The CEELI Institute was honored to again support organization of the Annual Conference of Chief Justices of Central and Eastern Europe, which was hosted online this year by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan, with sessions organized in late November and early December.  The Conference hosts rotate annually among the participating courts.  Recent past Conference hosts include Slovakia (2019), Lithuania (2018), Hungary (2017), and Serbia (2016).

This Conference was originally launched in Prague, at the Institute, with the personal support and commitment of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Conference is now a self-sustaining body that meets annually and provides the opportunity for the region’s Chief Justices to discuss common challenges, share ideas, and work towards solutions. The CEELI Institute remains the only non-governmental organization invited to participate in the Conference.

Front and center among this year’s discussions were the ongoing challenges posed to the operation of the courts due to the pandemic. Much attention was given to the ways that courts across the region have coped with these challenges, including discussion of the pivot many courts have made to conducting remote and online hearings via teleconferencing platforms.

Among the achievements of the Conference has been the signing, in 2015, of the Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary, known now as the Brijuni Statement (after the seaside town in Croatia where the 2015 Conference was held). The Brijuni Statement is modeled after a similar effort undertaken by the Conference of Chief Justices of Asia and the Pacific, which resulted in the adoption of the Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary in 1995. The Brijuni Statement is a reaffirmation of a long-held and shared belief amongst its signatories in judicial independence and the obligation to uphold the rule of law. 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, and the Statement has been available 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.