Everything flows into the judiciary, only the Trial Chamber does not change

Almost at the same time as Deputy Justice Minister Oliver Ristovski explained in the Government reforms in the field of judiciary, for which an agreement was reached with the opposition, the Trial Chamber made a decision behind closed doors to discuss the Automated Computerized Court Case Management System (ACCMIS), for which there were numerous indications of irregularities.

Earlier, the Trial Chamber decided not to elect a president of the Skopje Court of Appeal, and appointed Lidija Dimcevska as acting president instead, because, in the meantime, an extraordinary assessment of the candidates should be conducted. Dimcevska is the judge who several years ago confirmed the verdict that NSDP president Tito Petkovski was supposed to pay about 12 thousand euros to the then Prime Minister and leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, who sued for defamation. The reason for the complaint was Petkovski’s statement that the prime minister, with an official letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2008, proposed that the new name of the country be “Republic of Macedonia – Skopje”. Dimcevska is also one of the judges who confirmed the defamation verdict after a complaint filed by former director of the UBK, Saso Mijalkov, against journalists from the weekly newspaper “Focus”.

The decision on yesterday’s session to not elect a president of the Court of Appeal, although the current president, Ljiljana Ivanovska-Sopova, retires, the Trial Chamber adopted, after the member Vlatko Samardziski requested an extraordinary assessment of the candidates. According to him, some of the candidates from the Criminal Court were low due to abuse of the annual judges’ schedule. Samardziski’s proposal was supported by eight members of the Council, while six were opposed. In contrast, Aleksandra Zafirovska, the former president of the Judicial Council, opposed the extraordinary assessment of judges, assessing that the proposal was delayed.

Samardziski also requested that ACCMIS review be public, indicating that it was declassified and known to the public, but his proposal was rejected by other members. According to Council President Zoran Karadzovski, the hearing should be closed to the public in order to preserve the integrity of the judges.

The ACCMIS report was declassified last month, at the request of the Prosecution and the Judicial Council. In it, according to some media reports, it was stated that the judge Stojance Ribarev, who was acting president of the Skopje Criminal Court, said that there is double ACCMIS. That is, he pointed out that there is a manual distribution of cases in the court, so that during the filing of cases under the jurisdiction of a judge for pre-trial and criminal proceedings in several important departments, the system for automatic distribution of objects was not used. It is noted that specific cases from one judge were given to another judge, and judges were excluded from ACCMIS on various grounds, only with the signature of the previous president of the court.

While the Council was in session, the Government came up with information that the concept of this body which is competent for the election and dismissal of judges will also be changed. But this is envisaged by the next phase of judicial reform, which would be implemented by the middle of the year. Deputy Justice Minister Oliver Ristovski announced that the agreement was reached with the opposition and that judicial reform laws will soon be put into parliamentary procedure. The harmonization of this regulation was carried out through the working groups formed by VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM, with priority being given to reaching consensus on the laws that require a two-thirds majority. VMRO-DPMNE’s notes were accepted and incorporated in the proposed solutions. According to Ristovski, there remained one more extensive amendment that should be adopted in June or July this year, referring to the de-professionalization of the Judicial Council following the recommendations of Priebe and the Venice Commission. These changes, he said, will be prepared in cooperation with the opposition.

– Judges who are to be members of the Judicial Council are to continue to appear before the courts in which they worked so far, and perform the function in the Council additionally. The norm for cases that must be solved will be reduced – Ristovski said. He noted that this decision was imposed because the function in the Judicial Council was six years, with the possibility of extension for another six, which would mean an excessively distancing of the judges of the work they have done and will have to carry out in the future.  (A.M.M.)

Evaluation of judges every two years

The main goal of the amendments to the Law on the Judicial Council, for which the approval requires a two-thirds majority in the Assembly, is the introduction of measurable qualitative criteria for assessing the work of judges and court presidents every two years. Attention was paid to the full balance of the criteria in the assessment system, while at the same time intervening in the provisions for a Council member with a right to vote, ranking of candidates for election of judges to a higher court, the responsibility in the work of the Council…

Amendments to the Law on Courts, however, arise from the need for reform of the judiciary, outlined in the Strategy for the Reform of the Judiciary System. In order to solve the problem of shortage of jurors, it is envisaged that you can apply with a minimum of secondary education, in contrast to the time when higher education was required, and the daily allowance that should be about 500 denars, which, as Ristovski said, is 2.5 times higher than the current daily allowance.