Council of Europe Conferences of Ministers of Justice

20th Conference of European Ministers of Justice

11-12 June 1996, Budapest (Hungary)

Resolution No 1 on measures to ensure the fairness and efficiency of justice and, in particular, to reduce undue delays

1. The Ministers participating in the 20th Conference of European Ministers of Justice (Budapest, 1996);
2. Having examined the report submitted by the Hungarian Minister of Justice on efficiency and fairness of civil, criminal and administrative justice;
3. Having also examined the co-reports of the Ministers of Justice of the Czech Republic and Malta;
4. Bearing in mind the instruments drawn up within the Council of Europe, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments, to promote the fairness and efficiency of justice;
5. Having regard to the fact that until now the work of the Council of Europe has, in this field, concerned essentially the fairness of justice;
6. Noting that delays in proceedings are currently a serious problem in many countries and may make these proceedings unfair;
7. Recognising that the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time, guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, holds a prominent place in democratic societies;
8. Concerned by the increase in the number of cases concerning  this Article concerning "a reasonable time" and by the violations found by the Convention organs;
9. Convinced of the need to take appropriate measures to ensure that cases are processed within a reasonable time as "justice delayed is justice denied";
10. Recognising the desirability of identifying cost effective measures to speed up justice, without however endangering the other guarantees of a fair trial;
11. Considering that governments should adopt strategies to identify and to resolve problems relating to undue delay, in association with the participants in the proceedings;
12. Mindful of the importance of improving international co-operation in order to assist States to promote the fairness and efficiency of justice;
13. AGREE on the importance of adopting measures to promote fairness and efficiency of justice, in compliance with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the other international instruments prepared within the Council of Europe;
14. RECOMMEND that the Committee of Ministers instruct the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) and the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) to continue their efforts to improve the fairness and efficiency of justice and, in particular, to make proposals to increase the efficiency of justice. To that end the Committee of Ministers is invited to request the CDCJ and the CDPC:
a. to draw up, on the basis of information provided by member States, a survey of recent or proposed legislative and other measures in these States to increase the efficiency of justice,
b. to identify the principal reasons for undue delays in civil, criminal and administrative proceedings  and to consider the costs for the parties and for the State, having regard, in particular, to the case law of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights,
c. to propose cost effective measures which could be adapted to the different legal systems in order to increase the efficiency of justice while respecting the need to ensure its fairness and facilitating access to justice,
d. to study whether the introduction of measures aimed at controlling the length of proceedings before courts and other bodies might be conducive to  reducing the length of such proceedings and, if so, what form  these measures should take.  In considering these questions, regard should be had to the paramount duty of doing justice in proceedings, and to the need to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms;
e. to review the existing legal instruments prepared within the Council of Europe and to make, if appropriate, any relevant proposals with a view to improving the efficiency and fairness of justice,
15. RECOMMEND that the Committee of Ministers invite the CDCJ and the CDPC to report back to a  later  Conference of European Ministers of Justice on cost effective measures taken by member States with a view to increasing the efficiency of justice,
16. RECOMMEND that the Committee of Ministers take the necessary steps further to enhance co-operation with countries of Central and Eastern Europe to promote the consolidation and effective implementation of the standards and principles which it has established concerning the fairness and effeciency of justice in civil, criminal and administrative matters.