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Regional Rule of Law Forum for South East Europe

9 March 2015

The aim of the Forum is to promote the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the region, to encourage regional cooperation in the continued development of Rule of Law and Human Rights, and to assist the process of EU integration of the region.

 

Annual Regional Rule of Law Forum for South East Europe

6th and 7th of March 2015

Belgrade, Serbia, Falkensteiner Hotel Belgrade 

Executive Summary

 

The second regional Rule of Law Forum for South East Europe was held on the 6 and 7 of March 2015 in Belgrade, Serbia at the Falkensteiner Hotel.

 

The Rule of Law Forum is an initiative of the AIRE Centre and Civil Rights Defenders that provides a platform to: promote the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) across the region, encourage regional cooperation in strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights, and assist the process of EU integration in South East Europe.

 

This year’s topic was Article 6 of the ECHR, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. This right is of fundamental importance in a democratic society, occupying a central place in the Convention system.  Article 6 is the provision of the Convention most frequently invoked by applicants to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).  Some of the countries in the region have exceptionally high numbers of applications before the Strasbourg Court in per capita terms, in particular concerning right to a fair trial. Many of these cases are similar, indicating systemic problems in our domestic legal systems.

 

The invited participants were from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The Forum brought together Presidents and Judges of Supreme Courts and Constitutional Courts from the region, Directors of Judicial Training Academies and Institutions, Government Agents before the Strasbourg Court, representatives of NGOs and prominent legal experts in the field. 

 

The event was opened by organisers: Biljana Braithwaite, Programme Manager for the Western Balkans at the AIRE Centre, and Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders.  Introductory speeches by distinguished guests followed: Nikola Selakovic, Minister of Justice of Serbia, Dragomir Milojevic, President of the Supreme Cassation Court of Serbia, Nenad Vujic, Director of the Judicial Academy of Serbia, Denis Keefe, United Kingdom Ambassador to Serbia, and Christer Asp, Swedish Ambassador to Serbia.

 

The forums structure was a mixture of panel discussions, interactive working groups and a seminar with Nuala Mole, Senior Lawyer at AIRE Centre. This structure allowed participants a greater opportunity to contribute and participate.

 

The panel of four Strasbourg judges was comprised by Ledi Bianku (Albania), Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska (Macedonia), Nebojsa Vucinic (Montenegro), Dragoljub Popovic (Serbia).  The panel focused on ‘common problems throughout the region identified through recent case law from the ECHR’, looking in particular at common Article 6 violations. This included: inconsistent case law in domestic court judgments, the importance of clear reasoning, non-enforcement of domestic judgments, the role of precedent both at domestic and Strasbourg level, access to court and equality of arms, and the impact on fair trial guarantees of the responsibility of States for the debts of state or socially owned companies (enforcement). National judges and domestic practitioners were able to contribute by sharing the domestic experiences, discuss and ask questions.

 

Nuala Mole, Senior lawyer at AIRE Centre spoke about the challenges in relation to the national implementation of judgments concerning Article 6 of the ECHR and after the seminar participants broke into three working groups, where the discussions took more depth and analysis due to its size and aims.

 

Working groups were organised in a way in which participants could share good practice with their counterparts in the region. ECtHR judges and national judges formed the first group, Government Agents and Judicial Training Centres formed the second and NGO representatives and legal experts formed the third. All groups reported back their findings the following day where conclusions were shared.

 

Finally, the development, promotion and future of the European Human Rights database was discussed and presented to all participants.

 

The forum provided an opportunity to share our experiences, and to hear what has or has not worked in other countries facing similar challenges in the application of the ECHR caselaw.  

 

The event was a massive success and the AIRE Centre would like to express a special thanks to all those who have made this Forum possible. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Government of Sweden, for recognizing the importance of our work and giving us the means to carry it out. The judges from the region who sit in the European Court, who have been closely involved in the planning of this event. Our partners at Civil Rights Defenders, who have done huge amount of work to organise this event. The Regional Cooperation Council, based in Sarajevo, who has contributed to this event with the aim to foster regional cooperation on all levels and support the European integration of the aspiring countries in the region.

 

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* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence. 

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