Coalition addresses Parliament with legislative proposal concerning regulation of High Council of Justice
The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary has addressed Parliament with a legislative proposal concerning proper regulation of the work of the High Council of Justice. The goal of the amendments is to deprive the Council of the possibility to make arbitrary decisions in specific cases and to significantly improve its work.
In order to address the existing flaws, the Coalition, within the framework of the I Want To Trust the Court campaign, demands that the following changes are made:
· The procedure of closing the Council sessions should be regulated while the interviews with judges should be public. The law regulating the work of the Council does not contain the procedures for closing sessions, which allows the Council to make arbitrary decisions. Also, according to the rule established by the Council, candidates for the positions of judges are interviewed at closed sessions. This needs to change and, furthermore, the recordings of interviews should be made available to the interested persons;
· The right of the media to record the Council's open sessions in full should be safeguarded by the law. The Council only allows to make video and audio recordings of the opening of sessions, restricting the possibility of the full coverage of sessions, which is unjustifiable;
· The Council sessions should be covered live via the official website. Currently, sessions are being recorded and the video can then be downloaded. In addition, a live transmission of sessions occurs through a special, closed network (intranet) operating only within the system of general courts which is accessible by judges and the non-judge members of the Council. We believe that, in order to increase transparency of the Council's work, other interested persons should be able to enjoy this right as well;
· The administrative and constitutional functions of the Council should be separated. For example, the separation could occur as follows: the appointment/dismissal of judges should be deemed a "constitutional power" while the approval of the staff composition of the Council – an "administrative power". Along with the separation of functions, it is important that an obligation to extend corresponding legal norms to cover them is introduced. The legal forms of decision making by the Council should also be defined;
· The Council should have an obligation to substantiate its decisions, and the appeals procedure should be defined. The current law does not require that the Council substantiates its decisions which, first and foremost, diminishes trust in the work of the Council and complicates appealing its decisions;
· The issue of preparation for sessions should be regulated. Along with other issues, the timeframes need to be established for the Council Secretary to provide all of its members with the documents of statements and draft proposals which are planned to be discussed at the upcoming session;
· The materials prepared regarding the issues on the agenda should be available to the interested persons. Also, the procedures of setting an agenda should be regulated, a person responsible for it should be assigned, and a Council member's right to request the removal or addition of an issue to the agenda by following certain timeframe and procedural requirements or directly at the Council session needs to be defined;
· The norms regulating the conflict of interests need to be improved. Even though the issue of the conflict of interest during the appointment of judges has been regulated by the law, the issue of the conflict of interest regarding other decisions made by the Council remains unregulated. The lack of such a regulation provides the Council members with an opportunity to make decisions based on their personal interest in each individual case;
· The Council's decisions should be published in a consolidated form, including on the Sakanonmdeblo Matsne webpage. Currently, for an interested person to familiarize him or herself with the final version of the Council's decision, he or she has to obtain the initial version of the decision and then all amendments that were made to it afterwards, which complicates the processing of information;
· The possibility for the persons attending a session to express their positions should be regulated by the law, so as to enhance civic engagement in the work of the Council. It is important that such a possibility be safeguarded by the law while the procedure for the interested persons to express their views can be specified by the Rules of Procedure adopted by the Council.
The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary is responsible for the content of the press release. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the East-West Management Institution, USAID or the US Government.