In 2017, the Forum centred around freedom of expression under Article 10, and its relationship with the right to a fair trial under Article 6 and the right to respect for private life under Article 8’. The Forum highlighted the following issues: freedom of expression and the judiciary, media reporting on judicial matters, and hate speech on the internet, in politics and the media.
The Fourth Regional Rule of Law Forum for South East Europe was held on the 17th and 18th of March 2017 in Tirana, Albania, at the Sheraton Hotel. 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. That the Forum is now in its fourth year is a testament to the value of the event and is indicative of the sustained, if not growing, interest in the protection of the rule of law and human rights in the region. 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 fourth Forum was freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR, and its relationship with the right to a fair trial under Article 6 and the right to respect for private life under Article 8. The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right in a democratic society, but its relationship with these other rights whilst often complimentary, can also be contentious. These relationships are challenging for domestic judges and legal practitioners to navigate, but striking the right balance is essential in a democratic society. It is for this reason that this was the chosen topic for this year’s Forum. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Turkey and Russia, were represented at the Forum. Participants from these countries included both current for South East Europe and former judges of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court), presidents and judges of the national supreme courts and constitutional courts, presidents and members of national judicial councils, directors of judicial training academies and institutions, government agents before the ECtHR, representatives of NGOs and prominent legal experts. Over one and a half days, panel discussions, interactive working groups and presentations took place giving participants opportunities to meet and contribute to discussions.