Date and time: Wednesday, 25 April 2018 10 a.m.
Venue: Palace of Serbia, ‘Belgrade’ conference hall
Nenad Vujić, the Director of the Judicial Academy
Nela Kuburović, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Serbia
Dragomir Milojević, the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation
Jasmina Kiurski, the Deputy Republic Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia
Yngve Engstrom, the Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation
Aleksandar Stepanović, the Judge of the Appellate Court in Belgrade and the President of the Managing Board of the Judicial Academy
Branislava Apostolović, the Judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the President of the Programme Council of the Judicial Academy
Juan Carlos da Silva, the Team Leader of the ‘EU Support to the Judicial Academy’ project.
On April 25th 2018, the Minister of Justice Nela Kuburović attended the presentation of the Report on the implementation of programmes of and engaging in future activities by the Judicial Academy and pointed out that it is necessary to work on its infrastructure improvement, as well as on its capacity building.
„I am once again emphasizing the importance of the work of the Judicial Academy and that only if we have properly trained judges, we can actually talk about independent, accountable judiciary and the judiciary to which we aspire“, said the Minister at the presentation of the Report in the Palace of Serbia.
Kuburović pointed out that, in the previous year, the Judicial Academy proved worthy of the confidence placed in it, first of all through the training courses it provided for the application of new laws, such as the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Law on the Organization and Jurisdiction of Government Authorities on the Suppression of Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption. She stressed that, concerning the above mentioned laws, over a 1,000 participants have undergone the training, specifically not only judges and prosecutors, but also judicial and prosecutorial assistants, as well as police officers.
She said that the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Academy, in the past few months, were the centre of attention of the public after the publishing of the initial draft text of the constitutional amendments, first of all, because of the provision whereby future judicial office holders who are to be for the first time elected to courts of first-instance jurisdiction as well as for the first time elected deputy public prosecutors, should undergo adequate training, in order to meet the requirements for election.
„The proposed constitutional amendments, which have been sent to the Venice Commission, stipulate that candidates who are to be for the first time elected to courts and public prosecutor’s offices must undergo adequate training in the institution in charge of such training“, said Minister Kuburović.
Also, the Minister of Justice pointed out that the draft text of the Constitutional Law, which was simultaneously published with the proposed constitutional amendments, precisely stipulates that the Law on the Judicial Academy shall be harmonized with the proposed constitutional amendments, including the specifying that the type of training will depend of the length of the working experience and the kind of job the candidates have been doing.
She added that the European Commission points out that it is necessary to work of the enhancement of the initial and continuous training as well as that, through the building of its capacities, the Judicial Academy should be the initial point of entry into the judiciary.
„We are certainly faced with a detailed reform, not only of the Judicial Academy, but also the reform that will monitor the amendments of the Law on Judges, the Law on Organization of Courts, the Law on Public Prosecution, the Law on the High Judicial Council, the Law on the State Prosecutorial Council... There is lot of work ahead of us and I believe that we will all together participate in the drafting of future laws, in the drafting of which the profession will have the decisive role“, concluded Kuburović.
Nenad Vujić, the Director of the Judicial Academy, in his keynote address inter alia said: "The National Judicial Reform Strategy indicates the Judicial Academy as one of the key stakeholders in the reform process, envisaging certain number of new functions that this institution for judicial training should be assigned. The Judicial Academy is actively working to create conditions that should enable the Judicial Academy to sustainably provide the initial and the continuous training, through the development of technical and organizational capacities and in order to further improve the achieved level of quality of work and training courses. In the light of the proposed constitutional amendments the Academy is faced with further work on the development, with the participation of all of us gathered together here today, in order to be fully ready to attain the set goals.
Vujić added that, in the Serbia progress reports for accession to the EU for the period from 2014 to 2017 inclusive, year in year out, considerably greater attention is devoted to the importance and role of the Judicial Academy in the parts of the reports that are related to professionalism and competence and the quality of the judiciary. The reports emphasize the importance of establishing clear and transparent election system, through training courses and selection and career management of the representatives of the judiciary in compliance with the European standards and likewise emphasize the need for the continuous training through the Judicial Academy aimed at enhancement of the quality of the judiciary.
In the 2016 Report, already in the Political Criteria, the following is stated: „The legal framework is not as yet in compliance with the European standards, this leaving room for political influence on election and appointment of judges and prosecutors. In addressing the deficiencies specified below, in the forthcoming period, Serbia should particularly: amend the constitutional provisions related to the election and career management system in compliance with the European standards that are related to the independence of the judicial system.”
