Category Archives: CIJL_ICJ

Disciplinary proceedings against Bulgarian judge Miroslava Todorova: implications for judicial independence

In a report published today, Judges for Judges and the ICJ analyze disciplinary proceedings against Bulgarian Judge Miroslava Todorova in relation to international standards on judicial independence and accountability.

On 12 July 2012, the Supreme Judicial Council of Bulgaria dismissed Judge Miroslava Todorova, at that time a judge of the Sofia City Court and Chairperson of the Bulgarian Judges Association, on the grounds that she was responsible for delays in a number of cases. Subsequently, Judges for Judges and the ICJ followed the disciplinary proceedings against Todorova and sent trial observers to Sofia on two occasions, in May 2013 and November 2014.

In their findings, the ICJ and Judges for Judges do not address whether, and if so which, disciplinary sanctions may have been appropriate in this case. They note, however, that the disciplinary proceedings concerned delays, constituting judicial misconduct, in a context where according to many internal and external observers the workload between the courts is divided unevenly and may be very high for some.

The two organizations also note that, as the second three-judge panel pointed out, the overall organization of the workflow was never properly considered in considering and reaching a determination in the disciplinary case. With the quashing of the second three-judge panel’s decision, likewise other relevant circumstances were not taken into account. Furthermore, the report finds, disciplinary practice in Bulgaria is deficient in respect of its lack of predictability and consistency, and doubts expressed by many observers as to the independence of the Judicial Service Council muddy the waters further. The 2013 amendments to the legal framework only partially served to remedy the disciplinary practice’s deficiencies. In particular, a full right of defence that includes the opportunity for the defendant to address all arguments and evidence remained wanting at the time of the Todorova proceedings.

In the report, the ICJ and Judges for Judges also note the animosity towards Todorova from certain quarters in the Executive and SJC for her activities as the chair of the BJA in defence of judicial independence. Under the circumstances, there is an appearance that the disciplinary proceedings against Todorova were instituted and pursued selectively, and the system of the disciplinary proceedings in Bulgaria does not provide sufficient safeguards to dispel this appearance.
The disciplinary proceedings against Todorova demonstrate why it is crucial that accountability mechanisms be independent not only in theory but in practice, and for such mechanisms to be in some way themselves publicly accountable.

Bulgaria-The case of Todorova-Publications-Reports-Trial observation reports (full report, in PDF).

For additional background, see:

ICJ Practitioners Guide no 13, Judicial Accountability (2016, in PDF)

and more generally:

ICJ Practitioners Guide No 1, International Principles on the Independence and Accountability of Judges, Lawyers and Prosecutors (2007, in PDF)

Who judges the judges?

Jolien Schukking (r) met Monica Pinto

Tijdens de jaarlijkse vergadering van de VN Mensenrechtenraad in Geneve organiseerde de International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), samen met de International Bar Association (IBA), ook dit jaar een weer een zogeheten Side Event, een bijeenkomst waarbij aandacht wordt gevraagd voor een bepaald thema. Het thema van de bijeenkomst op 14 juni jongstleden was ‘Who judges the judges? Accountability for judicial corruption and judicial complicity’. IMG_3329
Tijdens een panel discussie waaraan onder andere Monica Pinto, de nieuwe VN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and lawyers, en Thulani Maseko, een advocaat uit Swaziland die slachtoffer is geweest van judicial misconduct en lange tijd op arbitraire gronden gevangen heeft gezeten, deelnamen werd het thema besproken. De nadruk lag daarbij op wijze waarop en de procedures door middel waarvan dergelijk ongewenst rechterlijk gedrag kan worden aangepakt. Ook was er aandacht voor de situatie van landen in transitie, waar veelal de zittende rechterlijke macht nog nauwe banden heeft met het vorige regime. De veelheid en verscheidenheid aan vragen die door de aanwezige afgevaardigden van een groot aantal VN landen gesteld werden, gaf duidelijk aan dat dit een thema is dat leeft en dat, hoe precair ook, onze aandacht nodig heeft.
Rechters voor Rechters was een van de co-sponsors van het Side Event. Bestuurslid Jolien Schukking was hierbij aanwezig. Aan het einde van de bijeenkomst presenteerde de IBA een recent rapport Judicial Systems and Corruption en werd door Matt Pollard van het ICJ Centre for the Independence of Judges & Lawyers de ICJ Practitioners’ Guide on Judicial Accountability gelanceerd, een gids die praktisch informatie verschaft over de wijze waarop ernstig judicial misconduct zou kunnen worden bestreden en aangepakt. Deze gids kan worden gedownload via deze link.

