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, to these ends, the CIJL:
- Promotes, and contributes to the further development of, international standards and best practices on the independence and integrity of judges, lawyers and prosecutors;
- Seeks to protect individual judges, lawyers and prosecutors who are at risk for duly exercising their professional duties (including through private and public advocacy, trial observations and other fact-gathering, and mobilizing the international legal community);
- Produces legal and policy research and analysis on particular countries and thematic issues (including through reports, briefing papers, 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.
While the CIJL considers situations from around the world, it seeks to maintain a particular focus on situations where the independence of the judiciary and legal profession are particularly at risk due to political and/or constitutional crises, armed conflicts or post-conflict instability; where democracy is weak, where interference by the executive is commonplace and where the resources of the judiciary are scarce; or where counter-terrorism measures present particular challenges.
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.
Contact the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers:
Matt Pollard, Senior Legal Adviser, t: +41 22 979 38 12 ; e: matt.pollard(a)icj.org