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The International Union of Judicial Officers published 4 studies on the impact of COVID-19 on the functioning of judicial services in Europe and beyond :
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Dear members of the judiciary,

Due to the particular circumstances linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have imposed emergency measures on its population such as self-isolation and restriction of movement and assembly, which are also directly affecting the functioning of their respective judicial systems. The courts are facing numerous challenges to remain operational due to lack of personnel, hearings are being cancelled, and access to justice is temporarily limited.

The CEPEJ has set up this blog in order to allow sharing and comparing CEPEJ member countries' experiences and practices in the emergency organisation of courts' operations, especially as it is an ongoing and unprecedented situation, as this blog is aimed to allow the affected countries to better design measures and adequately address the increasing challenges.

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Jacques BUEHLER
Coronavirus : Jusqu'à nouvel avis, le Tribunal fédéral suisse (Cour suprême de la Suisse) comme l'ensemble des tribunaux de la Confédération helvétique concentre son activité sur les tâches prioritaires et fonctionne avec un effectif en personnel réduit. La protection juridique pour les affaires urgentes (notamment en lien avec les détentions, la protection de l'adulte et de l'enfant et les mesures provisionnelles) est garantie sans restriction.
Le Tribunal fédéral suisse suspend, dans un premier temps, du 19 mars au 19 avril 2020, les délais fixés par le Tribunal fédéral dans ses procédures en cours (p. ex. ceux fixés pour le dépôt d'une détermination ou le versement d'avances de frais).
Jacques Bühler, délégué de la Suisse au sein de la CEPEJ et secrétaire général suppléant du Tribunal fédéral
Posted on 23/03/20 13:35.
Annette SATTEL
Commment on behalf of Narine Avagyan, Civil Court of Appeal of the Republic of Armenia:

With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading all over the world and the lockdowns everywhere courts are faced with new challenges. Although in the Republic of Armenia the Government has declared a state of emergency, the courts continue to function during the state of emergency which is stipulated by the law.
At the Civil Court of Appeal of the Republic of Armenia most of the cases are carried out through written procedure, however we had a case that in no way it could be realized through written procedure (child care case). So the Chair of the Court of Appeal Mr. Arsen Mkrtchyan came up with idea to do the hearing via long distance using communication means. We established necessary equipment (notebook, camera, projector) and for the first time in the history of Armenian judicial practice the hearing was carried out via long distance. The opportunity to carry on hearings via long distance is stipulated in the Civil Procedure Code. According to article 145 of the Code the parties can file a justified motion to participate in a hearing via long distance if there is an equipment for long distance hearing at the courtroom.
All the other courts are being distributed with the necessary equipment so hopefully long distance hearings will become an indispensable tool in prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Posted on 24/03/20 12:18.
Strojin GREGOR
SLOVENIA - INFO ON CURRENT MEASURES

President of the Supreme Court issued a decree on March 13 on the basis of a proposal by the Minister of Justice - invoking special measures which can be used in cases of natural disasters.and large epidemics, applicable to all courts.

Currently, only essential court staff is working in court buildings. Judges and other personnel, except for urgent cases, are to work from home or to wait at home (depending on the nature of their work).

New emergency legislation regulating this even further is in preparation, as well as a new decree of the President of the Supreme Court which will be based on the new legislation. We expect the new law and order to further limit the scope of urgent cases, address the issues relating to deadlines, as well as to allow/promote receiving claims and other documents via electronic means and to encourage the use of videoconferencing in main hearings.

At work, the courts are facing challenges regarding paper exchange of documents (parties and other bodies), keeping the distance between individuals and other precautions for main hearings (including transport of offenders) and handling the claims regarding security measures (i.e. child custody).

Channels for communication and exchange of documents allowing work from home are being implemented (e.g., remote desktop access, secure exchange of large files, etc.).

Summary of the (current) decree (as of March 13):

- main hearings will only be held and decisions will only be taken in urgent matters (what is urgent matter is established in laws, with the new law giving the President of the Supreme Court the power to further limit certain urgent procedures)

- urgent matters:
- investigations and trials in criminal matters, where the offender is detained and regarding foreigners non living in the country
- security matters (ie. securing evidence, withholding the payment, execution of forbidding of certain actions)
- civil enforcements regarding child custody and alimony
- non-contentious maters regarding detention in psychiatric establishments
- promissory note and cheque claims and protest (note: will most likely be changed to non-urgent)
- claims regarding publishing of correct information (note: will most likely be changed to non-urgent)
- compiling list of deceased's assets (except when cause of death is COVID-19 or unknown) (note: will most likely be changed to non-urgent)
- insolvency cases (except public auctions and other tasks that require personal contacts)

- all other main hearings are cancelled
- except in the above urgent matters, procedural deadlines do not count, and new court writings are not sent
- except in the above urgent matters, parties, attorneys and other people cannot enter court buildings, can file their claims electronically or by post, and use telephone and e-mail to communicate with courts
- in urgent matters, attendees must notice their coming to court by phone or mail in advance
- presence of media on main hearings in urgent matters is limited (but not excluded)
- courts set one entry point in the building, where preventive measures regarding COVID-19 are taken
- persons with detectable infections of respiratory tract (e.g. coughing, sneezing...) are not allowed in the building
Posted on 24/03/20 13:31.
Annette SATTEL
Comments transmitted by Georg Stawa, Austrian Federal Ministry of Justice, Counsellor for the Western Balkans

