The CEPEJ’s two main objectives are to improve the efficiency and the functioning of the justice system in the Council of Europe member states and to enable a better implementation of the international legal instruments of the Council of Europe concerning efficiency and fairness of justice at national level.
The CEPEJ achieves its objectives by:
- examining the results achieved by the different judicial systems
- defining problems and areas for possible improvements
- identifying concrete ways to improve the measuring and functioning of the judicial systems
- providing assistance to the member States in complying with the standards of the Council of Europe
- suggesting areas for new international legal instruments or amendments to existing ones
The CEPEJ covers a wide range of tasks: It collects and analyses data; defines measures and means of evaluation; draws up reports, statistics, best practice surveys, guidelines, action plans and general comments aimed at policy makers and judicial practitioners.
Furthermore, the Commission establishes links with research institutes; organises conferences, round tables and seminars; creates networks of professionals involved in the justice area and offers them a platform for exchange and sets up co-operation programmes and roadshows at national level.
Finally, the CEPEJ prepares opinions for various Council of Europe bodies such as the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) or the Secretary General. Upon request, non-member States of the Council of Europe, as well as international institutions, may tap into the Commission’s know-how as well.
The CEPEJ is neither a supervisory nor a monitoring body of the Council of Europe. It carries out its tasks either on its own initiative or at the request of one or more Council of Europe member States, but always in accordance with the latter. Country visits, for example, which provide additional information concerning the law and practice, are undertaken with the agreement of the country concerned.
Composition of the CEPEJ
Each member State of the Council of Europe appoints one expert who has in-depth knowledge of the administration, functioning and efficiency of civil, criminal and/or administrative justice to the CEPEJ. The Commission is chaired by a President and a Vice-President, both elected for a two-year term of office, renewable once. Several non-member States have observer status in the CEPEJ and organisations like the European Union, the World Bank or the European Association of Judges are associated with the Commission.
When needed, the CEPEJ can set up working groups in order to deal with certain topics. Working groups are composed of experts from the CEPEJ and/or specialists in the field in question proposed by the Council of Europe member States. For example, the
- Working Group on the Evaluation of Judicial Systems (CEPEJ-GT-EVAL) is in charge of the evaluation process of the judicial systems in the Council of Europe member states with regard to their efficiency, their quality and their effectiveness
- Working Group on Quality of Justice (CEPEJ-GT-QUAL) develops means of analysis and evaluation with regard to the work done by the courts at national level and the quality of the public service delivered by the justice systems in the member states
- Working Group on Execution (CEPEJ-GT-EXE) assesses the impact the Council of Europe’s instruments have on the execution of court decisions and strives to improve the implementation of these standards at national level
The Bureau co-ordinates the work of the CEPEJ and prepares the draft order of business for the meetings of the CEPEJ as well as its draft annual activity report. The Bureau is composed of the President, the Vice-President and up to two experts who are elected for two years and may be re-elected once. The Bureau is assisted by a secretariat in all administrative and organisational matters.
The Council of Europe’s Lisbon Network was set up in 1995 in order to enable the different judicial training bodies in Europe to become better acquainted with each other, exchange information on matters of common interest and support the setting up or further development of judicial training facilities in the new democracies of central and eastern Europe. Its members are representatives from the judicial training institutions in the Council of Europe member States. Since 2011, the Lisbon Network has been part of the CEPEJ.
In order to support its activities through a better understanding of the day to day functioning of courts and to highlight best practices the CEPEJ has set up a network of Pilot Courts in the Council of Europe member states. The network serves its members as well as the CEPEJ as a forum for information, reflection and implementation and the CEPEJ relies on it to promote quality of justice.
In 2007, the CEPEJ set up the Saturn Centre for judicial time management (Study and Analysis of judicial Time Use Research Network). The Centre acts as a European observatory by collecting information necessary for the knowledge of judicial timeframes in the Council of Europe member States. An analysis of the situation will enable the latter to implement policies aiming to prevent violations of the right for a fair trial within a reasonable time frame – a right specifically protected by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Furthermore, the Saturn Centre is in charge of the promotion and assessment of the guidelines for judicial time management.
In 2005, the CEPEJ created the “Crystal Scales of Justice” Prize in order to discover and highlight innovative and efficient practices used for court organisation or for the conduct of judicial proceedings.
European Day of Justice
Celebrated each year on October 25th, the European Day of Justice aims to inform citizens about their rights and to promote the work of the Council of Europe and the European Commission in the field of justice through simulation of procedures and information sessions. Furthermore, some courts open their doors to the public.
Council of Europe video clip about the CEPEJ:
Photos: © Council of Europe