collect data as requested in the appendix to these Guidelines as regards:
§ length of judicial proceedings (for litigious divorces, employment dismissals, robberies and intentional homicides cases),
§ case flow management (calculation of the clearance rate and the disposition time).
36. Particular attention will be given to publishing the results of the evaluation exercise so that the findings can be clearly understood and interpreted by the media and the public at large.
37. In a second phase, the CEPEJ must be able to draw on the results of the exercise to undertake an in-depth analysis. After each evaluation exercise, the CEPEJ should identify two to four issues regarding the functioning and the quality of justice so as to highlight, from the information of the report, trends and make general recommendations accordingly. This analysis and interpretation work could be given to specialised working group including researchers and academics as well as representatives of the judicial professions concerned.
38. The evaluation process must be implemented together with a peer evaluation cooperation process of judicial statistics to:
§ support the member states in improving the quality of their judicial statistics and developing their statistics system,
§ facilitate exchange of experiences between national judicial statistics systems, sharing good practices, identifying benchmarks and facilitating knowledge transfer,
§ contribute to ensure the transparency and accountability of the process.
Several evaluation visits (between two and four) including CEPEJ's experts can be organised every year.
2.2 To know the timeframes of proceedings for reaching optimum and foreseeable judicial time
39. The concrete knowledge of the timeframes of proceedings per case category in the member states' courts, as well as of the manner in which courts are able to manage case flows, is a pre-requisite to undertake reforms aimed to improve the optimisation and foreseeability of judicial timeframes.
40. The CEPEJ must ensure in the states, and in particular among the courts, the promotion of the "Checklist for judicial time management"3 and the "SATURN Guidelines for judicial time management"4 so that these principles orient effectively the working organisation of the courts.
41. The SATURN Centre for the analysis and study of judicial time management is due to evolve progressively towards a European observatory of judicial timeframes. To do so, tools for a better knowledge of timeframes should be developed, from the Guidelines and their appendix: EUGMONT. The relevance of these tools should be assessed with the Network of pilot courts and then be made accessible to a wider sample of courts in each member state. The work must aim in particular to provide relevant schemes and data on timeframes of judicial proceedings per case category in Europe. Specific softwares could be proposed to courts in order to manage the information expected by the SATURN Centre.
42. Information collected must be used to develop concrete tools enabling to improve judicial time management in courts.
43. Furthermore, the CEPEJ is invited to work with the pilot courts to test the concrete implementation of the various tools designed by the CEPEJ (guidelines, checklists), according to a protocol specifically designed with a given court – in full cooperation with the Ministry of Justice where appropriate. The CEPEJ's experts could then identify the relevant provisions in various CEPEJ's documents which could be the subject of such "in court tests".
44. The smooth functioning of justice relies on a public service which must be organised while taking fully into account court users, without challenging the fundamental principles of justice, including, first of all, the necessary independence of judges.
45. Therefore the CEPEJ must pay a specific attention to the promotion of the quality of the public service of justice and to the functioning of courts, from the "Checklist form promoting the quality of judicial systems and courts"5. It must also set up means for analysing and evaluating the work done by the courts, in particular vis-à-vis the expectations of law practitioners and court users, according to performance and efficiency criteria meeting a wide consensus.
46. While respecting the principle of the independence of justice, the CEPEJ must then:
§ improve tools, indicators and means for measuring the quality of judicial work,
§ draft concrete solutions for the policy makers and for the courts to improve the organisation of the court system, in particular as regards access to courts and the funding of courts,
§ draft concrete solutions for the policy makers and for the courts, allowing to remedy dysfunctions in the judicial activity.
3. TO SUPPORT MEMBER STATES IN THEIR JUDICIAL REFORMS
47. The CEPEJ is meant to provide technical assistance to any Council of Europe member which so request in order to improve the organisation and functioning of their justice systems. The technical support provided by the CEPEJ is based mainly on the implementation of Council of Europe instruments relating to the functioning of the judiciary and the general recommendations framed in the course of its work.
48. In addition to bilateral cooperation with member states, the activities of the CEPEJ could also be used as a catalyst for encouraging exchanges and cooperation between several member states by offering a specific appropriate framework (seminars on issues of common interest for several states, comparative studies, etc.)
49. The CEPEJ must organise its work in such a way as to retain the flexibility and responsiveness required to answer member states’ requests, in keeping with its Statute. It is for the Bureau to determine the priorities for the CEPEJ based on the resources available.