Independent and accountable judiciary is the basic foundation of the rule of law, and Serbia should strive to it not only in order to meet the requirements of the European integration process, but first and foremost because of its citizens. This was the conclusion of the Conference on Judicial Independence, held in Belgrade today.
The Conference on Judicial Independence was organised by the Council of Europe and OSCE Mission to Serbia, in co-ordination with the Ministry of Justice, the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council, and it gathered more than 100 judges, prosecutors, representatives of civil society organizations and journalists.
“For the first time, Serbia has an opportunity to systematically regulate the basic principles of judicial independence by amending the Constitution and by respecting the recommendations and standards of the Venice Commission", said Nela Kuburovic, Minister of Justice, in her opening remarks.
Hanne Juncher, Head of Justice and Legal Co-operation Department of the Council of Europe pointed out that independent, impartial and effective judiciary is a key requirement of democracy and a fundamental pillar of the rule of law. Referring to the process of constitutional reform and the recommendations of the Venice Commission, she stated it is now up to the Serbian Government to ensure legal guarantees for independent and impartial judiciary.
“It does not matter how many abstract documents of legislative character we have. The more educated, morally autonomous judges, different personalities in responsible positions we have – the more judicial independence we will have”, said judge Dragomir Milojević, President of the High Judicial Council.
Andrea Orizio, Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, described the conference as a symbol of synergy and streamlining of international community's efforts in underlining the importance of judicial independence. Once constitutional reforms are completed “independence and efficiency will be a new pillar in Serbian society”, he added. Orizio pointed out that this will be reached if the principles of independence are effectively and fairly applied in practice.
Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, Ambassador Sem Fabrizi, pointed out that judicial independence is inseparable of the judicial accountability. Both of these are the foundations of the rule of law in modern democracies, and the rule of law is, as he said, a key requirement for the state to become member of the EU.
Participants discussed various aspects of internal and external independence of judges, including examples of best international standards and practices. The discussion specifically focused on the role of court presidents in safeguarding independence, autonomy and integrity, individual prosecutors and judicial councils’ mandate in protecting and strengthening judicial independence and prosecutorial autonomy.
The Conference was organised within the action “Strengthening Legal Guarantees for Independent and Impartial Tribunals” which is being implemented in Serbia as a part of the programme “Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey” funded by the European Union and co-funded and implemented by the Council of Europe.