UN statement: judicial accountability, attacks on lawyers

Judges for Judges joined a statement on June 16th delivered by the ICJ at the UN Human Rights Council, on judicial accountability, and attacks on lawyers. ICJ made the statement on behalf of a group of eight NGOs, including professional organisations of judges and lawyers.

The statement, read out by Swaziland lawyer Thulani Maseko during the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, read as follows:

Madame Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers,

Our organizations strongly support your mandate. An independent judiciary and legal profession are essential to the rule of law and to the effective protection of human rights.

Independence and impartiality of the judiciary require integrity of individual judges and judicial institutions. Accordingly, there must be accountability for judicial corruption and judicial involvement in human rights violations.

Accountability mechanisms must themselves be independent, fair and transparent, in order to ensure they do not undermine the independence of the judiciary and that victims and the broader population see them as credible and accessible.

We note in this regard the International Commission of Jurists’ newly published Practitioners’ Guide on Judicial Accountability, and the International Bar Association’s recent report on Judicial systems and Corruption.

We also must highlight the growing problem of repression of lawyers who act in cases perceived to have human rights or political aspects, including through: harassment, suspension or disbarment; arrest, detention, unfair trial, and arbitrary imprisonment; torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, enforced disappearance, or even unlawful killings.

This is inconsistent with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and incompatible with the rule of law. It violates the rights of individual lawyers and undermines the independence of the legal profession. It denies the rights of the people the lawyers are trying to protect.

Among current examples, the scale and depth of repressive measures against lawyers and HRDs in China is particularly stark, but similar concerns arise in, for instance, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. (I myself was arbitrarily imprisoned in my own country Swaziland, for publicly expressing my opinions about judicial misconduct.)icj

We accordingly will urge lawyers, legal professional associations and others around the world to respond to the questionnaire you have prepared for your upcoming General Assembly report on the legal profession.

I thank you.

Continue reading UN statement: judicial accountability, attacks on lawyers

UN Statement: indicators of independence of justice systems

Judges for Judges today joined a statement delivered by the International Bar Association on indicators of independence of justice systems. The statement ibahricame during the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

It read as follows:

As international organisations of legal professionals, we endorse the recommendation made by the Special Rapporteur to develop a set of international indicators to assess the independence of justice systems.

The Special Rapporteur has previously stated: ‘No ideal justice system exists; rather, there are universal principles that must be respected in the structure and functioning of any judicial system, so that it can duly fulfil its purpose’. (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, (2014) UN Doc A/69/294, para 92.)

Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16 – that is, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions – will require respect for the universal principles of independence and impartiality of justice systems and the independence of the legal profession.

In 2015, the International Bar Association (IBA) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) proposed two indicators under SDG16, regarding the independence of the judiciary and an independent and self-governing legal profession. The IBA is currently developing ‘indicia of independence’ that can be used to assess the state of independence of the legal profession in a given jurisdiction. The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) continue to monitor judicial and legal independence through the Commonwealth Latimer House Working Group.

We therefore, Madam Special Rapporteur, fully support your endeavour to develop universal indicators that complete the UN Rule of Law Indicators, and build on the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors.

We further call upon States to ensure that national targets and indicators duly align with international indicators and international principles.

