Regional Conference of Southeast European Constitutional Courts on the ECHR in Zlatibor

Group photo

From 19 to 21 June 2014, a regional conference took place in Zlatibor in Serbia, which was jointly organised by the Serbian Constitutional Court and the IRZ. The event was entitled "The Protection of the Right to Freedom and Security and the Ban on Torture". Apart from the judges of the hosting Serbian Constitutional Court and its President Vesna Ilic Prelic, the conference delegates included the Presidents of the Constitutional Courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valerija Galic, of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr Katja Senjak, of the Macedonian Constitutional Court, Elena Goseva, and of the Montenegrin Constitutional Court, Desanka Lopicic. Further delegates comprised judges of the above-mentioned courts and academic staff members of the Serbian Constitutional Court. The conference focused on an intensive exchange about the individual case laws of the delegates' countries. In addition, the former judge at the German Federal Constitutional Court, Dr Dieter Hömig, and the present Macedonian judge at the ECHR, Dr Lazarova Trajkovska, gave introductions into the relevant case law of their own courts.

The discussion focused on the violation of human rights by illegal orders of pretrial detention. It was unanimously criticised by the attending constitutional court judges from Southeast Europe that in many states of the region pretrial detention is ordered too fast and although no mandatory legal requirements exist and that it is substantiated in a very formulaic way. The delegates also expressed their concern about the danger of relativizing the absolute ban on torture as a consequence of voices in American literature which consider preventive torture, for instance in the fight against international terrorism, as admissible. It was pointed out with regard to the relationship to the ECHR that the Constitutional Courts of the region are aware of its decisions and also quote them in their judgements. However, this is not enough for an effective protection of the citizens' rights in this state as such legal protection is not only dependent on the Constitutional Court. Therefore it is important for the ordinary jurisdiction to follow the decisions of the national constitutional courts and the ECHR, and as the President of the Serbian Constitutional Court, Ms Vesna Ilic Prelic put it in her conclusion, it is important "for the ordinary courts to start thinking like constitutional courts".

IRZ participates in the first Serbian-German Civil Dialogue

Ambassador Heinz Wilhelm giving his welcome address

Ambassador Heinz Wilhelm giving his welcome address

The first "Serbian-German Civil Dialogue" took place in the Serbian Parliament in Belgrade on 30 and 31 January 2014, organised by the European Movement Germany and the European Movement Serbia. It was attended by more than 100 high-ranking German and Serbian representatives from politics, industry, media and society. Amongst others, the German Ambassador in Belgrade, Mr Heinz Wilhelm, gave a welcome address at the event. Furthermore, two practical examples of a long-standing, successful cooperation between German and Serbian organisations were presented. The first example dealt with the work of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit GIZ, and the second one covered activities which the IRZ has been carrying out in the legal area since 2000 as part of the German commitment in the Stability Pact for South East Europe. The second presentation was given by the responsible Head of Section, Dr. Stefan Pürner, in Serbian. His review focused on the deliberately provocative statement that "In law, just like in geography, Serbia's direct route to Europe does not lead via America". Furthermore, many examples from the IRZ's successful work in Serbia were given. A detailed report about the event is available on the website of the European Movement Germany.

The Serbian Constitutional Court celebrates its 50th anniversary

Dr. Dragisa Slijepcevic, President of the Constitutional Court

Dr. Dragisa Slijepcevic, President of the Constitutional Court

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Serbian Constitutional Court, an international conference with high-ranking participants took place in Belgrade from 16 to 18 October 2013 entitled "Position and Perspectives of the Constitutional Jurisdiction". It was organised by the court in cooperation with the Council of Europe, the OSCE as well as the IRZ, which has been cooperating very successfully with the Serbian Constitutional Court for many years and has made a substantial contribution to the introduction of the constitutional complaint into the Serbian law.

The conference was opened by Dr. Dragisa Sljiepcevic, President of the Constitutional Court, followed by the President of the Republic of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic. Further welcome addresses were given by the President of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio, the Vice President of the Austrian Constitutional Court, Brigitte Bierlein, the OSCE Ambassador Peter Burckhard, as well as the Head of the EU delegation in Serbia, Michael Davenport, who gave his speech in Serbian, just like the IRZ head of section in charge, Dr. Stefan Pürner did.

In the course of the conference, contributions by the presidents and judges of the constitutional courts of twelve states and a lecture by the Serbian judge at the ECHR, Prof. Dr. Dragoljub Popovic, highlighted the present situation of the constitutional courts and their future challenges.

There were several common themes in the presentations and discussions:

  • On the one hand, it was pointed out that the constitutional courts of the states of the former Yugoslavia are among the oldest ones in the world. This is all the more remarkable as in times of socialism judicial control of the state's activities was rather difficult to justify in dogmatic terms. The Judge at the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Prof. Dr. Jan Filip, reported in this context, that the Yugoslav experience also had a key influence on the beginning of the constitutional jurisdiction in the former Czechoslovakia.
  • The tasks of the constitutional courts, however, have expanded considerably since the end of socialism. The newly adopted constitutions need a functioning constitutional jurisdiction in order to be effective. Such a functioning constitutional jurisdiction, however, also gives rise to tensions with the political stakeholders. According to President Sljiepcevic , however, they were to be tolerated, since it was not the task of the constitutional courts to fulfil the expectations of politicians – be it the expectations of the government or of the opposition.
  • The President of the Croatian Constitutional Court, Prof. Dr. Jasna Omejec, pointed out that, taking into account the "Europeanization of legal awareness", a close cooperation between the different national constitutional courts as well as with the ECHR was necessary. This required a dialogue which should also lead to a mutual approximation of case law.
  • The pioneering role of the German constitutional law and the German Constitutional Court became evident in many presentations. This ranges from the catalogue of fundamental rights of the German Basic Law up to the individual decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court.

The conference volume "The Role and Importance of the Constitutional Court for the Protection of the Rule of Law" was also presented at the conference. The volume was drafted as a follow-up to a conference which had been organised by the Serbian Constitutional Court in June 2013 in cooperation with the Serbian Association for Constitutional Law and the IRZ.