THE INTRODUCTION of obligatory security clearances for judges might breach international standards, according to the Council of Europe’s body concerning the independence, competence, and impartiality of judges.

The Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE), which the CoE established in 2000, stated in its opinion on the recently passed amendment to Slovakia’s Constitution which, among other changes of rules for the work of judges, introduces compulsory security clearances for all judges.

“CCJE in its statement states that the international standards will be breached if the conditions will be widened by adding the possibility to recall a judge from their post in case they are evaluated as not fulfilling the prerequisites of judges’ competence,” Slovakia’s representative in CCJE Alena Poláčková, who requested the organisation’s opinion, said as quoted by the TASR newswire.

CCJE deems the stable term of a judge to be the main element of a judge’s independence, meaning that the only reason for a judge to be recalled, apart from health reasons or achieving the given age, is a sentence in a penal procedure or in a disciplinary procedure.

Not even the fact that the Judicial Council is supposed to evaluate the clearances secures an impartial process, since the Council “is not a judicial body and definitely not politically independent”, Poláčková said as quoted by TASR.

CCJE also expressed concerns about the gathering of documentation from secret services for the purposes of the clearances of judges.

“We all know that the secret services have their own very specific ways of gathering information which are absolutely non-transparent,” Poláčková said, adding that the CCJE believes this would create pressure on the judiciary and violate the principle of the presumption of innocence.

“These clearances will impact the division of power in the state,” Poláčková further stated as quoted by TASR. “A democratic state is characterised by the fact that there is an equal division of power between the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. As soon as the executive is put in a position from which it controls the judiciary, we are no longer talking about a democratic state but rather a police state.”

Source: TASR

Compiled by Michaela Terenzani from press reports.
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information
presented in its Flash News postings.