It is noticeable that the Commission, more than in the previous years, also insists on the need for further enhancement of the Judicial Academy stating that the Judicial Academy is the institution in charge of the initial and the continuous training of judges and prosecutors. Further reform of the Academy is needed in order for it to improve its professional, financial, and administrative capacities so that it can become the mandatory point of entry into the judicial profession. The mechanism of quality control for assessment of efficiency of the judicial training is yet to be established. Frequent amendments in the legislation and insufficient training make the legal ambiance a challenge to the judiciary, which gives rise to inconsistency in judicial practice. There is a great need for practical professional improvement for all the categories of employees responsible for the quality of justice, or of the judiciary.”
Dragomir Milojević, the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation addressed the gathering saying as follows: "It is my pleasure to welcome you in the name of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the High Judicial Council. I deem that it is important that the Judicial Academy has come before the public with the presentation of the Annual Report and presentation of the implemented activities for 2017, for the purpose of familiarization of both the general and the professional public with the results of its work. At the moment when amendments of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia are proposed in the part on the judiciary, as one of the key issues, the issue of the status of the Judicial Academy also arose and of its role in the creation of professional, efficient, and accountable judiciary. One should bear in mind that the key international documents point to the importance of training of judicial office holders and the close connection between the initial and the continuous training and the independence and efficiency of the overall judicial system. The Law on Judges also defines professional improvement as the right and obligation of a judge to improve and enhance his/her knowledge, at the cost of the state and in compliance with the special law.
In the previous period, the Supreme Court of Cassation, in cooperation with the Judicial Academy and with the support from the international partners, through the implementation of various programmes and projects, engaged in a series of joint activities and training courses.
I can specifically point to the training for the presidents of courts in the Republic of Serbia, divided into four thematic units, to wit: „Administration and management of courts“; „Case management“; „Management of finances“, and „Drawing up and implementation of the programme of dealing with the backlog“.
Bearing in mind the complexity of workload and the great number of challenges the presidents of courts are faced with in everyday work, the training courses that can help the presidents of courts to continuously enhance knowledge and skills related to management of courts are of outstanding importance, so that the court can operate more efficiently, dispose of cases and problems of citizens and legal entities that address the court looking for „justice“. The aim of such training courses must be improvement and at the same time balancing of the method of management in all the courts in the Republic of Serbia, strengthening of efficiency, effectiveness, transparency in work, and improvement of the quality of carrying out of all the kinds of tasks in a court, in line with jurisdictions and powers a court has and, therefore, this kind of training should also continue in the forthcoming period.
Also, the High Judicial Council also made use of its legal authority in the case of essential amendments of regulations, due to introduction of new working techniques and for the purpose of elimination of deficiencies in the work of judges identified on the occasion of evaluation of their work, and handed down decisions on mandatory training of judges.
As a good example of cooperation, I can highlight the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence, where the Judicial Academy played an important role, exactly because it organized and provided training courses across Serbia. The figures also show that we properly prepared ourselves for the application of this Law: in five months, 20,000 persons were reported for domestic violence, and courts decided on around 7,000 measures.
In the previous period, special attention was focused on the implementation of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.
As the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation I supported the work of the National Network for the Implementation of the European Standards of Judicial Protection of Human Rights in the Republic of Serbia, which the Judicial Academy established with the support of the „EU Support to the Judicial Academy“ Project, and then also provided the training for the members of the Network and workshops for judges and judicial assistants and in this connection compiled the „Practical Guide for the Implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Republic of Serbia.“
The fact that there are certain rights the protection of which has universal, supranational character has been concreted through the European Convention and establishing of the mechanism of the European Court of Human Rights. Familiarization with the standards of the Council of Europe and the EU in the area of the protection of human rights imposes the intensified obligation upon the Judicial Academy to continuously make efforts through joint work with judges and prosecutors in order to establish links between our courts and the European Court of Human Rights, thereby strengthening the role of the domestic courts.
The engagement of the judges of the Supreme Court of Cassation in the work of the Judicial Academy is significant. As many as 75% of the judges of this Court participate in its work, either as members of the Managing Board or of the Programme Council, or as lecturers or as members of examination boards. Such practice will continue in future as well. In the process of improvement of efficiency of courts, materialization of independent, professional, and transparent judiciary, prevention of and punishing corruption in the judiciary, the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms, the Supreme Court of Cassation will continue to support projects that contribute to the capacity building in the judiciary in the future.
