COMMUNIQUÉ from the conference “Together for Effective and More Reliable judiciary” which took place on 19 November 2014 in Bratislava

Conference was held under auspices of the President Andrej Kiska, and with participation of the Justice Minister Tomáš Borec, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee Róbert Madej, members of the Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, judges of different levels and from various regions of the Slovak Republic, significant judges from the Czech Republic, representatives of the NGO sector, and the diplomatic corps.

 

The following conclusions resulted from the conference:

 

  • The following three conditions are inevitable for functioning Rule of Law in Slovakia: co-operation of all three powers of the state, their sincere attempt to reach such goal, and their mutual respect.

 

  • Legislative and executive powers should put the judiciary to the top priorities on their agenda and should not solve the problems of the judiciary with populism or as part of the political competition. They should remedy the main causes of low electivity of courts which are, mainly, uneven loading of courts with court litigations and disproportionate distribution of judges between courts; inefficient legislation; insufficient amount of assistants of judges with legal education, and low qualification of the court administrative staff.

 

  • Trust of the public is the most valuable merit that the judiciary possess. Strengthening of the trust is primarily a task for the judges themselves who should take over the accountability for their work, for their profession, and for the moral values connected to it. Apart from good and persuasive judicial decisions, the basis for the trustworthiness of courts is the fulfilment of the legitimate request of the public that a judge should not only be professional but also moral authority. 

 

In Bratislava, on the 19th November 2014

 

Conference was organised by the association of judges “For Open Judiciary” with support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Open Society Foundation and VIA IURIS.

Conference - „Together for effective and more reliable judiciary“

Open Letter to the President of the Association of Slovak Judges

Dear Mrs. President,

In connection with the nomination of the candidates to the position of the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic you today on 28 April 2014 inter alia stated for the TA3 television programme that the Association of Slovak Judges supports the candidacy of Stefan Harabin who although has not 100% support  of the judges, but still he is supported by a significant majority of the judges. Your full statement can be heard in:

http://www.ta3.com/clanok/1039302/borec-na-post-sefa-najvyssieho-sudu-nominoval-janu-bajankovu.html

We oppose this statement. You as the President of the Association of Slovak Judges have the mandate to speak only for the members of your Association and not for all judges, that means also not even for us, moreover in such a significant question. We presented very real arguments for which we state that Stefan Harabin does not fulfill minimum moral criteria for performance of the supreme judicial position.

We ask you what factually qualifies you to such statements which we perceive as misleading the public.

According to our information even the common members of the Association of Slovak Judges have not approved by majority of votes the Association of Slovak Judges to nominate Stefan Harabin to this position. The public does not differentiate between promoting and supporting a candidate, and the public sees your statement as the wish of the judges organised in the Association of Slovak Judges  to elect Stefan Harabin again. However, this is the internal case of the members of your professional organisation.

More, you provide incorrect information about number of your members. For instance only in Bratislava section of the Association of Slovak Judges you register  as your members those judges who for a longer time resigned their membership for the Association of Slovak Judges, who left for pension, you even register a deceased judge. It would be correct to respect the notices of the judges, to whom you keep sending mail as to the Association of Slovak Judges members, about such failures and to state real number of your members.

Many judges who are today the members of the association “For Open Judiciary“ long ago belonged to the long-time  and very active members  of the Association of Slovak Judges. They invested many efforts and much time at the expense of their privacy, to build the Association of Slovak Judges as a strong professional organisation and a representative of significant majority of Slovak judges. After 2006, when the presidency period of Juraj Majchrak the President of the Association of Slovak Judges  finished, the Association of Slovak Judges started a completely different way and also your statement of today is a devaluation of the values for which we pushed for together. Therefore we feel a moral obligation to publicly distinguish from this also in this form.