MEASURES ON COVID-19
I am aware that the precautionary and preventive measures demand a lot of effort from the judicial staff and that the current situation is reason for increased attention. Therefore, I would like to thank all of the staff for their level-headed and professional handling and excellent cooperation. Last but not least, the handling also shows the great sense of responsibility of the judiciary for our society.
On Monday, March 16, 2020, an ordinance by the Justice Minister to amend the rules of procedure for the courts of first and second instance came into force. You can find these below.
The following preventive measures should apply until April 13, 2020:
• The general opening hours in the courts expire. The movement of parties is limited to their elementary procedural rights, guaranteed by the procedural codes. This includes, in particular, the inspection of files and the possibility of submitting applications and other submissions to the court on time.
• The official acts required for the granting of procedural and party rights can only be made by prior notification by telephone and should be done by telephone or email if possible.
• The “office day” must also take place without exception by telephone and must limit itself to urgent matters if possible.
• The entry points remain open during the court's official hours to ensure that written submissions are ensured.
• In criminal matters, hearings with the exception of detention and other procedures that cannot be postponed can be cancelled ex officio in accordance with Section 226 (1) (2) or (4) StPO . As far as hearings take place, the public can be excluded in accordance with Section 229 (1) 1 StPO.
• Even in civil matters, oral hearings should only be held to the extent that it is absolutely necessary to maintain orderly administration of justice. It should also be checked whether already scheduled hearings can be cancelled.

Other measures to protect staff:
All staff whose presence is not essential to maintain legal activity at a minimum is required to work from home.
In addition, the core or block time regulations for key employees who have to provide on-site service are to be dropped in order to be able to guarantee the greatest possible flexibility in the organization of working hours with regard to any childcare obligations. Constructional measures are to be taken to ensure that the risk of infection is minimized in tight spatial situations. This can be done, for example, by using plexiglass.
Citizens are requested to contact the local court personally only in urgent cases. Apparent unspecific general symptoms must be checked as part of access controls.
Planned events as part of the further and advanced training are temporarily canceled or postponed.
Hygienical measures have to be applied at highest attend!
Dr. Alma Zadić, LL.M.
AT-Minister of Justice
Attachments:
Introductory decree to deal with the current corona pandemic (SARSCoV-2) (456 KB, as of March 13, 2020):https://rm.coe.int/order-covid19-en-austria/16809d72fa
Changes to the rules of procedure for the courts of first and second instance (385 KB, as of 13.03.2020):https://rm.coe.int/it-precautions-en-austria/16809d6e68
Posted on 26/03/20 09:56.
Jelena VASILIONOKIENĖ
Comment by the correspondent from National Courts Administration of Lithuania:
Regarding the exercise of judicial functions during the quarantine period
In accordance to the resolution No. 207 "On the announcement of quarantine on the territory of the Republic of Lithuania" published by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, which announced the third level (full preparedness) of the civil protection system in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania, the Judicial Council of the Republic of Lithuania recommends that the Lithuanian judicial authorities make following decisions regarding the organization of their court activities during the quarantine period:
1. Determine that, with the exceptions specified, the functions of judges in the administration of justice shall be exercised as follows:
1.1. Cancel all scheduled hearings in oral procedure during quarantine, except in cases of statutory urgency (for example, issues related to arrest, removal of a child from an unsafe environment). Schedule (postpone) hearings in oral proceedings until the end of quarantine. Ensure that those involved in the case are promptly informed of changes to the date and time of court hearings;
1.2. In urgent cases, organize oral hearings in the manner and time prescribed, taking all precautionary measures relating to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, while maintaining a maximum distance between the participants in the courtroom. Provide one courtroom (or several if needed), for emergency hearings, provide regular ventilation and disinfection of this courtroom;
1.3. Determine the procedure for the organization of court hearings in the collegial written procedure and for making procedural decisions;
1.4. Determine the procedure for the organization of court hearings in collegial written procedure cases, i.e. provide for the time and periodicity of the presence of the chambers in the court premises, ensure maximum social distance between the members of the individual judicial panels;
1.5. determine the procedure for cases handled in a written procedure by a single judge - the period during which court hearings will be conducted (it is recommended to establish an order for scheduled court hearings in a manner that will minimize the length of time a judge is in court, limiting the number of judges at the premises of the court at the same time, and avoiding social contacts).
2. Determine that court civil servants work remotely without making any further requests. When necessary provide the information necessary to perform work functions. Arrange a work schedule in a manner that there would be no more than one person working in a closed office at one time. Other servants and contractual employees shall be required to work remotely without additional requests on a sliding schedule if there is no possibility to work remotely full time. The schedule for these officials and other employees is set by the Chancellor or Head of Unit. The working hours shall take into account the nature of the functions and shall evaluate how these functions should be performed during the period of the quarantine restriction. Ensure that only one employee is working at a time in a closed office (cabinet).
3. Determine that all judges, as well as court staff or members of their families, who have visited foreign countries 14 days before March 16, 2020, or who have traveled abroad after that date, to be isolated at home, barred from entering court premises and shall apply for leave or leave of absence granted because of illness.
4. Establish a working time regime for assistants to judges and other staff working remotely, which should coincide with court working hours as defined in the court's internal rules.
5. Determine that judges, assistants to judges, and other employees working remotely must comply with requirements set in the Resolution no. 716 of July 24, 2013, published by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on the General Description of Electronic Information Security.
6. Determine judges, assistant to judges, and other employees indicate their contacts so that they can be reached immediately while they are working remotely.
7. Restrict access to court facilities and stop direct service to persons during the quarantine period. Only judges, assistants to judges and other court personnel may enter the court premises during the quarantine period, when necessary for the performance of their direct functions. Restrictions on service to individuals may be communicated via a notice at the entrance to the courthouse, as well as on the court's website, providing contact information for persons interested in contacting the court remotely.
Chairman of the Judicial Council Algimantas Valantinas
Posted on 25/03/20 19:37.
Annette SATTEL
Comment transmitted by Sara NUNES DE ALMEIDA, Legal Adviser, Cabinet des relations internationales, Direction Générale de la politique de la justice, Minsitère de la Justice du Portugal
Our President declared the Emergency state on the 18th of March, and since then some exceptional and temporary measures to tackle the epidemiological situation have been taken concerning the judicial system.

