Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Article on Baka and the Rule of Law


David Kosař and Katarína Šipulová of Masaryk University have written: 'The Strasbourg Court Meets Abusive Constitutionalism: Baka v. Hungary and the Rule of Law', Hague Journal on the Rule of Law (2017). This is the abstract:

'The rise of abusive constitutionalism in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has hit the domestic judiciaries particularly hard. Viktor Orbán expanded the size of the Constitutional Court and then packed it, made sure that he can install a new president of the Constitutional Court, ousted the Supreme Court president through a constitutional amendment, disempowered the existing judicial council and created the new institution with power over ordinary judicial appointments. Jaroslav Kaczyński followed the same playbook in Poland. While most scholars have focused primarily on effects of abusive constitutionalism upon the constitutional courts, we argue that the keys to the long-term control of the judiciary are presidents of ordinary courts and judicial councils . The dismissal of the Hungarian Supreme Court President is a perfect example of this logic—by this move Orbán got rid of the most important court president in the country, the head of the Hungarian judicial council and his most vocal critic. Yet, András Baka lodged an application to the ECtHR and won. This article analyses the Grand Chamber judgment in Baka v. Hungary, its implication for the rule of law, and the limits of what the ECtHR can achieve against abusive constitutionalism. It concludes that the Grand Chamber failed on all key fronts. It overlooked the main structural problem behind Mr. Baka’s dismissal (the broad powers of court presidents in CEE), it has blurred the Convention’s understanding of the concept of the rule of law, and it failed in delivering a persuasive judgment firmly based on the existing ECtHR’s case law.'

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Report on Selection of Judges

The International Commission of Jurists and the Open Society Justice Initiative have published a report on the selection of human rights judges (including at the European Court of Human Rights). The report, entitled 'Strengthening from Within. Law and Practice in the Selection of Human Rights Judges and Commissioners', analyses the practice of selection procedures and tests these against standards of fairness, inclusiveness and transparency. For readers of this blog, chapter 3A on the Strasbourg Court will be of special interest. As one former ECtHR judge is quoted saying in the report, “the procedures at regional level [in the Council of Europe] have improved beyond recognition.” And compared to other regional systems it may indeed be relatively solid. However, problems remain as the rejection of a number of lists of three candidates from a number of countries has shown in the past few years. This is the abstract of the report as a whole:

'National procedures for the selection of regional human rights court judges too often fail to meet standards of fairness, inclusiveness and transparency, a joint Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and ICJ report published today concludes. The report makes recommendations aimed at ensuring that the best qualified candidates are selected as judges of regional human rights courts.

Regional human rights courts and commissions—including the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—are essential safeguards for the rule of law.

Yet despite their importance, the process of selecting the judges and commissioners who sit on these bodies—how they are nominated, vetted, and ultimately selected—remains largely unknown and often shrouded in secrecy. Coupled with broader political efforts to erode international judicial institutions, this secrecy underscores the pressing need to focus on strengthening these systems from within.

This report, Strengthening from Within, responds to that challenge. It shines a light on the processes that states use to nominate and select human rights judges and commissioners. By analyzing the nomination practices of 22 countries, the report documents the ways in which nomination procedures often fall short of the legal frameworks and international standards that should guide them. It also identifies promising practices and offers recommendations for improvement grounded in experience.

An independent judiciary is essential to the rule of law: for national courts, procedures for judicial selection must be fair, transparent, and merit-based. As this report makes clear, the world’s international courts and tribunals are no different.'