Done at Bratislava 28 April 2014

JUDr. Katarina Javorcikova

President of ZOJ

ZOJ Declaration on Current Situation in Judiciary

The Conference of the organisation Judges „For Open Judiciary“ held in Bratislava on 21 March 2014 after evaluating the current situation in judiciary adopted this position:

 

Judges negatively view the procedure in which serious legislative modifications related to judicial power based on motions of the Parliament Members directly in the Parliament are adopted whereby the judges in this procedure are excluded. The proposed motions relate to all key laws and provisions of the Slovak Constitution that were adopted by the end of the 90-ties, after long-lasting and complicated negotiations among the representatives of judges, the Government and the Parliament, and that fulfilled the requirements for integration of Slovakia with the European Union. These legislative provisions were based on European standards and on the independence of judicial power and they should be fully respected also today.

 

Unacceptable are mainly the efforts establishing the security checks and providing a possibility to remove judges from their positions in a way other than regular disciplinary or criminal procedures. Motions of the Parliament Members do not make it clear why current way of creating the Judicial Council is not satisfactory and why it is necessary to modify its creation in a way that give the Slovak Government and the Slovak Parliament stronger powers. It is not possible to find out real effects to efficiency and confidence of the Slovak Courts. We find positive only the proposed separation of the positions of the President of the Slovak Supreme Court and the Chairman of the Slovak Judicial Council. We therefore invite the Members of the Slovak Parliament not to continue the legislative procedure without any regular expert discussion and to enable mainly the judges to comment these serious modifications within a regular consultation procedure.

 

It is surprising that the Slovak Judicial Council has not adopted any position to these efforts of the legislative and executive powers, where judges and the public rightfully expect that this should be the main body to guarantee the independence of the judicial power. Judicial Boards are also inactive though they are the bodies of the Court self-administration.

 

We will inform the international judicial associations about current situation and we will ask them to monitor the Slovak Republic how the fundamental criteria and conditions for a democratic country with rule of law are maintained.

 

Done at Bratislava 21 March 2014

 

JUDr. Katarina Javorcikova

ZOJ President

A memory can also be a new beginning

On 14th April 2011 passed away Juraj Majchrák – former judge, Vice-President of the Supreme Court SR, a longtime President of the Association of Judges in Slovakia and signatory of the initiative For Open Judiciary (ZOJ). He achieved in his life what many of us only desire – natural reverence and respect at home and abroad. He connected the work of a judge with the efforts to transform Slovak judiciary into an independent and credible judiciary.

The way to achieve this goal is still very far. There is lack of distinctive personalities in the jury, such as was Juraj, who would be able to motivate and convince the judges that just as important as the performance of decision-making activities of a judge is also responsibility for the judiciary as a whole, for its professional and moral standard. When in the '90s Association of Judges in Slovakia fought for the adoption of legislation that would make the judiciary indeed the third power in the state, Juraj as its representative had always been associating the requirements with the responsibility of judges for the performance of the judiciary.

We have achieved a lot, something we have already lost. Our credibility in society is low enough and the answer why this is so are different between the judges themselves. When we began to fight for the new face of justice in the '90s, most of the judges were as on the same ship. We thought that we are on one side of the barricades against the executive branch, which has no interest in strengthening our position and powers. However, in parallel with the way we seemed to succeed to achieve the status of judges, which e.g. the judges Czech Republic were jealous of, the process of internal decay of our apparent unity started. Although judges seized, among other things, leading positions in the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Council, it did not lead to the strengthening of our position and respect in society. The result is rather the opposite.

Juraj liked to use one unnamed author's statement "There is not enough darkness to put out the light even from the smallest candle." There's a profound truth. The problems will not go away if we do not speak about them loud. And if we do not start to solve by ourselves the problems that most people can see, someone else will have to deal with them for us. And sooner or later, the will issue us a bill...

In a newspaper interview in 2004, Juraj said "Evil is allowed by decent people who are silent." He knew what he was talking about and the judges knew it as well. The situation has not changed much since then. Most decent judges are still quiet, even if there is the need to speak.

Judge Juraj Majchrák will not come between us anymore. He will not speak in the way typical for him, when all of a sudden everything seems clear and convincing and proposed solutions acceptable. His legacy, however, remained here and it is important to remember.

So that we do not remain those decent judges thank to whom the things we do not agree with can happen in judiciary.

 

14th April 2013

 

JUDr. Juraj Babjak

Vice-President ZOJ 

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