Background and mission
The Council of Europe attaches great importance to the status of judges and the quality of the justice system because of the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms – which are key values for the Organisation – depend for their implementation on a strong and independent judiciary. The CCJE may be requested by member States to look into specific problems concerning the status and/or the situation of judges. It addresses topical issues and, if necessary, visits the countries concerned to discuss the ways of improving the existing situation through developing legislation, institutional framework and/or judicial practice.
In this context, the Council of Europe is concerned both with strengthening the judiciary in its member States, with the aim of ensuring mutual respect between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, and to give European citizens increased confidence in the justice system.
It was in the light of these two objectives that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe set up the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) in 2000.
The CCJE, consultative body concerning independence, impartiality and competence of judges, highlights the essential role of the judicial power in a democratic society. The CCJE is the first body in an international organisation composed exclusively of judges and constitutes therefore a unique body at the European level.
In accordance with the pilot survey of intergovernmental steering and ad hoc committees (document GT-REF.INST(2009)1 final), CCJE opinions have been useful for the purposes of drafting national regulations and legislation, are often used as tools for the functioning and/or administration of justice and for the organisation of the work of the legal professions and are useful for national professionals and in particular for judges and judicial service commissions, in view of the fact that CCJE opinions contain concrete specifications concerning the implementation of general standards (independence of judges, training of judges, ethics, quality of decisions, etc.)
On 20 November 2009, the Fundation Justice in the World (under the patronage of the International Association of Judges) awarded the CCJE with the Prize "Justice in the World" for the excellent quality of its work and the commitment of its members.
All member States may be represented. Members should be chosen in contact, where such authorities exist, with the national authorities responsible for ensuring the independence and impartiality of judges and with the national administration responsible for managing the judiciary, from among serving judges having a thorough knowledge of questions relating to the functioning of the judicial system combined with utmost personal integrity.
The General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union is also invited to participate in the activities of the CCJE.
The following may send a representative without the right to vote and at the charge of their corresponding administrative budgets:
- European Court of Human Rights;
- Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE);
- European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ);
- European Committee of Legal Co-operation (CDCJ);
- European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC);
- other Committees or bodies of the Council of Europe engaged in related work, as appropriate.
The following may send a representative without the right to vote and without defrayal of expenses:
- European Union;
- Observer States to the Council of Europe: Canada, Holy See, Japan, Mexico, United States of America.
- Observer State to the CCJE: Kazakhstan.
The following observers to the CCJE may send a representative to attend the CCJE meetings:
- the European Association of Judges (EAJ);
- the association "Magistrats européens pour la démocratie et les libertés" (MEDEL);
- the Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ;
- the European Association of Judges for Mediation (GEMME);
- the European Judicial Training Network (ENJT);
- the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ);
- the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE).
The right to an independent and impartial court was laid down clearly in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The work of the CCJE is set in the context of the implementation of this right, with the aim of strengthening the rule of law and the effective protection of human rights in democratic States.
- Extract from the terms of reference of the CCJE for 2020 and 2021 :
(i) As a consultative body composed exclusively of serving judges (unique in this way at European level), representing a direct and privileged interlocutor of judges in member States, tasked with fostering the independence, impartiality and competence of judges, and having regard to Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)12 on judges: independence, efficiency and responsibilities, the CCJE shall:
(i) advise the Committee of Ministers on issues regarding the status of judges and the exercise of their functions and prepare and adopt opinions for the attention of the Committee of Ministers on these issues. While doing so, it shall take into consideration the Council of Europe Plan of Action on strengthening judicial independence and impartiality, the Reports by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe and the evolving case law of the European Court of Human Rights;
(ii) hold an exchange of views annually in order to evaluate its activities and advise the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General on future priorities in its sector, including possible new activities and those that might be discontinued;
(iii) take due account of a gender perspective in the performance of its tasks;
(iv) contribute to the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular with regards to Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong institutions.
(i) Prepare and adopt at least two opinions for the attention of the Committee of Ministers on important issues as decided by the plenary meeting regarding the status of judges and the exercise of their functions in an independent and impartial manner.
(ii) In accordance with the Council of Europe Plan of Action on strengthening judicial independence and impartiality of 2017, taking into account the Reports by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe, and ensuring proper co-ordination with the CCPE and the CEPEJ, draft and publish in 2021 a biennial descriptive report focused on judicial independence and impartiality in member States of the Council of Europe, relying on information received in particular from the CCJE members and on judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, opinions of the Venice Commission, reports of the Human Rights Commissioner, of the Parliamentary Assembly and, where appropriate, of GRECO and other bodies; this report will not contain ratings or rankings of member States’ performance and will not constitute a monitoring mechanism.
(iii) Provide targeted co-operation and expert advice at the request of member States, CCJE members, judicial bodies or relevant associations of judges, to enable States to comply with Council of Europe standards concerning judges.
(iv) Prepare texts or opinions concerning the specific situation of judges at the request of the Committee of Ministers or other bodies of the Council of Europe, such as the Secretary General or the Parliamentary Assembly.
(v) Encourage partnerships in the judicial field involving courts, judges and judges’ associations.
(vi) Review progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), as evidenced by monitoring mechanisms and promoted through standard-setting and exchange of experiences and good practices.
Conferences and other events