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Website to track selection of judges

THE GENERAL public as well as watchdog organisations are now able to check the selection procedure for new judges and presidents of courts which were set by the previous government as three NGOs have jointly established a website that provides summary information and analyses individual selection procedures for vacant positions in Slovakia’s judiciary.

THE GENERAL public as well as watchdog organisations are now able to check the selection procedure for new judges and presidents of courts which were set by the previous government as three NGOs have jointly established a website that provides summary information and analyses individual selection procedures for vacant positions in Slovakia’s judiciary.

The Windows to the Judiciary is a joint project developed by Via Iuris, the Slovak Governance Institute (SGI) and Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia (PDCS) to monitor implementation of the changes to how judges are chosen that became effective on May 1, 2011.

“The main aim of the legislation is to open the judicial system for applicants with legal experience other than judicial practice and simultaneously to enable the public to take part in the open selection procedures and get information,” Kristína Babiaková, a lawyer who cooperates with Via Iuris, told The Slovak Spectator.

She added that the three NGOs joined forces to monitor how the changes will be applied in practice because the legislation is “one of the attempts to guarantee an increase in transparency and trust in Slovakia’s judiciary”.

Moreover, the project is prepared to increase the knowledge of the public about judiciary and its current problems and to “contribute to improvement and maintenance of the quality of the selection procedure and increase the interest of the general public in judicial issues”, Babiaková stated.

Radana Deščíková and Ctibor Košťál from SGI told The Slovak Spectator that Slovakia’s judicial system has not changed significantly during the past 20 years and remained “a closed institution, like its own micro world, to which the public does not have access and into whose operation they do not see”.

“There is no communication between the judges and the public, the image of the judiciary in Slovakia is created only by chosen representatives of the Judicial Council [and] by news about disciplinary proceedings, intimidation and concerns by judges,” Deščíková and Ctibor Košťál stated.

They said their organisation joined the project because they want to see whether the measures passed by the previous government will actually change the judicial system over the long term.

Spurring public interest

The three NGOs plan to monitor individual selection procedures in all the courts using a methodology that will provide information “not only about the individual selection procedures for judges and court presidents but also about the candidates who apply”, Deščíková and Košťál told The Slovak Spectator.

This will provide watchdog groups and the general public with information about how the new rules were applied in practice as well as more information about those who apply to fill the posts, Babiaková said.

The NGOs added that the website will also provide information about whether the selection process really is more transparent, since the public will be able to check ties and relations between candidates and current judges. In addition to comprehensive information about the selection procedures and the candidates, the website will also allow the public to take part in discussions on the website to help characterise “the qualities of a good judge”, states the Via Iuris press release.

“Preliminary results from the monitoring have already shown certain gaps in the legislation governing the selection procedures so another result of the monitoring will be proposing needed legislative measures,” Babiaková added.

Košťál and Deščíková said the information assembled on the website might increase the interest of the public about the judges serving in Slovakia as well as the criteria set in the selection procedure.

“More openness should contribute to the perception of the judiciary as a healthy and useful organisation,” Deščíková and Košťál told The Slovak Spectator.

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