On the 18th and 19th March 2016, representatives of the Association for Democratic Initiative (ADI) participated at the Third Annual Regional Rule Of Law Forum for South East Europe, held in Sarajevo at the City Hall. The Forum brought together over 130 prominent representatives of the highest court chambers – the supreme and constitutional courts, judicial councils, directors of judicial academies, institutions and non-governmental organizations from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, as well as the representatives of these countries in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg.
The forum was organized by the Advice on Individual Rights in Europe (AIRE) Centre and Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) with the support of the Government of the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Regional Cooperation Council and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). The goal of the Forum was to advance the application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and to accelerate the European integration of the region. The main topics of this year’s forum were fair trial, with the emphasis on the right to an independent and impartial court as one of the postulates of the rule of law; regional challenges in respect of rights in courts; and, the need for the increased effectiveness of the judiciary, in respect of the independence and impartiality of the courts.
Program Manager for the Western Balkans from the AIRE Centre, Biljana Braithwaite, stated that “the increased effectiveness of the judiciary, as required by the EU integration process, should at the same time be accompanied by other key features of fair trial, such as the independence and impartiality of courts. It is the application of the European Court in Strasbourg that can be the best way to ensure respect for these rights and strive for both effectiveness and fairness”. Moreover, British Ambassador to BiH Edward Ferguson said that this forum is a great opportunity for the judges of higher courts of the region, but also from Europe, to share their experiences, and learn from each other.” He added that it is evident that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the wider Balkan region, the justice systems at all levels are often the target of undue political influence and pressure.
During the forum, participants were divided into 4 working groups: 1. ECtHR judges and national judges- considering particular problems before national courts; 2- Judicial Training Centres and Institutions-discussion on developing a national and regional strategy on developing skills and further knowledge; 3. Government Agents- Discussion on how to strengthen the knowledge and skills in the judiciary on subjects of independence, impartiality and integrity; 4. NGO representatives and legal experts- the role of NGOs and legal professionals in national ECtHR litigation. ADI representatives participated at this fourth working group where the Article 6 of the ECHR was discussed in reference to the Right to Fair Trial. Accordingly, director of the ADI, Snježana Ivandić Ninković, emphasized on the pressing issue of the need to adopt a uniform law on free legal aid if one is to ensure all the rights enshrined by the Article 6; this concern was latter presented at the closing discussion of the forum.