Albert hirschman centre on democracy
13 July 2017

Checks and Balances: Independence of Judiciary and Parliaments

Video of our joint event with IDLO and IPU.

“It’s about building people’s confidence in the courts” explained IDLO Director-General Irene Khan on the topic of why judicial independence matters. “What are the issues of independence, integrity, approach, principle, ethics that build people’s trust in the judiciary?”

How parliaments and the judiciary can maintain independence with one another and with the executive branch of government – while respecting the boundaries of their mandates – was the subject of a high-level panel discussion in Geneva organised by IDLO in partnership with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy at the Graduate Institute.

Timed to mark the presentation of the first report by the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, the event featured international voices from Supreme Court Justices of Uganda and Tunisia, as well as perspectives from the UK Parliament and academic centres in Switzerland and the United States.

As an example of the real-world implications, Ms. Khan noted that in Kenya, where concerns about the independence of the judiciary deterred candidates from using the courts to adjudicate electoral disputes, the perceived illegitimacy of the 2007 general election result led to widespread violence.

The Special Rapporteur, having presented his report to the UN Human Rights Council earlier that same day, drew the connection between human rights, democracy and rule of law, and the independence of judges and lawyers. He noted that the Council has repeatedly reaffirmed the importance of an independent judiciary, which he defined as impartiality and independence from improper influences – whether political, economic or extra-legal forces such as organised crime.


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