Towards a more independent judiciary

01 Dec 2010

On November 1-3, 2010, presidents and other representatives of Supreme Courts met at the International Summit of High Courts in Istanbul to discuss the fundamental issues of judicial reform. Nineteen high level judicial representatives from countries in all four corners of the world, including Argentina, Indonesia, Poland, and Egypt came up with principles and practices that were agreed as being fundamental elements of the rule of law.

New Horizons - Many countries around the world are undergoing significant judicial reforms and institutional restructuring to address the challenges facing modern societies. It was in this context that the participants of the summit reaffirmed in the course of the meeting that the principles of judicial independence constitute the fundamental pillar in a democratic society and hence forms the basis of rule of law.

The three structures of power of the state being responsible to promote the independence of the judiciary have the duty to respect, preserve and promote the common goals of judicial independence. It is generally acknowledged that the three powers should be engaged in establishing public education to promote the value of independent judiciary through public outreach programmes to strengthen public awareness for enhancing confidence in the judiciary and promote respect for its independence.

The principles and practices agreed upon by representatives at the summit are listed below:

• Independence and impartiality of the judiciary are essential to democracy based on the rule of law.
• The laws and practices provide for security of tenure and respect the principle of immovability of judges as a guarantee of judicial independence.
• Judicial decision should not be called into question except in accordance with due process established by law.
• Adequate human, financial and technical resources are provided to carry out judicial responsibilities with the involvement of the judiciary.
• Members of the judiciary to perform their responsibilities in an efficient, effective and accountable manner without undue delays.
• Effective and fair procedures established relating to the conduct of the judges which are consistent with the independence of the judiciary.
• The recruitment, selection and promotion of the members of the judiciary based on merit and objective criteria.
• Enhancing confidence in the judiciary by promoting diversity, including gender in the making of judicial appointment.
• Continuing legal education for the members of the judiciary, under the supervision of the judiciary, with regard to domestic law, international legal standards and human rights.
• Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in civil cases and Diversion in criminal cases, in a manner consistent with the basic principles of rule of law.
• Initiatives within the judicial system to promote and facilitate effective and affordable access to justice.
• The importance of appellate review in maintaining public confidence in the justice system.
• Assignment of cases in accordance with predetermined, objective and fair criteria established and applied by the judiciary.
• Development and strengthening of internationally recognized ethical principles for the members of the judiciary, taking into account national traditions.
• Effective communications with the public, with the aim of making the justice system and judicial decisions more transparent and better understood, consistent with judicial impartiality and the rights of the persons accessing the courts. • International dialogue and co-operation to promote the exchange of knowledge, experience, good governance and best practices within the judicial community.

All participants agreed that the importance of judicial independence as a fundamental pillar of democratic society cannot be taken for granted and it should be respected and guarded with vigilance by all institutions of the state.

Please visit www.summitofhighcourts.com for detailed information about the Summit.