Thank you, Mr President

Continue reading UN Statement: indicators of independence of justice systems

Russian Federation: judges in Chechnya must be protected from pressure

icjThe ICJ is concerned at the reported resignations of federal judges in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation following apparent pressure by the acting Head of the Republic Ramzan Kadyrov who had suggested that resignation would be the “most correct decision of their lives”.

The ICJ considers these statements, which appear to have led directly to the resignations of federal judges, to be inappropriate interference with the functioning and independence of the judiciary.

The ICJ calls on the Russian Federation judicial authorities to take all measures within their power to ensure that all judges’ security of tenure is preserved and that any allegations of misconduct are addressed through appropriate disciplinary proceedings that respect the right to a fair hearing.

The ICJ further calls on the executive authorities to refrain from any comments which may undermine the independence of the judiciary.

On 5 May, Ramzan Kadyrov, currently acting Head of the Chechen Republic, recommended that several named judges should step down.

In his post on social media, Kadyrov identified as problems unfair decisions of courts, procrastination in criminal cases, decisions regarding housing and inconsistent decisions.

He mentioned that although examples of such decisions were sporadic, they did not help build trust in the judiciary.Vlag Rusland

He then recommended that the President of the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic, Magomed Karatayev, and three other judges, Takhir Murdalov, Sulyan Yandarov and Zayndi Khusainov, should resign “if they had a notion of honour and professional ethics”.

It was reported that two judges of the Urus-Martan City Court and Grozny District Court, Sulyan Yandarov and Zayndi Khusainov, submitted their resignations on the same day.

The President of the Supreme Court of Chechnya, Magomed Karatayev, and his deputy Takhir Murdalov, are reported to have already filed a request for resignation.

The resignations, apparently in direct response to criticism by the executive, undermine the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in the Russian Federation.
Continue reading Russian Federation: judges in Chechnya must be protected from pressure

Guatemala: la CIJ exige pronta investigación de las amenazas contra el Juez Miguel Ángel Gálvez

icjEn los días pasados, el juez Miguel Ángel Gálvez ha sido víctima de amenazas que pretenden intimidarlo en su función de administración de la justicia.

La CIJ expresa su repudio ante cualquier tipo de presión en contra de operadores de justicia independientes y honestos.

Estas presiones no solamente amenazan la integridad física del juez Gálvez, sino también el trabajo valioso que realiza administrando justicia en casos de alto impacto.

Según los Principios Básicos de las Naciones Unidas Relativos a la Independencia de la Judicatura, no se permitirán intromisiones indebidas o injustificadas en los procesos judiciales.

Es esencial que los jueces puedan resolver los casos que conozcan con imparcialidad y sin restricción alguna.Vlag Guatemala

La CIJ demanda que el Estado investigue estos actos intimidatorios y tome medidas efectivas de protección, para garantizar la seguridad física del juez Miguel Ángel Gálvez.

Ramón Cadena, Director de la CIJ para Centroamérica expresó: “Urgimos a las autoridades del Estado y en particular al Organismo Judicial a tomar medidas adecuadas para evitar que las y los jueces independientes resulten afectados por este tipo de intimidaciones y que se respete la integridad física y la independencia del juez Miguel Ángel Galvez.”



The latest from Lesotho

LesothoThe situation in Lesotho, a tiny nation in South Africa, was drawn to the attention of Judges for Judges by Lawyers for Lawyers. It appears that in Lesotho a ‘hit list’ is in circulation, mentioning the names of lawyers that initiate procedures the army doesn’t like. These procedures concern for instance the legal aid of military personnel that is being detained for unclear reasons. Indeed, one of these lawyers has been murdered.
We investigated this situation using the network Judges for Judges has at its disposal in South Africa. Thus we learned that in Lesotho the judicial independence is also under a heavy pressure. For instance the presiding judge of the Court of appeal has been deposed. He is being prosecuted, allegedly for tax evasion. However the proceedings are obviously politically inspired.
We assured the Chief Justice of Lesotho of our support, wherever and whenever needed or wished for. This offer was thankfully accepted.
Possibly a ‘fact finding mission’ will follow later this year, in which Judges for Judges will participate. Furthermore the possibility is being considered to observe the legal proceedings, if the case of the presiding judge of the Court of appeal will be judged in appeal.
In cooperation with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) we continue to closely watch the developments.

