In June, the CEELI Institute continued its efforts on a multi-year program to engage judges handling complex cases involving issues of terrorism and national security, including the increasingly serious threats posed in Europe by the transit of foreign terrorist fighters. The program, which aims to promote understanding and use of relevant international “good practices” for judges on these matters, including particularly the Global Counter-terrorism Forum’s (GCTF) Hague Memorandum Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorism Offenses, convened a group of 21 judges from the Western Balkans for a 3-day session form June 15-17. Judges from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, as well as prosecutors from Macedonia, were present at the session which elaborated on key good practices and adjudication techniques that were deemed most important to the region during a planning meeting held in February of this year.

The project is implemented in partnership with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, based in Malta, and is funded by the US Department of State.

Joining us for this the June session was a “deep bench” of experts including the Hon. John Tunheim, Chief Judge of the US District Court for Minnesota, and a counter-terrorism adjudication expert with years of experience working in the Balkans; Judge Rene Elkerbout, Presiding Judge, District Court of The Hague in the Netherlands (who handled one of the Netherlands groundbreaking foreign fighter cases); Rajko Kozmelj, Western Balkans Counter-Terrorism Initiative Chair at The Permanent Representation of the Republic of Slovenia to the EU, and Mike Mullaney (remotely from Washington, DC), Counter-terrorism Section Chief, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice.

The interactive program benefited from the vast and differing experiences among faculty and participants alike. The international experts from Europe and the United States created a thorough depiction of counter-terrorism adjudication across different legal systems that helped participants gain a solid understanding of relevant best practices and how to incorporate them into their future work.

We look forward to further sessions of this project, both for Balkan judges, and for those from the Middle East and North Africa.