Law No. 1-A/2020, of 19 March, was published, that sets a number of measures related to deadlines and procedural steps, which, basically, consist on its suspension and application of the judicial holiday regime (article 7 of the referred Law).

These are the most relevant measures included in this article:

- “To the procedural and processual acts that shall be performed within the processes and procedures, which run in judicial, administrative and tax courts, Constitutional Court, Court of Auditors and other jurisdictional bodies, arbitral courts, Public Prosecution Service, justices of the peace, entities of alternative dispute resolution and tax enforcement bodies, the judicial holiday regime applies until this exceptional situation ceases”.
- “This exceptional situation is also cause for the suspension of the prescription and statute of limitation periods related to all types of processes and procedures” overruling “over any regimes that establish maximum mandatory periods of prescription or statute of limitation periods, which are extended for the period of time in which the exceptional situation prevails”;
- In urgent cases, the deadlines are suspended, except when technically feasible, in which “the practice of any procedural steps is allowed through appropriate distance media communication, namely by conference call or video call”. In this sense, “only are undertaken in person urgent acts and measures in which fundamental rights are at stake, namely procedural steps relating to minors of age at risk or urgent educational guardianship proceedings, steps and trials of arrested defendants, provided that this steps or trials do not imply the presence of a number of people higher than that provided by the recommendations of the health authorities and according to the guidelines set by the competent higher councils”;
- Exceptionally, the judicial holidays regime also apply, with the necessary adaptations, to “procedures that run under notaries and registry offices” as well as “administrative, sanctioning and disciplinary procedures, and respective acts and measures that run according to direct, indirect, regional and municipal administration services, and other administrative entities, namely independent administrative entities, including the Bank of Portugal and the Portuguese Stock Market Regulator”;
- During this exceptional period, and also based on the judicial holidays regime, the “administrative and tax deadlines regarding private individuals” are also suspended, namely “acts of judicial claims, administrative appeals, hierarchical appeals, or other procedures of similar nature, as well as deadlines for acts within the same tax procedures”.

The provisions of this Law, as well as provisions of Decree-Law No. 10-A/2020, of 13 March, that creates exceptional and temporary measures concerning the epidemiological situation of the new Coronavirus – COVID 19, overrule over contrary legal, general and special rules, namely those included in the State Budget Law.
This regime is applicable until the exceptional situation of prevention, containment, mitigation and treatment of the epidemiological infection by SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 disease, as determined by the national public health authority, ceases, on a date to be defined by a Decree-Law in which the end of the exceptional situation will be stated. After the termination of the aforementioned exceptional situation, the Parliament will adapt, in its own diploma, the judicial holidays periods to be in force in 2020.
This Law is effective as of 13 March 2020.
Posted on 26/03/20 14:09.
Michal DABROWSKI
Measures taken in Polish courts as for March, 23

• The Ministry of Justice has recommended the postponement of non-urgent hearings scheduled to take place between 13 and 31 March 2020. In practice, the courts deem to be urgent, for example, cases concerning minors, domestic violence or temporary arrest. As such, hearings of commercial disputes have been postponed. It is anticipated that hearings scheduled for April-May will be postponed as well.
• Face-to-face contact between judicial staff and other persons has been reduced, and access to court buildings limited. Court submissions must be filed by post but some courts are accepting submissions filed by email (which is unusual in Poland).
• Evidence of witnesses in any urgent hearings must be carried out by video or teleconference.
• It is anticipated that legislation will be introduced to mitigate the impact of the virus on the judicial system. A press release from the Ministry of Justice indicates that the legislation will, for example, stay certain procedural and substantive time limits, including procedural and court deadlines in civil proceedings.
Posted on 27/03/20 08:17.
Annette SATTEL
Comment posted on behalf of Barbora Sopková, District Court Banská Bystrica (pilot court – CEPEJ)
Slovak Republic

Official statement of Ministry of Justice:


In order to limit the spread of contagious human disease COVID-19, the following measures were taken at the Crisis Staff of the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic on 23 March 2020:


MEASURES FOR THE COURTS OF THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC


1. The presidents of the courts shall take measures or extend existing measures to restrict public movement in court premises / buildings until 30 April 2020 by:

- rigorous monitoring of the purpose of persons entering the court building,

- limiting the activities of the Court's information center to the provision of information by telephone and electronic means,

- by restricting access to court premises to persons whose attendance at hearings and other acts of the courts is not necessary, with the exception of the entry of persons for the purpose of service of filings with the registry,

- allowing persons to enter the court building only for the necessary time and to the premises in order to achieve the purpose of entering the building.