It is clear that there is a lot of it to be done for the Judicial Academy to be recognized among the public as the key institution, which is enhancing professionalism and quality of the judiciary in Serbia. Judicial office holders must be professionally trained and respond to increasing professional challenges and, therefore, the importance of the training provided by the Judicial Academy must be understood accordingly.”
Jasmina Kiurski, the Deputy Republic Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia, in her address stated:
”The Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office supports the building of the capacities of the Judicial Academy, particularly in the area of professional improvement of public prosecutors and deputy public prosecutors, which is important for efficient and proper performance of public prosecutorial function. We acclaim the implementation of the „European Union Support to the Judicial Academy“ project and emphasize that we have a successful cooperation with the Judicial Academy in the implementation of the general continuous training programme and projects in the areas of corruption and economic crimes, judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, hate crime, domestic violence, etc. Such projects build both the capacities of the Judicial Academy, and the capacities of the public prosecutor’s offices for combat against crime and criminal prosecution of perpetrators of criminal offences.”
Yngve Engstrom, the Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation, in his address said: ”It is my pleasure to see an institution that the EU has been supporting for many years coming before the legal community and the public opinion to present its achievements. Our yearly Serbia 2018 Report was released last week and it has highlighted the need to enhance the capacities and professionalism of the Judicial Academy. The EU is standing behind to support efforts in this field, in the understanding that the definitive consolidation of judicial training in Serbia requires some more time and expertise.”
Aleksandar Stepanović, the Judge of the Appellate Court in Belgrade and the President of the Managing Board of the Judicial Academy addressed those present saying as follows:
”The Judicial Academy is engaged in the activity of public interest to the Republic of Serbia and it is competent for the organization and provision of the initial training to candidates for future judges and prosecutors, the continuous training of judges and prosecutors in compliance with the need to follow and apply new legislation, as well as with the requirements for additional professional improvement of judges and prosecutors.
Without competent and professional staff it is not possible to talk about efficiency and quality of the judicial system, and without clear criteria and standards for election to judicial functions or about the trust of the public in the judiciary.
In addition to clear criteria and standards for election and advancement, the initial and the continuous training are aimed to contribute to the professional, independent, and impartial processing and performance of judicial and prosecutorial functions.
Requests are made to the judicial system of Serbia to introduce the election system based on clear and predictable criteria – election in compliance with the knowledge and merits, by introducing the system of advancement in compliance with achieved results and continuous professional improvement, which is aimed at the raising of confidence of the public in the judiciary and strengthening of independence and impartiality in processing.
In compliance with the Law on the Judicial Academy, the Managing Board manages its operation, consisting of nine members. Four members from the ranks of judges in the Managing Board are appointed by the High Judicial Council, out of which number two members are proposed by the association of judges. The State Prosecutorial Council appoints two members from the ranks of prosecutors, one of whom at the proposal of the association of prosecutors.
So, two thirds of the members of the Managing Board are appointed by the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council.
Three members of the Managing Board are appointed by the Government of the Republic of Serbia, one of them from the ranks of the employees in the Judicial Academy.
I must stress that the Managing Board, both in the first and in the second mandate, brought all the decisions important for the operation of the Academy unanimously, without outvoting of the members of the Managing Board.
In 2017, the Managing Board adopted important acts for the work of the Academy, in particular the Development Strategy and the Action Plan of the Judicial Academy for the period of 2016-2020; the Continuous Training Programme of the Judicial Academy for 2018; the Entrance Examination Programme for judicial and prosecutorial interns and the Curriculum for training of interns.
The work of the Judicial Academy enables:
а) Through the initial training programme, selection and preparation of future judicial office holders, whereby objective criteria for the first election are introduced. The competition for the beneficiaries is published by the Academy, and the number of the beneficiaries of the initial training is determined by the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council. The entrance examination to the Judicial Academy consists of a written and an oral part and the personality test, which is administered by the Examination Board composed of three judges and two prosecutors. Conducting of the entrance examination is monitored by the Managing Board and the Programme Council, and the entire sitting of the entrance examination takes place in public while, for the oral part thereof, direct broadcast is also provided.
In compliance with the initial training programme, in addition to the practical work with mentors, beneficiaries of the initial training acquire knowledge and enhance their communication skills and managing of procedures and get familiarized with ethical standards that are binding upon the judicial office holders.
b) Through the regular continuous training, enhancement of the work of judicial office holders is ensured and an additional criterion is introduced for the occasion of evaluation of their work and advancement.
When drawing up the continuous training programme, the general principle is to take into account the number of subjects in certain areas of law, enhancement of the work and techniques.
