Judicial councils: report
The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
To the Human Rights Council at its 38th session
The Special Rapporteur devoted his second annual report to the Human Rights Council to the role that judicial councils and/or other bodies independent from the legislative and executive branches of powers play in ensuring the independence of the judiciary. The report builds on the annual report drafted by former Special Rapporteur, Mr. Leandro Despouy in 2009 (A/HRC/11/41, paras. 23-34 and 52-72), and takes into account relevant provisions of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (in particular principles 10-13 and 17-20).
Statement of the Special Rapporteur at the 38th session: English | Spanish
Judicial councils play an essential role in guaranteeing the independence and the autonomy of the judiciary. The underlying rationale for their creation is the need to insulate the judiciary and judicial career processes from external political pressure. In addition to their primary function of safeguarding judicial independence, a growing number of judicial councils have been entrusted with far-reaching powers in the area of promoting the efficiency and quality of justice, and of rationalizing the administration of justice, court management and budgeting.
In the report, the Special Rapporteur shows that there is no one-size-fits-all model of judicial council. Each judicial governing body originates from a legal system with distinct historical, cultural and social roots; the specific role of each body varies from one country to the other. The Special Rapporteur shows that the number of judicial councils has increased greatly in recent decades, and estimates that, to date, over 70 per cent of the countries in the world have some form of judicial council. This is an area lacking in statistical data at the global level, making it challenging to assess global trends.
The Special Rapporteur also shows that, despite the increase in the number of judicial councils in all regions of the world, there is a lack of international legal standards at the international level specifically devoted to the role, composition and functions of judicial councils. The Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary do not include any provision specifically devoted to judicial councils. The most comprehensive efforts to develop minimum standards relating to the creation, membership and role of judicial councils have been undertaken in Europe, under the aegis of the Council of Europe.
In the light of the existing international and regional standards, and based on the contributions received from States and non-State actors, the Special Rapporteur offers some recommendations relating to the establishment, composition and functions of judicial councils. These recommendations do not purport to identify an “ideal model” of national judicial council, but rather seek to define common principles, general trends and good practices for ensuring the independence of such bodies, where they exist, and their effectiveness in the discharge of their functions as guarantors of judicial independence.
The Special Rapporteur prepared a questionnaire [English | French | Spanish] in order to elicit information from States, international and regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, judicial councils and civil society on relevant national experiences on this subject. The following States and non-State actors provided contributions for the preparation of the report:
National human rights institutions
Civil society organizations