2. not to hold hearings, main hearings and public meetings until 30 April 2020, except:

- acts in custody matters in criminal proceedings, decisions on conditional release from imprisonment, decisions on changes in the manner of imprisonment,

-actions in the care of the Court of Minors, and

- operations without which there is a risk of irreparable damage or other serious irreparable consequence. In order to minimize the escorts of convicts, it is necessary to make maximum use of video-conference facilities in criminal proceedings when conducting the interrogation of the sentenced person; In the period up to 30 April 2020, to allow persons to participate in hearings and other court proceedings to use disinfectants and protective equipment,

3. if it is not necessary for the operation of the court, not to conduct competitions until 30 April 2020;

4. in the period up to 30 April 2020, it is essential to provide adequate disinfectants and protective equipment for all court staff involved in public relations;

5. in the period up to 30 April 2020 in the case of a request for filing in writing to the minutes, resp. another type of act carried out with the person's personal participation, to refuse to perform such acts except in cases where the case cannot be postponed and in the cases referred to in the exceptions to point 2.,

6. adequate hygiene measures to prevent the spread of communicable disease COVID-19 are necessary and maintained by 30 April 2020.



MEASURES FOR PROBATION OFFICERS


1. probation officers are required to remain in the workplace only in the case of performance of duties which cannot be postponed

2. make use of the possibility to change the date of probation supervision - personal contact with the probate at the court seat, and notify the probant of this change by telephone, if possible or by post office or by e-mail

3. to keep a record of the presence of the probant at the court seat (“Guestbook”) at the entrance to the court building during the absence of the probation and mediation officer at the workplace, especially in cases where the probant's presence at the court was not known

4. reject an instruction or request to carry out a material examination (pre-investigation) in the form of a local survey in a dwelling or part of such instruction or request relating to a local survey in a dwelling and notify without undue delay by telephone or e-mail to the person who issued such an instruction or request

5. not to request service trip to the PMS Information System, unless it is a service trip, which ensures uninterrupted course of already ordered or ongoing control by technical means, eg. initial installation or replacement of a malfunctioning or damaged device

6. in the case of work from home environment, ensure the possibility to work in the PMS Information System, if remote access to this information system is possible and to ensure access to the service e-mail box through the website https: /web.justice.sk/owa

7. postpone the date of mediation and, in the event that the mediation period expires, ask the judge or prosecutor who issued the mediation instruction to extend the period within which mediation is to take place

8. in case of uncertainty in the implementation of these measures, follow the instructions of the Head of the Probation Department


In addition to the above, each court has its own measures, protecting both judges and employees. These are therefore more internal rules.

The Slovak Republic adopted Act No. 62/2020 Coll. on certain emergency measures in relation to the spread of dangerous contagious human disease COVID-19 and in the judiciary and amending certain laws which interrupted the passage of certain periods of limitation or extinction. However, that law did not interrupt the time-limits set for the court. Thus, despite the exceptional situation, the courts are obliged to respect the deadlines.
Posted on 01/04/20 16:00.
Annette SATTEL
Comment posted on behalf of Ramin Gurbanov PhD/Doctor in Law, Senior Official & Judge, Azerbaijan
Due to the particular circumstances linked to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the Supreme Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan adopted a decision "On measures to be taken by the courts to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the Republic of Azerbaijan", dated March 19, 2020.
By this decision, it was recommended to temporarily postpone the consideration of the cases until April 20, 2020, except the cases that need to be considered urgently or not require a court hearings (i.e. selection, prolongation, changing and lifting of judicial sanctions, cases of administrative detention, enforcement of lawsuits, order proceedings, simplified proceedings on small claims, special proceedings on some categories and etc.). In order to provide efficiency and access to justice, it was recommended to use widely the “Electronic Court” information system by the courts, especially on civil and commercial disputes, as well as consider administrative cases by the consent of the parties without oral hearings.
All cases related to early release from custody, as well as issues of extending the period of arrest are considered using of remote video conference system. Also, it is planned to launch an application for some types of civil cases, which will ensure virtual participation of the parties at the court hearings.
At the same time, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection the courts take all necessary measures such as disinfection of the building, providing the masks to the court staff and judges, measuring the temperature of all visitors and equipping all premises with sanitizers. The court staff which are under the risk moved to remote work, the other court staff performs its activities on the basis of shift work.
Posted on 01/04/20 16:29.
Annette SATTEL
Message de Monsieur Jean-Paul Janssens, Président du Comité de Direction du Service Public fédéral Justice du Royaume de Belgique.

Depuis le 18 mars à midi, la Belgique est entrée en confinement et ce jusqu'au 19 avril. C’est la décision prise par le Conseil national de sécurité (CNS).
La population est priée de rester chez elle pour éviter la diffusion du coronavirus. Il est demandé de limiter les déplacements à l'essentiel (santé, nourriture, travail, aide aux gens dans le besoin, etc.). Le télétravail doit être favorisé au maximum et seuls les commerces de premières nécessités seront ouverts. Le respect de la distanciation sociale doit être respectée quand on ne peut avoir recours au télétravail.