In addition, when drawing up the continuous training programme, the newly adopted, basic, laws are also taken into consideration in compliance with the commitment of Serbia to the reform of the judiciary, the application of regulations in combat against corruption, familiarization of judges and prosecutors with the standards and the EU acquis and obligations of the judiciary in the process of accession as well as implementation of international conventions on human rights.
Quite a number of laws prescribe mandatory training of judges and prosecutors who deal with specific matters. Thus the Law on Juvenile Criminal Offenders, the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the Law on Financial Investigations and Combat against Corruption prescribe mandatory specialization of judges and prosecutors.
The Judicial Academy, in compliance with its legislative powers, organizes and successfully provides specialized training courses for judges and prosecutors.
c) Through special continuous training courses, knowledge and skills of judges and prosecutors are additionally enhanced, those that are not of legal character, but are necessary for proper and efficient processing and disposal of cases. Such knowledge includes first of all management of proceedings and cases, use of databases, general and accounting forensics, knowledge about economic and financial rules and documents and others.
In compliance with obligations from the Action Plan for Chapters 23 and 24, as well as with the goals that the Academy set in the Development Strategy and the Action Plan of the Judicial Academy for the period of 2016-2020, the Academy will continue to work on the improvement of the initial training programme, development of the continuous training programme, development of the special training in the European Union law, further development of the criteria and standards for the election of mentors and lecturers, in the infrastructure and human resources capacity building of the Academy, in order to respond to the assumed obligations and to adequately prepare itself for the challenges that are ahead of it in the forthcoming period.”
Branislava Apostolović, the Judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the President of the Programme Council of the Judicial Academy on the occasion of the today’s presentation stated: "It is my pleasure to address you on the occasion of the presentation of activities that the Judicial Academy undertook in the previous period, and in the creation and the implementation of which the Programme Council actively participated.
Allow me to remind you of the following just in brief. The Programme Council is the professional body of the Judicial Academy. It works consisting of 15 members, who are exclusively from the ranks of judicial office holders, representatives of other judicial professions, judicial and prosecutorial staff, and beneficiaries of the initial training.
Under the Law on the Judicial Academy the Programme Council, inter alia, is in charge of establishing the draft initial training programme for judges and prosecutors and the draft continuous training programme for judges and prosecutors for the following year.
When we talk about the initial training programme, this year, the Judicial Academy enrolled the eighth generation of beneficiaries, which accounts for a total of 210 beneficiaries enrolled up to now. Out of that number, 132 beneficiaries have successfully completed the training programme, and 40 beneficiaries have been proposed for the first election to a judicial or prosecutorial function.
In the brief that the Judicial Academy has prepared you can see the age and gender structure of the beneficiaries, the average mark received at the studies, and other data.
Today, I would devote more attention to the implementation of the continuous training programme in 2017.
The Managing Board, with the approval obtained from the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council, adopted the Continuous Training Programme for 2017 for judges and prosecutors, judicial and prosecutorial staff, and it included the following areas: criminal, civil, labour, commercial, administrative, and misdemeanour law, the area of human rights, and enhancement of special knowledge and skills.
The percentage of implementation of the drawn up programmes shows that the topics were well defined and planned, that there was a high level of response of participants, as well as that the lecturers, who were engaged to implement the programme, were highly evaluated on the occasion of evaluation by the participants.
I am pointing out that the lecturers are from the ranks of judicial office holders, to wit first of all from the courts of the Republic instance and from the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office, then from the ranks of professors of legal, economic, traffic and transport or other professionals. The Judicial Academy is also pleased to accept engagement of foreign lecturers and experts, who can, with their special knowledge and experiences, contribute to the quality of instructions in various fields.
It is significant that 75% of the judges of the Supreme Court of Cassation participate in the work of the Judicial Academy, as members of the Managing Board or the Programme Council or as lecturers.
In 2017, a total of 1,373 lecturers were engaged and 10,830 participants attended the seminars.
In the brief that the Judicial Academy has prepared, you can see the percentage of implementation of the continuous training programme for 2017.
The majority of training courses were provided in the area of the criminal law (43.11%), then of the civil law (18.05%) and of special knowledge and skills (20.30%). In the programme implementation, the Judicial Academy used the assistance from the international partners, the EU, the USAID, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the UNDP, and other donors and partners.
