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Unacceptable conjointment of the executive with the judiciary

17. 10. 19

Pursuing the last week’s statements made by members of the executive, the Judges’ Association of Serbia addressed on 18 October 2017 letters to the Minister of Justice and the High Judicial Council respectively, thus demanding adequate reactions from each of them.

The Judges’ Association of Serbia informs both the Minister of Justice and members of the High Judicial Council that it faced a worrying and unacceptable demeanour of the members of the Ministry of Justice towards judges, during their participation at consultations on amendments of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia regarding judiciary, implemented by the Ministry of Justice alongside civil and professional judicial associations in Niš on 13 October 2017.

Assistant Minister of Justice Čedomir Backović stated that judges and public prosecutors were advocating for the judiciary to be „a company with limited liability“, „a craft shop“ that would decide on the peoples’ destinies based on their own „whim“. Special advisor to the Minister of Justice Zoran Balinovac claims that the independence of the judiciary is fetishized, that it is an ideological myth and that a debate on it has given birth to judicial troopers behaving as if they were above everything, but also that in the composition of respective judicial Councils judges should not represent a majority while public prosecutors need to represent a minority; that judges and public prosecutors wish to take over the power in Serbia, explaining that the independence they have in Serbia, let alone the scope of which they demand, does not exist anywhere in the world, and also that the judges’ and public prosecutors’ proposals are ridiculous etc.

The Judges’ Association of Serbia reminds the Minister of Justice that, ever since the Association’s inception in 1997, it has advocated for improvement of the judicial system and for that reason, inter alia, alongside the Government of the Republic of Serbia, in 2001 established the Judicial Centre, the forerunner of the Judicial Academy. Also, that that the systems of the evaluation of judges’ work and disciplinary responsibility were in 2008 included in the law following perennial propagation by the Judges’ Association. The Association also reminds the Minister that, fully aware that the trust of the citizens is the main indicator of the quality of the judicial system and that there can be no trust without responsible and ethically correct demeanour of judges, it adopted Ethical Codex of Judges in 1997 and 2003 established its body – Ethical Board which passed Standards of Judicial Ethics, that the High Judicial Council converted into Ethical Codex of Judges.

In the letter to the Minister of Justice, the Judges’ Association stated that neither the Association itself nor the judges are enemies of political power in Serbia and, least of all, of the citizens, but are conscientious professionals that put an effort so that democratic society and the rule of law in Serbia are improved and therefore called upon the Minister to react in order that the above explained demeanour of representatives of the Ministry of Justice is not repeated.

The Judges’ Association of Serbia called upon the High Judicial Council to, in accordance with its constitutional and legal authorisation, respond to the inappropriate address to the public by the representatives of the executive.

The importance of finding the best solutions for the judiciary in line with citizens’ interests within a professional and open debate was pointed out in the letter of 18 October 2017 that the Judges’ Association of Serbia addressed to the High Judicial Council, and the Council invited to enable and encourage participation of judges and courts in the debate. An expectation for the Council’s reaction was expressed regarding the Association’s appeal of 2 October 2017 regarding slurs, insults and threats to judges and public prosecutors, including announcements of their arrests.