(CEPEJ) held its 32nd plenary meeting on 13 and 14 June 2019. Mr Ramin Gurbanov (Azerbaijan) chaired it. During this meeting, an exchange of views between the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Sicilianos, his fellow judges and the members of the CEPEJ highlighted the possible interactions between the Court and the CEPEJ on the indicators that can be used to evaluate the efficiency and quality of justice.
The chairmen of the various CEPEJ working groups (Evaluation – Quality – Mediation – Saturn) presented their activities and the planned work, which the CEPEJ took note of. The CEPEJ adopted the “European Handbook for the Development of National Laws on Mediation”, the “Guidelines for the Design and Monitoring of Mediators Training Programs” and the “Toolkit for the Implementation of the Guidelines on Cyberjustice” (available at https://www.coe.int/en/web/cepej/).
France currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and wishes to “provide answers to new challenges to Human Rights and the rule of law”, notably by improving the functioning of justice.
On 3 June, Vivien Whyte and Jean-Jacques Kuster met with Mr Jean-Baptiste Mattei, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of France to the Council of Europe at the headquarters of the French delegation in Strasbourg to present to him the proposals of the EUR. Our representatives gave Mr Mattei a copy of the White Paper for a Rechtspfleger/Greffier for Europe and explained to him the essential role of the Rechtspfleger and other non-judge staff in the functioning of the judicial systems and thus in the preservation of the rule of law in Europe.
In this context, updating Recommendation R (86) 12 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was discussed, the EUR inviting France to seize this opportunity to revise this particularly useful instrument for the Member States in proposing concrete measures to reduce the overburdening of the courts, in particular by shifting tasks from the judge to other professions such as the Rechtspfleger.
Ambassador Mattei noted with us that the list of transferable tasks listed in the appendix to the Recommendation was outdated and took note of our proposals.
On 16 September 1986, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation R(86)12 on certain measures aimed at preventing and reducing excessive workload in the courts. This instrument mentioned the German and Austrian Rechtspfleger as a good practice and provided a list of non-judicial tasks from which judges could be released. Thanks to this instrument, the situation has improved. Nevertheless, the judicial systems have evolved, working methods have changed, the economical and political situation has worsened.
In this context, the EUR believes in the need for a new instrument proposing new measures that could prevent and reduce the still excessive workload in court.
On the occasion of this session, the INGOs were encouraged to show their commitment to the Council of Europe, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2019. The Council of Europe is currently experiencing a financial and political crisis that is forcing it to adopt restrictive financial measures.
The meeting was chaired by Georg STAWA (Austria), President of the CEPEJ, who was completing his four-year term. The CEPEJ thanked him for his decisive action in developing the commission and giving it a leading role in the debate on the functioning of judicial systems in Europe and beyond.
The year 2018 was particularly dense for the CEPEJ in the light of the texts adopted and the publication in October 2018 of the report on “European Judicial Systems – 2018 Edition” which has had wide echoes both among public authorities and professionals of justice than media.
President Vivien Whyte and Honorary President Jean-
Jacques Kuster attended the October meeting of the
CEPEJ Saturn Centre Steering Committee in Strasbourg.
They presented observations on the role of non-judge staff in several areas, including case weighting (citing the Romanian system presented at the General Assembly in Bucharest). They suggested that court management dashboards include data on the number of cases handled by Rechtspfleger.
On the occasion of the International Day of Democracy, the Council of Europe’s Directorate General for Democracy and the President of the INGO Conference organised a conference and a debate on Democracy & “the People”. This event aimed at expressing the value of our democratic institutions based on the individual human rights, civil participation to public decision-making and the rule of law.
Discussions started with a speech by Yascha Mounk, author of The People vs. Democracy. Faced with the rise of populism in numerous European States, citizens and civil society organisations must organise themselves to defend the values of democracy.
Several speakers presented examples of initiatives such as “assemblies of citizens” that allowed for a more active participation of citizens. Representatives from the Council of Europe spoke about the tools that the Council provides to make democracy more participative (Lignes directrices pour une participation de la société civile aux décisions politiques ; Compétences pour une culture de la démocratie ; Les 12 principes de bonne gouvernance).
Finally, the President of the INGO Conference stressed the necessity for INGOs to think on how to better communicate with citizens.
Jean-Jacques Kuster represented the EUR at that conference.