When we talk about the kinds of matters that were covered most, in the area of the criminal law, the majority of the training courses were on the topic of Domestic violence (76%) and, in the area of the civil law, on the topic of Enforcement and Security (28%). In the areas of special knowledge and skills, special emphasis was placed on the topics of Public relations and communication (36%) and Mediation (20%).
Year in year out, the Judicial Academy devotes special attention to the training in the field of the protection of human rights, i.e. the implementation of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms and approximation of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. The topics are dealt with according to the Articles of the Convention. In this connection, the Judicial Academy, in cooperation with the EU Support to the Judicial Academy project, published the Practical Guide for the Implementation of the European Convention in the RS, which is aimed to provide to the beneficiaries additional instructions for understanding and application of the Convention and the way in which the European Court processes. I hope that all the judges in Serbia will have the opportunity to get this Guide and to use it.
The Judicial Academy is also increasingly introducing training programmes in the area of the European Union law in civil, criminal, and commercial matters. Namely, once the Republic of Serbia becomes a full member of the EU, it will be obliged to comply with the regulations and rules according to which the Union functions. If a state is in breach of binding rules or acts contrary to the interests of the EU, proceedings can be instituted against it before the European Court of Justice. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to timely work on the full raising of awareness and understanding how the EU functions, to additionally familiarize judicial office holders with the processing by the European Court of Justice, the jurisdiction of the Court, the procedures, and the jurisprudence.
The key in any training is evaluation, to with evaluation of both the curriculum itself and the lecturers, organization of the seminar, the quality of instruction, etc.
Therefore, the Judicial Academy, in cooperation with the EU Support to the Judicial Academy project, developed the Model of evaluation and assessment of impact of educational activities in the initial and the continuous training. When we asked the participants about their remarks and proposals related to the enhancement of the quality and working conditions within training courses, the conclusion is that there is a need for more frequent organization of seminars, that training programmes need to be enriched with examples from practice. In compliance with the above, the Programme Council decided that, in the forthcoming period, the emphasis should be put on the practical application of what has been learnt, with concrete assignments, including the organization of work in smaller interactive workshops and groups.
I deem that the Judicial Academy should further continue with the good practice of communication with the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council, so that they can jointly define the requirements of judicial office holders for special types of training courses, in order to see what mandatory training courses the Academy should provide, whether there are training courses that, judging by their topicality, demand devotion of greater attention.
In addition to evaluation of training courses and questionnaires that are regularly sent to judges and prosecutors, in the course of 2017, we introduced the practice of organizing focus groups, which gather together judges and prosecutors of all the instances, with the goals to additionally, through focus groups, check the results of questionnaires and evaluations.
In the forthcoming period, the Programme Council will devote more attention to mentors and lecturers, their selection, and evaluation of their work. In this connection, the Judicial Academy, in cooperation with the EU Support to the Judicial Academy project, developed the Guidelines for election of mentors and evaluation of mentorship and the Mentorship Protocol, as well as the Advanced programme of training of mentors and lecturers.
The Judicial Academy, the Managing Board, and the Programme Council, mentors and lecturers, are continuously making efforts to improve the work of the Academy, to continuously improve the quality of programmes and lectures, learning methods, and the method of selection of lecturers. In the forthcoming period, the Academy is going to devote special attention to the enhancement of transparency in its work. In this connection, all the documents I mentioned in my presentation, will find their place on the new Web site of the Judicial Academy for the purpose of familiarization of and their availability to the general and professional public, about which you will have the opportunity to hear more during the conference."
The Team Leader of the „EU Support to the Judicial Academy“ project Juan Carlos da Silva pointed out the specific feature of Chapter 23 stating that the impact of this Chapter is not limited only to one area of government or social activities, instead that it has impact on relations and economy as a whole, as well as on the actual management of the state. "Since Chapter 23 deals with one of institutional centres, a win-win strategy is needed for attainment of objectives of this Chapter. It is not a game in which some gain, and others lose. On the contrary, successful results in Chapter 23 constitute the most important achievement for both sides. Otherwise, it would mean that both the European Union and Serbia will lose", added da Silva.
"The legal framework stipulates that the Judicial Academy serves as the centre for knowledge management within the judiciary. The European Union also, through major contributions, supports the improvement of technical capacities of the Judicial Academy due to the key role that this institution has. This was the work of a team of 60 highly qualified and motivated people, experts, and administrative staff from seven European countries. We have given our maximum; and I think that credit partly goes to us for the fact that, today, the Judicial Academy does not look like as two years ago when we started with the work", concluded the Team Leader of the „EU Support to the Judicial Academy“ project“.
Photo: Fonet/Zoran Mrđa