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About International Summit of High Courts

BACKGROUND

Transparency is a fundamental element of the judicial process. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes that while the press and public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order (ordre public) or national security in a democratic society, or when the interests of the private lives of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice, every judgment rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interests of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.

The Conference of Presidents of European Supreme Courts meeting in Slovenia in October 1999 under the auspices of the Council of Europe formulated a statement on "The Supreme Court: Publicity, Visibility and Transparency". That statement recognized "the necessity to satisfy the expectations of contemporary society with regard to justice", and stressed the importance of courts "demonstrating their openness and sensitivity". The statement noted that judgments, "based on clear and easily understandable reasoning", should be accessible to the general public; that there should be transparency in the nomination of judges; that the Supreme Court should "participate in the democratic debate in society with the aim of making better known the issues of justice in a state governed by the rule of law"; and underscored the relationship between justice and the media as an important element in the educational role of the Supreme Court in a democracy.

İstanbul Declaration on Transparency in Judicial Process

In the scope of the joint Project of the Court of Cassation and UNDP Turkey "Support to the Institutional Administration of the Presidency of the Court of Cassation in line with the International Standards", the International Summit of High Courts with a theme of "Transparency in the Judiciary" took place in November 2013 in partnership with the UNDP Turkey and Court of Cassation with the aim of highlighting the importance of transparency in the judiciary and determining the needs in this field in the framework of international practices and the best experiences.

Speaking at the opening session of the Summit, the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, noted that a detailed statement on transparency in the judicial process, as the intended outcome of the Summit, would be a valuable contribution to the on-going reform initiatives embarked upon by the Judiciaries in several countries of the world.

At the Summit, "The Istanbul Declaration on Transparency in the Judicial Process", was developed and adopted by the Presidents of 13 High Courts in Asian-Pacific region and international community representatives. The Istanbul Declaration is the first comprehensive statement of principles relating to transparency in the administration of justice. It is expected that The Istanbul Declaration will be widely used and implemented by High Courts around the globe as well as by the international community. To this end, the Court of Cassation of Turkey and UNDP continue their efforts for its recognition at the national, regional and international levels.

OBJECTIVES

The proposed Conference is intended to present, share and document knowledge and experiences among the High Courts on the essential elements of the multi-faceted concept of judicial transparency. It is expected that the outcome of the conference will be a statement of "Best Practices" and "Lessons Learned" in the application and implementation of the Fifteen Principles relating to transparency in the judicial process contained in The Istanbul Declaration, together with recommendations, if any, for the amendment or modification of these Principles.

Expected Participant Profile of the Summit:
  1. The Presidents of the High Courts in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo1, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  2. Representatives of relevant legal and judicial organizations, such as the International Commission of Jurists, and the Judicial Integrity Group, as well as the Council of Europe, the Human Rights Committee (ICCPR), and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
  3. The Presidents of the High Courts in Turkey.
  4. The Head of the Departments of the Court of Cassation in Turkey.

FORMAT

The International Summit will be in the form of a Round Table Meeting. At four plenary sessions, the Presidents of High Courts will discuss the following principles relating to transparency in the judicial process:

  1. ACCESS TO JUSTICE
    • Public trials
    • Easy access to court premises and to information
    • Access to the judicial system (E-justice systems)
    • Translation and interpretation facilities free of charge
  2. DELIVERY OF JUSTICE
    • Assignment of cases
    • Access to information on judicial proceedings and relevant documents
    • Supervision of executive detention
    • Publication of judicial decisions
  3. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
    • School and university programmes
    • Outreach programmes
    • Relations with media and communication strategy
    • Assessment of public satisfaction with delivery of justice
  4. JUDICIAL ETHICS
    • Responding to complaints of unethical conduct
    • The appointment process of judges
    • Disciplinary process of judges

Each of the issues noted above corresponds to a Principle in the Istanbul Declaration. The discussion of each issue will commence with a presentation on "Best Practice" or "Lessons Learned" from one of the participating jurisdictions.

The specific presentations to be made by respective High Courts will be determined in advance and shared with the participants following the confirmation of participation in the Summit.


1 Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution1244 (1999)