On 11 October, EJTN’s Secretary General Judge Ingrid Derveaux delivered a keynote speech at the “Regional conference of judicial training institutions: independence and impartiality” in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The event was organised by the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training of Republika Srpska. The full agenda of the conference is available here. The full agenda of the conference is available here.
A full transcription of the speech delivered by Secretary General Judge Derveaux is available below.
Dear Directors of the judicial training institutions, dear Representatives of the Bosnian judiciary, Dear partners, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It is the second time this year that I have the pleasure to visit your beautiful country, so I will try to say a few words in the Bosnian language:
Dobar dan. Hvala Vam na pozivu i gostoprimstvu.
I would like to thank you on behalf of the European Judicial Training Network, an organization which I represent, for this warm welcome and for organizing this conference.
I am delighted to address you today on this very important topic: judicial independence and impartiality.
As we all know, the job of a judge or prosecutor can be very complex. We must uphold the highest quality of decision making and personal character. We are entrusted with safeguarding human rights, and ensuring fair and equal treatment of all citizens before the law in ever-more complex cases. At the same time, judges and prosecutors deal with limited resources, large number of cases and the need to continuously adapt to complex societal changes and legislative reforms. They are also vulnerable to improper external influence, pressures, and interferences.
Against that background, Independence and impartiality cannot be merely some ideals; they are the cornerstones of any fair and functioning society. They are the bedrock upon which the rule of law is built.
There is no Rule of Law without an independent and impartial judiciary able to guarantee that every institution, every authority, everybody is submitted to the Law.
And the EU is based on this principle, as article 2 of the Treaty on EU states: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a Society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women prevail.”
The Court of Justice of the EU has made it clear that it is no longer a political principle, a wish, depending on a political will. It is a legal principle which conditions accession to the EU and remains binding on all the Member States after joining it. It is indeed key to ensuring an effective protection of the rights that EU confers upon individuals.
The Court of Justice has thus highlighted how the guarantees of independence and impartiality are closely intertwined with the Rule of Law. Let me elaborate a bit further on those principles.
Firstly, the concept of an independent judiciary implies that the judicial system operates free from undue influence or interference from the Executive or any other external entities. It ensures that judges can adopt decisions solely based on the law and the facts submitted to them. A lack of judicial independence erodes citizens’ trust and confidence in the public bodies. It is therefore an essential responsibility of States to guarantee it.
Impartiality supplements independence. An impartial judiciary means that judges approach every case without any biases. It guarantees that justice is dispensed without favoritism, regardless of a litigant’s background, ethnicity, or social status.
Those principle seem obvious. But we know that it is not so easy in practice. How to enable the judiciary to play such an important role? How can we support them in being strong enough to protect the Rule of Law, while respecting their mission?
Of course, many conditions are required for ensuring the independence of the judiciary; from merit-based appointment and promotion of judges to adequate remuneration, which are all indispensable to protect judges from undue outside interference.
But we must also not forget the important role that judicial training plays in this regard. We, as judicial training institutions have a key role to play in ensuring that those who administer justice – the judges, prosecutors and in some countries court staff – are equipped with the knowledge and skills required.
In other words : there is no European Community without Rule of Law, there is no Rule of Law without an independent judiciary, and there is no independent judiciary without a proper judicial training.
I am delighted to open this conference with the Director of the Academy of European Law, one of our members with whom we work in the framework of EJTN. Right after the Tampere Council, the ERA and others, such as the French and the Dutch judicial training institutions, understood the importance of working together to build a European area of Justice. They created together the EJTN, which originally counted 16 members.
The EJTN overcame even the best ambitions they had at that time and made the dream come true. Created in order to train EU judges and prosecutors, it gathers today all the judicial training institutions in the EU, welcomes court staff training institutions and supports the EU integration process by welcoming observers from the western Balkan region, and many other partners. The most recent one is the EPPO as we signed a memorandum with Laura Kovesi last June.
EJTN provides training on a wide range of topics for more than 7000 judges, prosecutors, and court staff every year. EJTN events are organized all over Europe by our Members and gather Judges, prosecutors and court staff with different perspectives and experiences from their national legal systems. While they all share a common European culture and a commitment to the rule of law, it is this diversity which makes EJTN events especially useful for all those involved. Over the last several years, thanks to the support from the EU, we have been pleased to welcome in particular Bosnian judges and prosecutors, and other colleagues from the region, to EJTN activities. This has greatly enriched our network and I trust that we will continue to work together and support each other in the future.
But the cornerstone of our network is that all these activities are decided and designed by the members, the judicial training institutions which adopted unanimously the judicial training principles in 2016. They remind the importance of the judicial training and the National authorities’ duty to support it and to guarantee the access of every judge and prosecutor to qualitative trainings, ideally designed by judges and prosecutors already trained themselves.
The European Commission, which I thank for its support, acknowledges these principles and the unique role of EJTN in implementing its strategy for judicial training.
Gathering the effort, competences and work of all the European judicial training institutions, EJTN provides highly qualitative trainings on ever-more complex topics, including the significant development of EU secondary law. Judicial training programs provide judges with opportunities to deepen their understanding of the law. Such legal training is important as it equips the judiciary with the tools and know-how without which the right to an effective remedy before an independent court would be illusory. And without which the rule of law value would remain theoretical instead of real. That is also why the EJTN believes that trainings on judicial ethics, moral values, gender balance and cultural sensitivity are so important.
And we increasingly face the same challenges.
For instance, domestic violence and violence against women. I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic events that have occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last months. There are lessons we can learn in times of hardship, and this is certainly the case here. Domestic violence is a challenge that we face all over Europe and that we need to tackle together, by providing resources, training and improving cooperation among judicial and other public institutions. This is why, on 8 March 2022, the European Commission proposed a new directive on combatting violence against women and domestic violence. The new rules, if adopted, will criminalize a range of offences, and ensure that victims have access to justice, the right to claim compensation and access to free helplines and crisis centers.
But to ensure the efficiency of this initiative, a proper training for all European judiciary will be needed. And EJTN is already working on it.
As a final remark, I wish to congratulate all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the institutions that represent them, on the granting of the status as a candidate EU member. This is the result of your work and your achievement, which you should be proud of. I am confident that that important step will open up new avenues of support for the Bosnian judiciary and enable us to work more closely with you dealing with the challenges we all face.
I wish to thank the organizers once again for this invitation and for their continuous support and cooperation with EJTN.
Zajedno smo najbolji. Hvala Vam.