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Legal Framework for the Justice Sector

 

The justice sector is set up and works according to norms defined in international law, the constitution, organic laws, as well as ordinary laws and regulations pertaining to the functioning of the justice system. Justice reform can thus have a variety of normative implications.

1  International Standards

2  Constitutional Standards

3  Relevant Standards defined by Laws and Regulations


International Standards

Justice reform may aim at bringing the set-up and the functioning of the justice sector in accordance with international legal norms and standards. For example, “everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him” under Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Regional Human Rights conventions have similar provisions, such as Article 7.1 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights according to which “every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard … [and] to be tried within a reasonable time by an impartial court or tribunal.”

Judicial Integrity: Relevant International Instruments

This document provides an overview of international legal instruments and provisions pertaining to judicial integrity and more generally to the functioning of the justice sector.

Council of Europe Recommendations on Efficiency and Fairness of Justice

The Council of Europe has passed a number of recommendations defining standards for the justice sector in terms of efficiency and fairness. They pertain to various issues such as the court and case management, the use if Information and Communication Technology, the status of judges, enforcement, and many more.

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Constitutional Standards

National constitutions oftentimes define the general structure (constitutional court, ordinary courts, administrative courts, etc.) of the justice sector as well as basic principles for its functioning (judicial independence, right to a fair trial, procedural human rights etc.). Justice reform may aim at bringing the functioning of the justice sector in compliance with constitutional rules. Justice reform might also imply constitutional amendments to improve the existing constitutional rules.

European Commission for Democracy through Law (Council of Europe)

The European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission, is the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters. Established in 1990, the commission has played a leading role in the adoption of constitutions that conform to the standards of Europe's constitutional heritage. Initially conceived as a tool for emergency constitutional engineering, the commission has become an internationally recognized independent legal think-tank. It contributes to the dissemination of the European constitutional heritage, based on the continent's fundamental legal values while continuing to provide “constitutional first-aid” to individual states. The Venice Commission also plays a unique and unrivalled role in crisis management and conflict prevention through constitution building and advice.

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Relevant Standards defined by Laws and Regulations

The set-up and functioning of the justice sector is obviously not only ruled by international and constitutional norms. A number of organic laws as well as ordinary laws and regulations pertain to the functioning of the justice sector. Therefore, justice reform oftentimes implies reforming these laws and regulations.

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