The state of rule of law is an increasing concern in respect of many European countries. ln recent years concerted efforts have been made at European level to prevent degradation of the rule of law through measures aimed at the well-functioning of national justice systems.
ln the Council of Europe (CoE) Plan of Action on Strengthening Judicial lndependence and lmpartiality it is stated that “On/y an independent and impartial judiciary can provide the basis for the fair and just reso/ution of Jegal disputes, particu/arly those between the individua/ and the State. ln this context, it is recal/ed that al/ member States have undertaken, under Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to guarantee access to independent and impartial tribunais, whenever civil rights or obligations are in issue or criminai charges are to be determined; and in respect of which the European Court of Human Rights has developed a wide jurisprudence. (… ) lt is of primordial importance that judicial independence and impartiality exists in fact and is secured by Jaw, and that public confidence in the judiciary, where it has been fast, is restored and maintained.”
Among other measures, the Plan of Action requires States to ensure comprehensive and effective training of the judiciary in effective judicial competences and ethics.
At European Union (EU) level, the 2020 Rule of Law report stated that “Effective justice systems are essential for upho/ding the rule of Jaw. lndependence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the mode/ of the national Jegal system and tradition in which it is anchored. (… )The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. (… ) Despite reform efforts in a number of Member States to enhance judicial independence, developments raise concerns in a few of them.”
Judges, prosecutors, and lawyers occupy a critical and sensitive place in society; the way they conduct themselves directly impacts on public confidence and on the administration of justice. Therefore, they have a duty to maintain the highest of ethical behavior.
There are international standards providing guidance on ethical conduct and on the core principles of these professions. lndependence, impartiality and integrity underpin the rule of law in a healthy democracy and guarantee the protection of human rights.
About the course
To address these issues, the HELP course on “Ethics for Judges, Prosecutors and Lawyers” covers in an interactive way the key concepts and principles, the International and European (CoE and EU) framework as well as the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). lt is aimed at deepening the knowledge and understanding of professional tools and at developing reflective skills, based on practical examples, to address ethical dilemmas in the performance of professional duties.