Les Cours et Tribunaux belges ont décidé qu’il était impératif que les Palais de justice restent ouverts. Ainsi, les Palais de justice sont ouverts avec l’information suivante affichée à l’entrée de chaque bâtiment :

« En raison des mesures de confinement décidées par le gouvernement, et prenant cours ce 18 mars à midi, vous n’êtes autorisés à franchir cette porte qu’à condition que vous soyez convoqué pour une audience, ou pour récupérer ou déposer votre permis de conduire, ou former un appel ou un pourvoi au pénal. Toutefois, nous restons accessibles par email et par téléphone pour toutes autres questions. Les requêtes d’appel et autres documents de procédure peuvent être déposées dans la boîte aux lettres et seront traitées sans délai, ou exceptionnellement envoyées par email, avec, pour les actes de procédure payant, preuve de paiement préalable à l’appui ».

Chaque chef de corps informe par ailleurs le barreau et les huissiers que tout document de procédure pourra être exceptionnellement envoyé par email ou par le système e-deposit.

Les personnes qui sont en mesure de télétravailler sont autorisées à la faire. Il s’agit, en majorité, des greffiers et magistrats.
Les greffiers en chef s’assurent qu’une garde au greffe est effective par un ou plusieurs greffiers en vue d’assurer les signatures et les quelques audiences qui ont dû être maintenues, au terme des ordonnances de service prises par chacun des chefs de corps.

Le chef de corps s’assure également qu’un ou plusieurs juges (selon la taille de la juridiction) est/sont rappelable(s) en cas de besoin.

Pendant le télétravail, les greffiers assureront l’assistance aux juges, à distance, notamment en veillant à préparer, en temps et à heure, les projets de jugements rédigés par les magistrats, en exécution de la mesure de recours à la procédure écrite.
Posted on 01/04/20 18:11.
Annette SATTEL
Comments from Seçkin Koçer, Judge (Ministry of Justice of Turkey - Directorate General for Strategy Development)
The measures in judiciary taken in Turkey to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are based on the two main aspects, the first one is to protect the staff from the disease, including judges and prosecutors. The second one is the measures to protect individuals (parties) from the unexpected results of the measures. In this context, all measures are set to prevent any result that cause deprivation of the rights of individuals.
Ministry of Justice and Council of Judges and Prosecutors are in charge of taking all actions in this regard. Main measures are as follows:
- The number of staff at the courthouse have been reduced considering the workload of each prosecution office and court. Reduced number of staff will be on the shift while the rest of the staff are required to work from home.
- Face to face contact will be reduced between staff and parties. SEGBİS (System of Video Conference and Records In Courts) and UYAP (National Judiciary Informatics System) will be used to ensure communication between parties and staff, especially for the urgent matters.
- All measures on hygiene in courthouses will be meticulously implemented.
- To prevent all the risks that may occur during the hearings, all hearings and face to face proceedings will be postponed until the end of April, with the exception of the matters related to arrest, other preventive measures in criminal proceedings, the matters related to alimony and violence against women, etc..
- All judicial reconnaissence proceedings will be suspended, except urgent matters.
- All the time limits to take actions before the courts and the time limits in alternative dispute resolutions will be suspended until the end of the April.
- Suspension period of cases will not have negative effect on the promotion of judges and prosecutors.
Posted on 02/04/20 11:40.
Annette SATTEL
Information transmitted on behalf of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina
No: 08-02-2-1020-2/2020
Sarajevo, 22 March 2020

Pursuant to Article 17, paragraph (1), item 30) of the Law on High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of BiH, 25/04, 93/05, 48/07 and 15/08), the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council Bosnia and Herzegovina held a telephone session on 22 March 2020 and adopted the following:

D E C I S I O N
on the organisation of work processes in courts and prosecutor's offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina

With a view to preventing and avoiding the spread of COVID-19 (corona virus) in the courts and prosecutor's offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the following measures are hereby ordered:

1. The main hearings in criminal matters are to be postponed except in cases:
- in which detention has been ordered or sought
- where there is a risk of statute of limitations expiring
- in other urgent cases as set forth in criminal codes in Bosnia and Herzegovina
2. Hearings in minor offence cases are to be postponed except in cases initiated on the basis of reported non-compliance with the decisions and orders issued by the competent authorities during the declared emergency over the corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak. The duty judge assigned to minor offence cases may also decide to take action in other cases for reasons of urgency.
3. Hearings in civil matters are to be postponed except in cases in which a prejudgement attachment is to be decided.
4. Courts need to organise a duty roster of judges for criminal, civil and minor offence cases referred to in articles 1. 2. and 3. of this decision.
5. Prosecutor's offices need to organise a duty roster of the required number of prosecutors to handle the cases referred to in Article 1 of this Decision.
6. Only those judges and prosecutors who are on duty on a particular day in accordance with the duty roster are to come to the court/ prosecutor's office on that day.
7. Duty judges assigned to civil cases may individually decide on the urgent need to handle individual cases based on an assessment of the case and its urgency. It is necessary to organise and facilitate work from home for second and third instance judges, and meetings of judge panels may be organised on an ad hoc basis at the discretion of court president.
8. Courts and prosecutor's offices need to arrange a duty roster for the performance of administrative tasks.
9. Failure to comply with this decision gives rise to liability.
10. Court presidents and chief prosecutors are required to assess the risks to human health and make ad hoc decisions that are more restrictive with regard to work processes in the courts and prosecutor's offices than the measures provided for in this decision. The measures in this decision are considered to be minimum restrictive measures.
11. This decision remains effective as long as the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 (corona virus) in Bosnia and Herzegovina persist.

