Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

The judiciary finds itself under huge pressure in many countries, especially where there are political and/or constitutional crises, armed conflicts or post-conflict instability. The judiciary is also vulnerable where democracy is weak, where interference by the executive is commonplace and where the resources of the judiciary are scarce. Counter-terrorism measures have also served to increase the pressure on the judiciary in a number of countries.An independent judiciary is essential for the protection of human rights. Courts ought to play a major role in ensuring that victims of human rights abuses obtain effective remedies, that perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice and that persons suspected of criminal offences receive a fair trial according to international standards.

Three main objectives

Accordingly, the main objectives of the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) are:

  • to advance the independence of the judiciary and legal profession to ensure that the administration of justice is carried out in full compliance with standards of international law;
  • to promote the establishment of legal systems that protect individuals and groups against violations of their human rights; and
  • to protect judges, lawyers and prosecutors who find themselves under threat.

The CIJL works to achieve these objectives in a number of ways. In its advocacy for independent legal systems and judicial accountability, the CIJL carries out country studies, high-level missions and legal interventions. The Centre continually monitors institutional and legislative developments at a national level. It seeks to mobilize the international legal community to protect judges, lawyers and prosecutors who are at risk for exercising their professional duties, sending delegations to observe trials in emblematic cases.

The Geneva Forum

Every year, the CIJL convenes the Geneva Forum of Judges and Lawyers. The Forum provides participants – who are representatives of the legal profession from around the world – with an opportunity to reflect upon and respond to immediate threats to their independence and ability to protect human rights by judicial means.