The Serbian High Judicial Council (HJC) and the State Prosecutorial Council (SPC) have adopted on 15 and 19 April 2021 decisions with the ultimate objective to strengthen judicial independence.
On 15 April the HJC adopted amendments to their Rules of Procedure regulating the prevention of undue influence on individual judges and the judiciary as a whole. Today, the SPC decided to revise Rules of Procedure with improved provisions regulating the prevention of undue influence on prosecutors. Those Rules now provide the basis for the functioning of the Commissioner for Autonomy of the Prosecution.
The work on those decisions was supported by the joint European Union – Council of Europe initiative “Strengthening independence and accountability of the judiciary”, which is part of the programmatic framework “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II”.
The adopted change aims to create clearer procedures for reacting to cases of political, but also any other types, of undue influence such as those originating from lawyers, media and business community. The HJC and the SPC will now need to prove that the Rules will be followed and applied as reaction to cases of undue influence on judges and on prosecutors.
Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia,H.E. Sem Fabrizi stated:
“Rule of Law is at the core of the EU project and of the accession process. Reforms in the judiciary system play a crucial role. Independence, accountability and efficiency are the three key drivers of these reforms. We are glad that today the Councils of the Judges and Prosecutors adopted a legal framework to ensure that the mechanisms for reporting undue influence are adequately embedded in the Councils’ regulations. Undue influence of political, media or business or other nature on judges and prosecutors is detrimental to democratic, fair and transparent justice. It is of utmost importance that this positive development gets full endorsement from the authorities and translates into an enhanced guarantee of delivery of justice.“
“The decision of the HJC and SPC are testimony of living partnership with the Council of Europe. They are also a legacy of the outgoing Supreme Court President Dragomir Milojević who has engaged in their preparation. It is an important step forward, which will only improve the independence and autonomy of the administration of justice if the commitments are honoured by those judicial bodies. As long as government representatives play an important role in those bodies, they have a particular responsibility for upholding the spirit and letter of those changes. The change shall be secured for the future by amending the constitution to further develop the independence and autonomy of the judicial institutions in Serbia”, said Tobias Flessenkemper, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade.
Further activities within this Horizontal Facility action will entail more training for judges and prosecutors, and a training of trainers of the Judicial Academy, all in an effort to build the culture of independence and impartiality in the justice sector.