President Milan Tegeltija

To:
- All heads of judicial institutions
- a/a
Posted on 03/04/20 10:39.
Annette SATTEL
Comment from Marianne Gram Nybroe, Special Advisor and International Coordinator at the Danish Court Administration
Emergency plans for the Courts of Denmark
On Wednesday 11 March 2020 the Courts of Denmark set in motion an emergency alert in order to manage critical case-areas while still abiding by the government’s call to shut down the public sector and to follow the precautionary measures of the health sector. The reorganisation of case proceedings and the evaluation of ‘critical’ cases have been undertaken in close cooperation with a number of presiding judges and the Danish Court Administration.
On the evening of 11th March 2020 the Danish Court Administration circulated a list of which areas were considered ’critical’, and which ones were not to be given priority during the lockdown. The Courts of Denmark have employed their resources to ensure that as much as possible of the courts’ work can be managed from home by court employees, but the majority of court cases have nevertheless been cancelled.
Administrative procedures at a distance
The critical areas that continue to be administered locally by the courts are cases either bound by deadlines or cases of vital importance. These include: preliminary examinations before a magistrate; extension of deadlines and orders of urgent procedures; custody cases where the defendants’ case, on the principle of proportionality, cannot be postponed any longer; § 747 questionings that cannot be postponed; official bailiff actions that cannot be postponed; other criminal cases where, for the sake of the accused, witnesses, or injured parties, postponement would be disproportionate; certain cases of administrative custody; registration of property or land cases; especially urgent bankruptcy cases; and certain urgent notarial cases.
To what extent a case fulfils the conditions of being ’critical’ is up to a concrete evaluation by the individual court. Similarly, it is up to the courts themselves to organise their work in consideration of local conditions. In these exceptional circumstances, there will be differences in case-management capacity between the individual courts. It is therefore important that the users contact their local court if they need to know which cases and types of cases are running and which have been postponed.
On Thursday 12 March 2020 on their respective home-pages all the courts set out an emergency procedure for the coming weeks, where they informed the public of the consequences of COVID-19 and the lockdown of the public sector.
”The Danish Court Administration will help the courts to ensure that as much work as possible can continue to be done at home,” says Kristian Hertz, its director. “Most court sittings have been postponed, and both our court employees and our court users are aware of this. But there are a number of other cases that can be distance-managed, and we are making every effort to maintain and extend this work-form, so that not everything in the judicial system grinds to a halt. One example of this is in the area of wills, where instead of physical attestations, citizens may make a so-called ‘witnessed will’. Information on this is available on our home-page, domstol.dk, and at our linked-in profile at Danmarks Domstole.”
The Director of Development in the Danish Court Administration, Merethe Eckhardt, adds, ”We are learning how the courts can manage as many tasks as possible from home, but this is ‘a work in progress’. We are also experimenting with virtual meetings internally, and hopefully we are gathering a wealth of experience that will be of benefit when we return to normal.”
Short-term and long-term solutions
There are many challenges to the Danish judicial system in making it function in the present, exceptional, situation. The most important task is to maintain an emergency staff in the critical case-areas. But it is also important for the Courts of Denmark to ensure a close cooperation with other actors in the criminal case domain; to advise the courts on a broad range of legal and judicial questions that have arisen and will continue to do so; to safeguard IT-access; and to guide, assist, and support the more than 2,200 court employees, of whom by far the majority are now working from home.
”Clearly, this exceptional situation will mean that the backlog of cases and the case-processing times will increase, now that planned court sittings have been postponed,” says Kristian Hertz. “We are very aware of this, and we’re doing all we can to manage the situation. It’s still too early to say anything more concrete about what we can do when the crisis is over, but we’re setting up a taskforce to see how best we can resume our normal service, when the time comes.”
During the lockdown the courts will unfortunately have to give lower priority to the following case-areas: criminal cases, including current main hearings; civil cases, including current main hearings; bailiff cases, apart from the most urgent; administration of deceased persons’ estates; and notary business, apart from the most urgent.
The crisis management team of the Courts of Denmark is coordinating the work in order to ensure the emergency functioning of the courts. The team comprises the management and a number of key employees in the Danish Court Administration, as well as representatives from the courts. The team receives daily inputs from the courts, deals with all aspects of the emergency situation, and regularly sends relevant information to the courts and internally within the Administration.
Posted on 04/04/20 15:31.
Adiya RAMAZANOVA
The Republic of Kazakhstan

By the Decree of the President of Kazakhstan K. Tokayev from March 16 to April 15, 2020, the country introduced a state of emergency (hereinafter – SE) (to protect the life and health of citizens, to prevent the widespread transmission of COVID-19 temporary restrictions were introduced, including the movement of people, the organization of public events, etc., and also large-scale sanitary-epidemiological events are being carried out).
On March 28, 2020, the State Commission for ensuring the State of Emergency introduced quarantine in the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty.
The citizens are prohibited to leave their homes, except for going to nearby grocery stores, pharmacies and to work.
The work of all organizations have been suspended in these cities, excluding state and law enforcement agencies, healthcare organizations, mass media, grocery stores, pharmacies, and the providers of essential services in the cities.
Visiting other places, as well as moving around the settlement is not permitted. A person may be subject to administrative liability for the violation of these requirements. Thus, visiting the court buildings to participate in the court sessions may be considered as a violation of the quarantine.

Before the introduction of the SE, there were 106 thousand cases and materials in legal proceedings in all courts of the republic. The number of participants in the trials is 326 thousand.
On average, at least 3 thousand court hearings were held per day, attended by at least 15 thousand people.
To ensure the constitutional rights for the judicial protection during the SE, the Supreme Court and the Judicial administration have developed the recommendations on the format and working arrangements of the courts.

