On 5 and 6 December the conference Judicial independence under threat? – organized by the Council of Europe and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung – took place in Strasbourg. Both Diego García-Sayán, the UN Special rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and our board member Ybo Buruma were present at this conference. The question regarding when and under what conditions the European Court of Human Rights will provide an effective remedy for dismissed and detained Turkish judges inspired them both to write a column.
The mere number of imprisoned Turkish judges is so intimidating, that a very special gesture is necessary if judicial independence in Turkey is 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 UN’s Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán has been particularly affected by the visible lack of action on the part of the exemplary European Court of Human Rights regarding the serious violations of human rights in Turkey. With hundreds of judges still imprisoned, organisations of lawyers destroyed and their members also in prison, it is alarming that the Court is acting as if judicial institutions and legal defence are still functioning normally.
Eind januari schoof Esther de Rooij als internationaal waarnemer aan bij een mediation tussen rechter Larysa Holnyk en haar collega’s bij de rechtbank in het Oekraïense Poltava. Zij doet namens Rechters voor Rechters verslag van deze bemiddeling.
The President of the National Board of the Polish Judges Association ‘Iustitia’ Krystian Markiewicz urges Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans to start an infringement procedure against Poland. In his opinion, the Court of Justice of the European Union should be able to evaluate the regulations concerning the disciplinary proceedings against Polish judges and the actions of the politically dependent National Council of the Judiciary. This letter is available in full on our website.
Een rechtbank die weinig tot niets zei, geen enkele vraag stelde en alle verzoeken afwees. Een herhaling van het ritueel, dat we ook de voorgaande zittingen hebben gezien. De verdachte en zijn vier advocaten kregen alle ruimte, maar er werd niets mee gedaan. Een eindbeslissing zonder dat de verdediging haar pleidooi heeft gehouden. Dit is het verslag van de laatste zittingsdag in de rechtszaak tegen de Turkse rechter Murat Arslan.
Yesterday, Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize Winner Murat Arslan, President of the Independent Turkish Judges Association YARSAV, has been convicted under charges of being member of an armed terrorist organization (namely of being active member of FETÖ/PDY) and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
The Platform for an Independent Turkish Judiciary, that assembles the four most representative associations of judges in Europe (AEAJ, EAJ, J4J and Medel), has prepared a public statement on this unlawful conviction.
Murat Arslan, de voorzitter van Yarsav, de verboden onafhankelijke Turkse rechtersvereniging zit sinds oktober 2016 in voorlopige hechtenis in afwachting van zijn proces. Op 2 november 2017 was bij de 25 ste Strafkamer van de rechtbank in Ankara de eerste zittingsdag. Inmiddels zijn we op 7 december 2018 bij de zevende zittingsdag aanbeland. Namens Rechters voor Rechters was Evert van der Molen aanwezig.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Europe (of which Judges for Judges is a member) published a letter today, remembering the situation in Turkey and the violation of basic human rights in that country, mainly with regard to the right to a fair trial and an independent judiciary.
On October 20th 2018, Judges for Judges spoke to Larysa Holnyk in Kiev. Larysa is a judge in Poltava, a Ukrainian provincial town. Currently all judges in Ukraine have to undergo a qualification-assessment. This is one of the steps in the fight against corruption which the country has committed itself to by signing the European Association Agreement. This assessment checks whether a judge meets the criteria of expertise and integrity. Larysa’s assessment coincides with the transition from her temporary appointment (5 years) into a life-long appointment. Normally this a mere formality. Assessing all judges will last many years. At least 7.000 judges are required to undergo an assessment consisting of 4 parts. Whilst Larysa is still paid a salary she is not allowed to be an active trial judge as long as she has not completed all parts of the assessment. Nevertheless she has to turn up at her office every day. Whilst there are other judges in a similar situation Larysa Holnyk’s case stands out for other reasons.
She told us the following story:
In 2014 the president of her court allocated Larysa a case concerning a potential conflict of interest. In a vote on land distribution, the Mayor of Poltava had not mentioned his family ties with the interested party. The law requires that a suspect of such a crime must appear in court in person. It did not take long before the Mayor’s representative tried to contact Larysa in an effort to settle the matter ‘amicably’. Alas, this is very common practice in Ukraine. She managed to avoid him and instead set the dates for the hearing. The defendant kept finding excuses to have the hearings postponed e.g. work related travel or sudden illness, in apparent attempts to extend the procedure beyond the statute of limitations. Once again but more emphatically, Larysa received an offer on behalf of the Mayor to settle the case out of court. This time Larysa secretly recorded the conversation on her cell phone. Not only did Larysa refuse the offer in a light-hearted tone, she also reported the Mayor and his representative for attempted bribery.