Who judges the judges? UN Human Rights Council side event on judicial accountability

Who judges the judges?
Accountability for judicial corruption and judicial complicity

Side Event Tuesday 14 June 2016, 14:00 – 16:00

Room XXIII, Palais des Nations, Geneva.


The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the International Bar Association (IBA) organised a side event to the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, on the topic of accountability for judicial corruption and judicial involvement in human rights violations.

The well-attended event considered the need for judicial accountability, and different options for effective mechanisms and procedures of accountability. Recommendations for ordinary situations were complemented with reflections on circumstances of transitions where the judiciary have been deeply implicated in the violations of the previous regime, as well as particular challenges in developing countries.

At the event the ICJ launched its new Practitioners’ Guide on Judicial Accountability, and the IBA presented the recent report of its Judicial Integrity Initiative on Judicial systems and Corruption. Print copies of both publications were distributed.

A panel discussion also featured the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, as well as Thulani Maseko, a lawyer from Swaziland who was subjected to prolonged arbitrary detention and imprisonment by judges in Swaziland, for speaking publicly about judicial misconduct in the country.


  • Mónica Pinto Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
  • Thulani Maseko Lawyer, Swaziland
  • Jane Ellis, Director, Legal & Policy Research Unit, International Bar Association
  • Matt Pollard, Centre for the Independence of Judges & Lawyers, International Commission of Jurists

In addition to the ICJ and IBA, side event co-sponsors included:

  • The Permanent Mission of Hungary to the UN
  • Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association
  • Commonwealth Lawyers Association
  • Rechters voor Rechters (Judges for Judges), Netherlands
  • International Legal Assistance Consortium

The ICJ Practitioners’ Guide on Judicial Accountability, and the research and consultations on which it is based, was made possible with the financial support of the Republic and Canton of Geneva and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

For more information, please contact Matt Pollard.

ICJ Practitioners’ Guide No. 13 on Judicial Accountability

The ICJ’s Practitioners’ Guide No. 13 on Judicial Accountability aims to help practitioners ensure accountability for serious judicial misconduct, such as corruption or complicity in human rights violations, while preserving the independence of the judiciary.

It focuses on international standards on accountability mechanisms and procedures, illustrated by practical examples. It addresses not only the accountability of individual judges, and the accountability of judiciary as an institution, but also State responsibility under international law, particularly in relation to harm caused to victims of violations by judges.

The Guide was greatly informed by discussions among eminent judges and lawyers from around the world, convened by the ICJ Centre for the Independence of Judges & Lawyers, in Tunisia in October 2015 , and in Geneva in December 2015.

Among the topics covered by the new ICJ Guide are:

  • The obligation to ensure an independent, impartial and accountable judiciary.
  • The forms of judicial accountability, including:
    • Remedy and reparation for victims,
    • The responsibility of the State,
    • Removal from office, disciplinary sanctions, and other administrative measures,
    • Criminal responsibility, and
    • The right to the truth.
  • The structure and elements of accountability bodies, such as:
    • Review of decisions through appeal or judicial review,
    • Judicial councils,
    • The ordinary courts,
    • Parliamentary procedures,
    • Ad hoc tribunals,
    • Anti-corruption bodies,
    • Civil society monitoring and reporting,
    • National human rights institutions,
    • Professional associations,
    • International accountability mechanisms.
  • Procedural issues, including:
    • Necessary powers for accountability mechanisms,
    • Procedural rights of the judge,
    • Procedural rights of complainants and victims,
    • Publicity and transparency,
    • Procedures for lifting judicial immunity,
    • Temporary suspension during proceedings, and
    • Selective enforcement for improper purposes.
  • Mechanisms in exceptional circumstances, such as transitions from undemocratic or authoritarian regimes, including:
    • Truth commissions,
    • Vetting, and
    • Mass removal and re-application.
  • Particular challenges in relation to developing countries.