I. The acceptance of the documents.
There is electronic single window access to all services provided by the courts.
The users, staying at home, have the opportunity to submit the documents electronically, using the service "Judicial cabinet" from any gadget with Internet access.
There is a mobile version of the "Judicial cabinet". It is free to download onto smartphone, laptop, or tablet.
More than 90 types of applications in the electronic format can be submitted to the court using the "Judicial cabinet".
In these circumstances, the parties receive the feedback from the court promptly (registration number, the date and time of the court session, and others.).
Since March 16, 2020, 35,566 applications have been submitted to the courts of Kazakhstan, including 32,680 or 92 % in electronic format.
In the Court’s Registry, incoming paper documents must be converted into electronic format after the disinfection.

II. The consideration of cases in courts.
All courts of the republic are recommended to consider court cases remotely using videoconferencing (VCS), both stationary (with the police, the Prosecutor's Office, the places of detention) and mobile (using smartphone, tablet, laptop via WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, and others.).
The daily monitoring of cases has shown that in the first days of the SE introduction, only half of the cases were considered remotely.
Since the end of March, there has been a positive trend towards a daily increase in the proportion of court sessions held using VCS.
So, on April 3, 2020, out of 1,825 hearings 1,472 (80.7%) were held using video communication, including 100% of VCS hearings held in 2 regions, and more than 90% in 5 regions.
Currently, all necessary measures are taken to ensure that in April 100% of cases are considered in electronic format throughout the country. IT technologies allow solving this problem.
If the process participant requested a personal participation in the hearing, or the case must be considered with the participation of jury, then such cases must be suspended or postponed until the end of the SE based on the procedural law grounds.
This does not apply to the cases involving:
- the violation of the SE regime;
- the restriction of personal freedom of citizens.

III. The organizational measures.
a) Personnel.
It is recommended to have the minimum number of staff to stay at work to ensure the functioning of the court and the consideration of urgent cases (no more than 30% of judges and court staff are constantly working on a rotating schedule).
Other judges and employees are sent on vacation or transferred to remote work upon their request (considering the information security requirements, judges and court staff have remote access to the unified information and analytical system that provides both record-keeping and legal proceedings in all courts of the country).

(b) Information work.
In mass media and social networks it is actively explained:
- the requirements of the SE and quarantine;
- how courts work in the SE;
- the advantages and opportunities of electronic legal proceedings;
- the instructions of working with IT services;
- the legislation on the extension and restoration of procedural deadlines, including the statutes of limitation and deadlines for appeal.

c) Other measures.
The courts have cancelled the reception of citizens, seminars, meetings, and round tables.
All courts are provided with temperature measuring devices, quartz lamps, antiseptics, and medical masks.
The premises are regularly sanitized, and masks are distributed free of charge to visitors.
If the judges and court staff, as well as other persons in court buildings, show the symptoms of illness, there are immediate measures taken to isolate them, and emergency medical assistance is called.

Nail Akhmetzakirov,
Head of the Judicial Administration
Posted on 06/04/20 07:49.
Annette SATTEL
Comment transmitted by Leyla Zakirova, National coordinator, Azerbaijan
"In addition to the previous comment made by Representative from Azerbaijan, I would like to add that all citizens were notified and asked to sue or file other documents electronically only. Every court provided separate telephone number which would be active for citizens consulting on their specific questions related to activity of court during quarantine or provide answers on general topics."
Posted on 06/04/20 10:29.
Annette SATTEL
Comment transmitted by Dag BRATHOLE, member of the CEPEJ network of pilot courts, Court of Appeal of Frostating/ Frostating lagmannsrett Tinghuset, Norway

“On Friday 13 March Norway was to some extent shut down by the government. Kindergartens, schools and universities were shut down, as were businesses that involve close human contact such as hairdressers, etc. Hotels, restaurants, bars were not formally shut down, but mostly closed due to lack of customers. All concerts, theatre performances, and other events were banned. A ban forbidding visits to cabins outside one’s own municipality, was introduced. Shops are not formally shut down, but many closed due to lack of customers. Foodstores and pharmacies remain open. Walks in streets and nature within own municipalities remain legal, and is basically the only legal activity outside one’s own home.

The government asked the parliament’ permission to act in violation of laws under parliament supervision for a period of 6 months. This was granted for one month at a time.

Following 13 March, the Norwegian courts were basically closed for oral main hearings, which are cornerstones in the legal system. Only urgent hearings, such as custody hearings were held. The courts are now slowly returning to a more normal situation, with oral hearings under a strict regime and with widespread use of video technology. Judges and auxiliary staff that are not engaged in court hearings or vital tasks at the court, are requested to work from home. A digital court management system makes this possible, and the legislation has been temporarily changed to allow decisions to be made without physical signatures from all judges. Only the presiding judge has to sign, and the signature may be scanned and sent to the court for registration electronically along with a confirmation from the presiding judge that the other judges have accepted the final wording of the decision.

I believe it is fair to say that the efficiency of the Norwegian courts has been hurt badly so far during the pandemic. On the other hand, experience with digital solutions will be useful when conditions return to normal.

