22nd Conference of European Ministers of Justice

17-18 June 1999, Chişinău (Moldova)

Resolution No 1 on measures to reinforce the independence and impartiality of judges in Europe

THE MINISTERS participating in the 22nd Conference of European Ministers of Justice (Chişinău, 1999),
Having discussed the topic of the independence and impartiality of judges on the basis of the report presented by the Lord Chancellor (United Kingdom) and the co-reports presented by the German and Moldovan Ministers of Justice and the other information presented during the Conference;
Having regard to the individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and in particular Article 6 thereof which provides that “everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law”;
Bearing in mind the legal instruments of the Council of Europe in the field of justice, in particular Recommendation No. R (94) 12 on the independence, efficiency and role of judges;
Recalling the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary;
Drawing attention to the importance of the commitments entered into by Council of Europe member states concerning the functioning of the judicial system;
Bearing in mind also the conclusions made within the framework of the co-operation programmes in the legal field (Demo-droit, Themis, Activities for the development and consolidation of democratic stability (ADACS)), in particular the joint programmes with the European Union;
Welcoming the considerable progress already made over the past ten years in Central and Eastern Europe with regard to judicial reform and the independence and impartiality of judges;
Aware that in its report sent to the Committee of Ministers in November 1998 the Committee of Wise Persons stated in its main recommendation No 23 (see also paragraph 72 of the report) that the Council of Europe’s “direct co-operation with national institutions of the judiciary should be reinforced, having regard to the principle of independence of judiciary power and to existing judicial bodies’ own status within their states”;
Having regard to the decisions of the Committee of Ministers made in the light of the results of the monitoring procedure of the commitments entered into by member States in the field of justice;
Taking into consideration the essential role of an independent and impartial judge as the guardian of the individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights;
Convinced that judges should respect ethical criteria in their professional activity;
Aware of the need to reinforce the independence, impartiality, professional and ethical standards and competence of judges in Europe in order to ensure the proper administration of justice and respect for the Rule of law;
Conscious that a properly functioning judicial system is a prerequisite for economic development;
Pointing out that a fair and impartial judicial system plays a key role in the fight against organised crime and corruption in contemporary society;
Convinced of the need to guarantee judges the vital prerequisites for performing their duties, including appropriate training and the resources necessary to discharge their responsibilities;
AGREE that judicial independence can be achieved only if the legislature, the executive and the judiciary have respect for one another;
RESOLVE anew to take all necessary measures to respect, protect and promote the independence of judges in their own countries;
INVITE THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS:
I. to step up the Council of Europe’s action to promote the fundamental standards of justice necessary in a State founded on the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law and to allocate the resources which are indispensable in order to carry out the various programmes of activities in this area so as to provide support for the necessary reforms.
II.         to this end, to adopt a global action programme for the strengthening of the role of judges in Europe, to be prepared by the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) and the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) in consultation with judges, taking into account the Council of Europe’s acquis in this field and aiming in particular at:
a. identifying the priority areas as regards the independence, the impartiality and also the competence of judges in member States and applicant States both at a legislative and an institutional level;
b. proposing activities aimed at strengthening the independence, the impartiality and the competence of judges;
c. proposing ways of holding consultations with judges on measures to be taken with a view to improving the functioning of justice;
d. promoting programmes to improve the functioning and effectiveness of justice by providing appropriate training of judges, including arrangements with a view to acquiring experience in other European jurisdictions;
III. to set up within the Council of Europe a consultative group composed of judges to assist in carrying out the priorities identified in the global action programme for the strengthening of the role of judges in Europe and to advise the steering committees on whether it is necessary to update the legal instruments of the Council of Europe and if so how;
IV. to instruct the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) and the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) to report to a future Conference of European Ministers of Justice on the independence, impartiality and competence of judges in Europe;
V. to continue the organisation of regular meetings for judges in European countries and in particular:
a. multilateral meetings of Presidents of Supreme Courts;
b. meetings of the Lisbon Network (on training for judges in Europe);
c. meetings of judges’ Associations.