The CEELI Institute we delighted to support this year’s Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe, held in Belgrade on June 20-22, and hosted by the Supreme Cassational Court of Serbia.

The Conference of Chief Justices is a self-sustaining organization whose members lead the judiciaries of twenty-three nations from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus. The Conference meets annually in one of the member countries to address the many common challenges faced by the Chief Justices in improving their countries’ judiciaries, promoting judicial independence, strengthening integrity and accountability, improving court management, fighting corruption, and building public support for the courts. The CEELI Institute has been honored to support the work and mission of the Conference since its inception in 2011.

Among the achievements of the Conference is the drafting and signing, in 2015, of a landmark Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary–known now as the Brijuni Statement, after the site of the 2015 conference hosted in Brijuni, Croatia by the Supreme Court of Croatia. The Brijuni Statement reaffirms the fundamental principles of judicial independence and integrity, and adds to the body of international instruments that recognize that true judicial independence, both institutional and individual, is indispensable to the successful functioning of the judiciary under the rule of law.

This year was notable in that the President of the Supreme Cassational Court of Serbia, Dragomir Milojević, joined as the 16th signatory to the document.

The Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe was initially launched in Prague, at the CEELI Institute, with support from the U.S. Department of State, and with the commitment of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who attended the first Conference. The Conference now continues as a self-sustaining body that meets annually in one of the countries represented, and provides the opportunity for the Chief Justices to discuss common challenges, share ideas and work towards solutions. The Conference continues to flourish and since its inception has rotated between member states, each year hosted by a Chief Justice from a different country. Conferences over the past several years have been hosted by Chief Justices from Albania (2012), Montenegro (2013), the Republic of Georgia (2014), Croatia (2015), and most recently, Serbia.

The CEELI Institute continues to provide guidance and expertise to the Conference through CEELI Institute Board member, Judge John M. Walker, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Walker has also enlisted the support of Judge Clifford J. Wallace, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, whose extensive experience includes establishing a similar conference for the countries of Asia and the Pacific. Both judges, who are active in rule-of-law development, have an on-going role in supporting and advising the Conference on behalf of the Institute.

The CEELI Institute is gratified to be able to support the publication and distribution of the Brijuni Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary. The Brijuni Statement will be published and hosted on the CEELI Institute website. It joins other useful legal instruments addressing judicial independence the drafting of which have been supported by the CEELI Institute, including the Manual on Independence, Impartiality and Integrity of Justice: A thematic Compilation of International Standards, Policies and Best Practices.