These are personal observations, and are not made on behalf of my court or the Norwegian Court Administration. “
Posted on 07/04/20 11:03.
Annette SATTEL
Comment transmitted by Mr. Simone Cuomo, Senior Legal Advisor, Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe
“Following a survey among its members, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) published an overview of measures taken in some European countries addressing the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on justice issues, with a particular focus on issues affecting the work of lawyers. The overview is available under this link: https://www.ccbe.eu/fileadmin/speciality_distribution/public/documents/CCBE-Survey-Exchange-of-experiences-and-best-practices-between-bars-AM-3.pdf
Please note that the overview is based on information received from various CCBE members bars and law societies and is still subject to further updates and changes.
The CCBE survey was structed along the following topics:
- Court Proceedings
- Access to a lawyer – in prison / during preliminary proceedings
- Individual measures by Bars or Law firms”
Posted on 07/04/20 12:51.
Annette SATTEL
Comment transmitted by Igor Jukić, Senior Expert Advisor, Ministry of Justice, Republic of Croatia
Following the announcement of the COVID-19 disease epidemic in the Republic of Croatia, in accordance with the recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the National Civil Protection Headquarters, on 13 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice issued a recommendation for the work of all judicial authorities in the Republic of Croatia during the epidemic. All judicial authorities have continued to operate, and only those proceedings and operations that have been identified as urgent are carried out by appropriate security measures. Court hearings and other non-urgent cases have been postponed until further notice. In order to organize work in new circumstances, the heads of the judicial authorities have the mandate to allow employees to work from home where possible, and the recommendations state that communication in dealing with parties and all participants in proceedings is done electronically in all cases where that is possible.
In relation to prison conditions, a special attention is given to the prevention of contagion, and precautionary measures have been adopted, such as increased hygiene of persons and premises, as well as disinfection of facilities and additional supply of protection equipment. Prisoners’ rights to receive visits are restricted, videoconferencing with competent courts is intensified, the possibility to organise video-visits to prisoners is broadened, and more frequent open air walks within the prison compound are practicised. Lastly, every prison facility has ensured specific rooms to isolate persons with symptoms that might indicate the development of the disease, and adequate isolated areas of a greater capacity within the prison system are being prepared if they will be needed.
Posted on 08/04/20 11:18.
Annette SATTEL
Comment posted on behalf of Katica Jozak-Mađar, President of the Cantonal Court at Novi Travnik
In accordance with the Recommendations High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council and the HJPC B&H Decision of the on the organisation of work in courts and prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina nr. 08-02-2-1020-2/2020 from 22 March 2020, Cantonal Court adopted a Decision on the organisation of work during the emerging epidemiological situation in the country caused by COVID-19 nr. 06 0 Su 013930 20 Su from 17 March 2020 and Decision on the organisation of work nr. 06 0 Su 013930 20 Su from 23 March 2020, in order to protect personal health and public health and to prevent the spread of the new Corona virus (COVID-19):
- Delay of scheduled hearings except hearings that are required by law to be urgent and cases which are close to the end of the statute of limitations.
- Proceedings in criminal cases which are directed against people's health have priority in prosecuting.
- Restricted access to the court building to persons, parties of the court.
- A notice on the delivery of documents to the court was issued and published on the website and at the court entrance in order to inform the general public about the new work regime.
- Direct communication between court staff is minimized. Communication is done mainly by phone and e-mail.
- Shortened (part-time) working hours.
- The possibility of working from home is provided.
- The number of court employees has been reduced. Other judges and court staff were referred to work from home.
- Based on the document export instructions of the HJPC and court's decision to authorise export of documents, ICT officer exported the documents and the cases were delivered to the judges electronically, taking into account the security of document delivery.
- The court takes all measures such as desinfection of the building, providing protection masks and gloves to the judges and to the court staff.
Posted on 09/04/20 11:15.
Juan fernando ARMENGOT IBORRA
The Ministry of Justice of Spain published a Resolution of the Secretary of State on 14th March 2020. In this Resolution, the essential services of the Justice were identified and the minimum compliment of personnel different from Judges was determined. Among the essential services, it mentions:
- Precautionary measures.
- Criminal cases with a person in prison.
- Actions of the Civil Registry.
- Protective measures in matters of violence against women.
- Any action whose delay may cause irreparable damage.
By Resolution of March 23, in agreement with the Autonomous Regions, the State Attorney General's Office and the General Council of the Judiciary, individual, collective and organizational protection measures were also established, aimed at minimizing the risk of infection in the development of the work in essential services. These protection measures include:
- Do not allow access to the judicial headquarters unless justification.
- Limit the number of people who access and of the time.
- Provide the user with a mask.
- Establish minimum safety distances of at least 2 meters.
- Provide protection elements in public service posts.
- Promotion of telematics and electronic means of work.
By Resolution of March 30, the Ministry of Justice, the Autonomous Regions, the General Council of the Judiciary, the State Attorney General and the General Bar Association adapted the provision of essential services in the administration of Justice to the Decree Law that specially reduces the mobility of the population during the fight against Covid-19. The Resolution maintains the minimum personnel and essential services identified in the previous resolution, and establishes a basic face-to-face activity completed with another availability regime.
The General Council of the Judiciary has prepared a base document on organizational and procedural measures for the moment after the end of the State of Alarm declared on the occasion of the coronavirus pandemic. The text attends to be an initial working document, subject to debate and to the making of as many contributions as appropriate.
In the website of the Ministry of Justice (mjusticia.gob.es) the resolutions mentioned and other are available.
Posted on 13/04/20 18:49.