Interview of Nils Engstad (Norway), President of the CCJE
– For how long have you been a member of the CCJE?
I got acquainted with the work of the CCJE in 2004 when I for the very first time met as a delegate at the plenary session in Strasbourg. I have been a member of the Council since then, and have for many years participated in the work of the Councils’ Working Party.
– What are the Council’s main tasks?
One of the main tasks is to draft Opinions on essential issues with regard to the judiciary. The Opinions are relevant for judges, for Councils for the Judiciary, policymakers and others in the member states. It is indeed a great pleasure to see that the Opinions drafted by the CCJE in many ways have become reference documents in member states of the Council of Europe. They are found to be of help in the process of drafting national legislation, in training of judges, they are referred to in scientific papers, and over the past years also referred to in an increasing number of decisions from the European Court of Human Rights. It is of utmost importance that the CCJE continues to issue Opinions of high quality relevant for the independence, impartiality and competence of judges.
– You have mentioned the Opinions of the CCJE. Is the Council entrusted with other tasks?
The CCJE shall provide targeted cooperation to enable member states to comply with Council of Europe standards concerning judges. Such cooperation may be initiated on the request of member States, CCJE members, judicial bodies or relevant associations of judges. This task has become more and more important for the CCJE. Given the findings in the report by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in his report of 2015 on the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe, this task will probably be even more important in the time to come. One of the findings mentioned is that the independence of the judiciary and judges is not being guaranteed in over a third of member states, which, of course, is a fact that calls for great concern.
– Which values do the CCJE defend?
The members of the Council are dedicated to the task of strengthening democracy and promoting human rights and the rule of law, values which are upheld by instruments of the Council of Europe. The CCJE strongly defends judicial independence as a fundamental guarantee for a fair trial, and as a prerequisite for the rule of law and for the separation of powers in a modern democratic state.
– What are the main priorities of the CCJE for 2016 and 2017?
It is time for the CCJE to take a closer look at an essential position in the courts’ organization, namely the court presidents. Leadership is crucial, also for the well functioning of the courts,
and thereby the functioning of justice. Therefore, in 2016 the CCJE will adopt an Opinion on the role of court presidents. The topic for the 2017 Opinion remains to be decided. In addition to adopt Opinions, the CCJE will continue to provide targeted cooperation based on requests. Our aim is to contribute where needed and wanted in order to strengthen the judiciaries in member states.
Source: Council of Europe
Editor in Chief