CEPEJ (2003) 10
EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR THE EFFICIENCY OF JUSTICE
Owing to the need to bring justice closer to the citizens and to improve the efficiency and the functioning of judicial procedures, the Committee of Ministers, through its Resolution Res (2002)12, decided to set up the CEPEJ so as to bring in a new phase of activity providing an “after-sales service” for States, focusing on the actual implementation of existing European standards in the field of justice.
The Council of Europe has already a whole set of principles and rules on the efficiency and fairness of justice. These are contained in a large number of Committee of Ministers resolutions and recommendations, as well as in the important case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.
The CEPEJ will therefore essentially be concerning itself with giving proper effect, in States, to the principles and rules on efficiency of justice.
To this end and in accordance with Article 2 of its Statute, the CEPEJ will :
1. examine the results achieved by the different judicial systems, by using common statistical criteria and means of evaluation;
2. consider problems and areas for possible improvements;
3. identify concrete ways of improving the measurement and functioning of member States’ judicial systems, having regard to the specific needs of each country.
Within this framework, the CEPEJ will be working for all the member States on questions of common concern or will provide assistance to one or more member States at their request. The aim, with these two types of work, is to be as effective as possible and receptive to individual countries’ practical needs.
Under its Statute the CEPEJ is required to co-operate and co-ordinate with other bodies - whether Council of Europe ones or other international institutions - concerned with the functioning of judicial systems.
Such co-operation is all the more necessary in that the CEPEJ has an extremely wide field of responsibility - improved functioning of justice systems generally, regard being had to a number of basic principles (access to justice and properly and effectively functioning courts; the status and role of legal professionals; court administration and organisation; use of information and communication technologies). All of this may involve the CEPEJ in questions of civil, administrative or criminal justice, though without in any way encroaching on the competence of specialist committees.
The CEPEJ will also have to be a main interactor with the civil society, whether the citizens, judicial professionals or any institution directly involved in the functioning of the justice system.
To increase public confidence in the judicial system it is essential to take positive steps for the benefit of the public to make sure that the individual citizen knows how the system works. Judicial professionals, universities and justice ministries might also be interested in having the CEPEJ deal with particular topics through conferences, publications, general studies or best practice surveys.
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The present draft programme of activity is structured according to three groups of competences specified in the introduction:
1. the implementation on basic principles and rules in the field of efficiency of justice;
2. the co-operation with other bodies;
3. acting as a key partner of civil society.
2003 programme of activity
On the basis of Resolution Res(2002)12, the CEPEJ recalled its wide fields of actions concerning issues relating to the functioning and the efficiency of justice. However, as far as 2003 is concerned, the CEPEJ, for reasons relating to time and resources, as well as for a wish of pragmatism, decided to concentrate on two themes which are of general interest for all States and which have as a common denominator to enable justice to be as close as possible to individuals and their problems.
I – The implementation of the basic principles and rules in the field of efficiency and fairness of justice
A - Topics of common concern to all countries
1 – “Definition of common tools of evaluation of the judicial systems”
It will be important to define common tools enabling States, as well as interested international Institutions (such as the European Court of Human Rights), to evaluate in an objective manner the functioning of the judicial systems of the member States, having in mind the need to determine concrete indicators taking into account the expectations of the users of the justice system.
These common tools will have to take into account, inter alia, the diversity of the judicial systems, the different methods of evaluation already in place and the on-going discussions in this area. The definition of these tools, which will be an on-going task for the CEPEJ, will lead to the elaboration of a scheme which will have to be both simple and able to be used by all (see in this context the Dutch proposals contained in document CEPEJ(2003)4).
This task will be carried out by the Working Party N° 1 (CEPEJ-GT 1), composed of 6 persons, which will meet twice in 2003, to complete this work. The Group will benefit from a document prepared in advance by a consultant.
2 – “The users of the justice system vis-à-vis the slowness of justice: how to remedy ? Two symbolic situations”
The question of the excessive length of judicial proceedings is considered by many as one of the main obstacle for a proper and effective functioning of justice.
For this reason the CEPEJ considered that it will be necessary first to carry out a “picture” of the current situation of delays in Europe and then to select two situations in which delays are particularly painful for the users of the justice system. In this context, the following situations could be considered: (i) persons waiting for a decision of divorce and (ii) the victims of crime.
The experts will have to look for the lessons to be drawn from the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and to base their work on the results of the CEPEJ-GT 1. Then, to remedy these situations, the aim is to determine concrete measures which will be disseminated to the professionals in the justice area of the member States, particularly through Best Practice Guides.
This work will be carried out by the Working Party N° 2 (CEPEJ-GT 2) composed of 6 persons, which will meet once in 2003 to complete this work. The group will benefit from a document prepared in advance by a consultant.
B - Action for particular countries or in specific cases (for the concrete modalities of this co-operation, see the Statute of the CEPEJ and Title II of the draft Rules of Procedures)
The Netherlands: “territorial jurisdiction”, especially focussing on the following questions:
1 Which mechanisms can be identified to allocate cases between courts?
2 What is the optimal size of a court (for handling cases efficiently)?
4 What are the effects of selective forum-shopping by parties on the functioning of the judicial system? (see document CEPEJ(2003)8)
Delegations are invited to make concrete proposals for activities falling within Article 2, paragraph 1.d of the Statute of the CEPEJ. Any proposals will have to be sent in writing to the Secretariat before 3 March 2003. The Bureau, at its next meeting, will decide in the light of the budgetary availabilities, the activities which will be carried out in 2003.
II - Co-operation with other bodies
A - Council of Europe bodies
European Court of Human Rights, the Steering Committee on Human Rights (CDDH) and the Department for the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Directorate General II – Human Rights (see under I.A).
B - Outside bodies
The European Commission: see under III.A
III - Relations with civil society
A - Conferences
The CEPEJ suggested that, subject to the necessary budgetary resources, a 1-day Conference could be organised to consider whether the institutions concerned with the functioning of justice are client oriented and co-operate with each other to the fullest possible extent.
B – Documentation
On the web site of the CEPEJ (www.coe.int/cepej) it will be possible to find:
- bibliographical references, national publications and/or internet links of interest to the CEPEJ;
- publication in a “CEPEJ” series on themes to be selected by the CEPEJ. The latter publications will also be available in paper versions.
Delegations are invited to transmit to the Secretariat all suggestions or information concerning the above-mentioned items.
In the framework of part III of this programme, other initiatives could possibly be decided at a later stage.