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15 Dec 2023

Experts Discuss Judicial Integrity Check Systems

On December 14, 2023, the Group of Independent Lawyers and NGO  Democracy Index – Georgia, with USAID Rule of Law Program support, organized an international online discussion on judicial integrity check systems.

Twenty-three participants, including lawyers, former judges, and NGO representatives, engaged with experts from Poland, the Netherlands, and North Macedonia. The participants discussed vetting legislation in Europe and its alignment with judicial independence, accountability, and transparency.

Judge Grzegorz Borkowski, head of the Office of the National Council of Judiciary in Poland from 2010 to 2015, Herman von Hebel, Chairperson of the Pre-Vetting Commission in Moldova, and Andrej Bozhinovski, member of CEELI Institute's Central and Eastern European Judicial Exchange Network, shared their experiences of the theory and practice related to vetting, including pre-vetting of judges (Moldova and Ukraine), periodic security checks for judges (Slovakia and Croatia), and full-fledged vetting experiences (Albania).

The participants emphasized that vetting is an extraordinary, one-time measure and should be used only when other mechanisms to ensure the independence and integrity of the judiciary are exhausted. It should also be separated from performance evaluation, and disciplinary or criminal proceedings as these instruments can be applied multiple times, unlike vetting.

The experts found vetting to be a useful tool to address challenges in the judiciary.  They did note however, that the country should be extremely careful when identifying the circumstances in which vetting is necessary. In the case of Moldova, its Pre-vetting Commission assesses only the ethical and financial integrity of judges and does not consider their competence or evaluate their court decisions. The Commission gathers information through public sources, CSOs, journalists, private banks, and the public at large.

The experts also noted that local and international representation and involvement of the civil society sector is crucial for a commission’s success. The procedures of appeal [of a commission’s decision], transparency, and longevity of the process were named among the issues to consider. It was noted that vetting is not a stand-alone procedure, and a country should have a comprehensive approach to structuring a vetting process.                                                                                       

Link to the discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aBJ0rEiuhU

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