The mere number of imprisoned Turkishjudges is so intimidating, that a very special gesture is necessary if judicial independence in Turkeyis to be protected. Would it not be preferable to deal with the cases in Strasbourg even before all the domestic remedies have been exhausted? Judges for Judges board member Ybo Buruma has the impression that the European Court of Human Rights does not wish to follow this line of reasoning.
The 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.
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.
A new ICJ report concludes that a comprehensive reform of the system judicial appointments and promotions, as well as of other aspects of the judicial system, is essential to ensure that the judiciary in Russia is independent and able to be an effective guardian of the Rule of Law.
Following a mission to the Russian Federation, the report examines issues of judicial selection, the appointment and promotion of judges, considers the institutional, procedural and practical aspects of judicial appointments and promotions.
The Supreme Court and the High Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation merger and a process of re-appointment of judges to the new Supreme Court, which was highly relevant to the mission’s more general concern with judicial appointments, are addressed in the report.
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Justice Moses Chinhengo (ICJ Commissioner) and Lloyd Kuveya (ICJ Legal Advisor) paid a fleeting visit to the Netherlands between 4-6 June 2014 to follow a programme prepared by Judges for Judges at the request of and together with Zimbabwe Watch.
Commissioner Jolien Schukking writes about the ICJ mission to Russia and her involvement in the selection, appointment and promotion of judges.
Werner Stemker Köster writes about the judicial developments in ‘his’ Slovakia.
Finally, Janneke Bockwinkel, our trial-observer in Bulgaria, sketches the input of Judges for Judges during the visit by a group of Bulgarian judges to the Netherlands. It was organised by Judges for Judges to discuss a ‘twinning’ project.
‘We zetten ons al schrap en hielden onze adem in, maar dat bleek tot onze verrassing helemaal niet nodig’ aldus de twee leden van de Zimbabwaanse delegatie van de International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) toen mede-bestuurslid Evert van der Molen de deur naar de cellengang openzwaaide tijdens een rondleiding in ‘zijn’ gerechtsgebouw De Appelaar in Haarlem.
In deze nieuwsbrief treft u daarom in het kader van andere internationale uitwisselingen wat leesvoer voor ’n lome middag in de tuin dan wel voor ‘n zwoele zomeravond op het terras.
Onze blik is ditmaal voornamelijk naar het oosten gericht.
Bestuurslid Jolien Schukking schrijft over haar deelname aan een ICJ-missie naar Rusland rond het thema Selectie, Benoeming en Promotie van Rechters. Werner Stemker Köster – jawel de collega waar op onze bijeenkomst van 26 maart 2014 [www] oud-ambassadeur (thans directeur Europa) Daphne Bergsma zo enthousiast over sprak – schrijft over de ontwikkelingen in de rechterlijke macht in ‘zijn’ Slowakije [www]. Ten slotte schetst Janneke Bockwinkel (onze trial-watcher in Bulgarije [www]) de inbreng van Rechters voor Rechters bij het bezoek in juni van een groep Bulgaarse rechters aan Nederland in het kader van een twinningproject georganiseerd door de NVvR.
Zo beschrijft Justice Chinengo in dat kader een trial observation waarbij het groepje uit verschillende Afrikaanse landen afkomstige gezaghebbende rechters van ’s ochtends vroeg tot het einde van de zittingsdag inclusief lunch en alle theepauzes de rechters in (Afrikaanse) solidariteit heeft ‘begeleid’ . Dit opdat de betrokken rechters weten dat er met ze wordt meegekeken en dat zij zich realiseren dat ‘they have to do, what they have to do’, rechtspreken dus en niets anders. En geldt dat eigenlijk ook niet voor ons allen.
Statement on judiciary in Russian Federation, and individual cases in Venezuela and Swaziland
The ICJ today made an oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council, in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, responding to her report on her visit to the Russian Federation.
The statement also highlighted the case of reprisals against judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni from Venezuela, and the arbitrary detention and unfair trial of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and journalist Bheki Makhubu in Swaziland.
The statement affirmed that although some progress has been made in legal and institutional reforms to develop an independent and impartial judiciary in Russia, advances remain extremely fragile and are threatened by retrogressive legislative measures, by corruption and by undue influence.
The greatest obstacle is a pervasive mind-set amongst judges who see themselves as executive officials rather than as exercising an autonomous judicial role.
The statement discussed improper influence in selection, appointments and removals of judges in Russia.
It also stressed concerns around the merger of the Supreme Court and High Arbitration Court into a new unified Supreme Court for the Russian Federation.
The ICJ also highlighted the case of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni from Venzuela, emblematic of a wider crisis for the rule of law in Venezuela.
After a lengthy period of arbitrary detention in which she was subjected to gross abuses, she remains enmeshed in a seemingly endless criminal procedure.
She was targeted solely for having duly performed her functions as a judge, after she ended a detention that had been recognised as arbitrary by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The statement also thanked the Special Rapporteur for her press release, issued jointly with three other special procedures on 12 June, about human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and journalist Bheki Makhubu, who are under arbitrary detention and unfair trial in Swaziland.
The representatives of Venezuela interrupted the ICJ statement, invoking a point of order.
In her closing comments, the Special Rapporteur reiterated her concerns about the case of Judge Afiuni, calling once again for all charges against her to be dropped and for her to be reinstated.
The ICJ June 2014 report on the rule of law in Venezuela is available here.
A 2012 ICJ report on disciplinary procedures applicable to judges in Russia is available here.
The ICJ today expressed grave concern over the shooting of a Supreme Court judge of Dagestan and his son.
The ICJ calls on the federal and local authorities to ensure prompt, independent, impartial and thorough investigation of the shooting of Judge Mukhtar Shapiyev (photo) and his son.
Those reasonably suspected of responsibility for this crime should be identified and brought to justice in fair and transparent proceedings, where the rights of all the parties, including the victims and the accused are respected.
The ICJ today published its recommendations on a draft law introducing changes to the disciplinary system for judges in the Russian Federation.
The ICJ considers that the Draft Law amending Articles 12-1, 14 and 15 of the Law of the Russian Federation “On the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation” includes a number of positive amendments. Nevertheless, the ICJ regrets that this opportunity has not been taken to introduce more comprehensive reforming legislation, to address the institutional, substantive and procedural weaknesses in the disciplinary system that allow for abuse and facilitate arbitrariness and inconsistency in the application of disciplinary sanctions against judges.
The report raised concern at the unusually high rate of dismissals of judges in the Russian Federation.
It found that vagueness of the grounds for disciplinary action, lack of consistency in application, and the potential for manipulation of the process by court presidents and others, allows for potentially abusive, application of disciplinary sanctions.
This situation has significant consequences for judicial independence.
The ICJ welcomes the recent submission by the Government of a draft law on the judicial disciplinary system to the State Duma, which introduces some important reforms, in particular by establishing for the first time a limitation period for disciplinary action against judges, a problem identified in the Report.
In a report published today, the ICJ calls for comprehensive reforms of the disciplinary system for judges in Russia as a means to ensure an independent judiciary that is an effective guardian of the rule of law.
The ICJ report Securing Justice: the Disciplinary System for Judges in the Russian Federation focuses on disciplinary action against judges, in particular on dismissals.
It considers how dismissals and the disciplinary system affect the independence of judges, which is essential to the Rule of Law and the right to a fair trial.
An unusually high number of judges are dismissed each year in the Russian Federation, the report says.