The focus for the third Forum was the requirement of independence and impartiality of the judiciary under Article 6 of the ECHR, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. The key issues discussed at the Forum were: the independence of the judiciary from the executive, parliament and political parties, the manner of appointing judges, and guarantees against external pressures. Further, the importance of impartiality – which denotes the absence of prejudice or bias – was also highlighted.
The Third Regional Rule of Law Forum for South East Europe was held on the 18th and 19th of March 2016 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the Old Sarajevo City Hall. This annual Forum, set up by the AIRE Centre and Civil Rights Defenders in March 2014, brings together senior representatives from the highest courts, institutions and non-governmental organisations across the region. The aim is to encourage regional cooperation in the strengthening of the rule of law and respect for human rights, and to assist the countries of South East Europe in the process of EU integration. The Forum is now well on the way to being established as the key annual rule of law event in the region, helping the leaders of the judicial and legal institutions share their experiences and learn from each other, with the goals of promoting greater respect for human rights, higher standards in the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and faster European integration. This year’s Forum was organised with the support of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Government of Sweden, the Regional Cooperation Council and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (German Corporation for International Cooperation). The focus for the third Forum was the requirement of independence and impartiality under Article 6 of the ECHR, which guarantees the right to a fair trial. Over 120 participants from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia were represented at the Forum. Participants from these countries included judges of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), presidents and judges of the national supreme courts and constitutional courts, presidents and representatives of judicial councils, directors of judicial training, academies and institutions, government agents before the ECtHR, representatives of NGOs and prominent legal experts. One and a half days of panel discussions, interactive working groups and seminars took place, giving participants opportunities to meet and contribute.