Nieuws uit Lesotho

LesothoRechters voor Rechters werd door Advocaten voor Advocaten geattendeerd op de situatie in Lesotho, een mini staatje in Zuid-Afrika. Daar circuleert een “hitlist” met advocaten die het leger onwelgevallige procedures voeren. Het gaat dan bijvoorbeeld om het bijstaan van militairen die om onduidelijke redenen worden vastgezet. Een van die advocaten is ook daadwerkelijk vermoord.
We hebben de situatie onderzocht via het netwerk dat Rechters voor Rechters heeft in Zuid-Afrika. We vernamen toen dat ook de rechterlijke onafhankelijkheid zwaar onder druk staat in Lesotho. De president van het Hof is bijvoorbeeld afgezet en vervolgd, zogenaamd vanwege belastingtechnische redenen. Overduidelijk is dat dit een politieke actie is.
Wij hebben de Chief Justice van Lesotho laten weten dat wij steun verlenen waar en wanneer dat nodig en opportuun mocht blijken. Daar is met dank op gereageerd. Mogelijk volgt er dit jaar een factfinding mission waar Rechters voor rechters aan deelneemt. En daarnaast wordt de mogelijkheid van proceswaarneming overwogen als de zaak van de president van het Hof in appel wordt behandeld.
In samenwerking met het Zuid-Afrikaanse Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) en de International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) houden wij de situatie nauwlettend in de gaten.

Informele bijeenkomst Special Rapporteur Monica Pinto en NGO-supportgroup

Evert van der Molen overhandigt exemplaar Matters of Principle aan Monica Pinto
Evert van der Molen overhandigt exemplaar Matters of Principle aan Monica Pinto

Op uitnodiging van Monica Pinto, de speciale rapporteur voor de onafhankelijkheid van rechters en advocaten bij de Verenigde Naties, vond op 16 september 2015, eveneens in Genève, een informele bijeenkomst plaats waarvoor NGO’s als International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L), the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Human Right Watch (HRW)) en ook Rechters voor Rechters (RR) waren uitgenodigd. In totaal waren vertegenwoordigers van zo’n 15 NGO’s aanwezig. RR werd vertegenwoordigd door bestuurslid Evert van der Molen.

Monica Pinto vertelde in haar openingswoord dat zij erg is ingenomen met de hoge opkomst en dat zij graag ideeën zou vernemen over de thema’s die de komende tijd prioriteit moeten krijgen. Dat leverde een staalkaart van suggesties op. Om er enkele te noemen Continue reading Informele bijeenkomst Special Rapporteur Monica Pinto en NGO-supportgroup

25/30 jaar Basic Principles on the Independence van rechters en advocaten

20150915_Side Event UNRechters voor rechters bij bijeenkomst Genève op 15 september 2015 ter gelegenheid van 25/30 jaar Basic Principles on the Independence van rechters en advocaten

Op uitnodiging van de International Bar Association’s Human Right Institute (IBAHRI) en de International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) werd op dinsdag 15 september 2015 met een bijeenkomst in het Palais de Nations in Geneve de 25/30 ste verjaardag gemarkeerd van de Basic Pinciples. Namens Rechters voor Rechters was bestuurslid Evert van der Molen hierbij aanwezig. De bijeenkomst was een “side-event” van de Mensenrechtenraad.

Inleidingen werden verzorgd door onder meer Monica Pinto, de kersverse Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges en lawyers, Anne Ramberg, secretaris generaal van de Zweedse balie, Irene Patras, uitvoerend directeur van de Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights en Nazir Afzal, een gepensioneerd procureur generaal uit Groot Brittannië. Continue reading 25/30 jaar Basic Principles on the Independence van rechters en advocaten