Judicial Councils and Judicial Independence (UN Statement)

The ICJ today spoke at the UN on the role of judicial councils, judicial independence in Turkey and Poland, and on business and human rights in Peru.

The statement was made at the UN Human Rights Council during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

The statement on judicial councils and independence was made jointly with the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association. The whole statement read as follows:

“Mr President,

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (A/HRC/38/38) on the role of judicial councils and similar bodies.

Based on many decades of relevant experience around the world, we urge that:

All countries should consider establishing an independent judicial council. Reliance on constitutional customs, cultures, and traditions alone often proves insufficient if a crisis arises.

To guarantee independence, a majority of members should be judges elected by their peers. Any other members must also be independent. The Head of State, executive or legislative officials, or political candidates, should not be members. Proactive measures should address under-representation of women or persons from minority or marginalized groups.

Such bodies should be responsible for all decisions relating to the selection, appointment, promotion, transfer, discipline, suspension and removal of judges.

As an example of concern, in Turkey following constitutional reform in 2017 no member of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors is elected by their peers, contributing to a lack of institutional independence of the judiciary. We also share the concerns for lawyers in Turkey already expressed by The Law Society and other colleagues today.

On the report on the visit to Poland (A/HRC/38/38/Add.1), we concur that reforms in the name of efficiency and accountability have undermined the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal, the Supreme Court and the National Council of the Judiciary, and effectively placed the entire judiciary under “control of the executive and legislative branches” (para 74). Mr Special Rapporteur, how can other States assist in securing full implementation of your recommendations on Poland?

The findings of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights report on its mission to Peru (A/HRC/38/48/Add.2) are of great concern, that “large number of human rights defenders and local leaders” were reportedly killed, attacked or threatened for defending the environment and land rights, legitimate social protest is criminalized, and wide use of states of exception and the armed forces have lead to serious abuses. The ICJ urges Peru to implement the recommendations and asks the Working Group what it will do to follow up?

Thank you.”

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