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World Conference on Constitutional Justice - 2nd Congress

  

 

 

 From January 16-18, 2011, Brazil hosted the 2nd World Conference on Constitutional Justice. More than 100 delegations from all continents came to the city of Rio de Janeiro where the Supreme Court of Brazil organized the Conference together with the Venice Commission. The Second Conference debated around the theme: Constitutional Courts and the Separation of Powers.

At that time, three separate workshops and a Plenary Session took place, each one with different moderators and its own designated rapporteur.

Panels centered around three essential axes for the existence of democracy: (1) the independence of the constitutional court; (2) the independence of the constitutional judge; and (3) the operational procedures in constitutional courts. These debates brought forward the exchange of experiences concerning the different solutions found by the Courts to face these specific problems.

Brazil was represented by the President of the Supreme Court, Justice Cezar Peluso and by Justices Gilmar Mendes and Ricardo Lewandowski. The Vice-President of Brazil Mr. Michel Temer and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro Mr. Eduardo Paes attended the opening ceremony. They all welcomed the participants and gave speeches on the challenges and on the development of democracy in Brazil.

On Monday 17th, at the opening ceremony, Justice Peluso highlighted the importance and the growth of democracy on a world scale. He also spoke about cooperation among international Courts. Justice Peluso reminded that in 2011 we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Venice Commission and that “not just by chance does that anniversary come at a moment of dissemination and crystallization of democracy all around the planet”.

The President of the Supreme Court of Brazil also highlighted the role played by legal institutions in keeping democracy safe, by stating that “a solid legal system must assure legal certainty and timely dispute resolution”. Justice Peluso underlined the relationship between a solid rule of law in a Rechtsstaat and legal institutions in overcoming times of crisis, as the one that happened last year.

As he specifically referred to the context of the conference, Peluso mentioned two major ‘remedies’ to contain the abuse of power: Constitutional Justice and Separation of Powers. By citing Montesquieu who stated that “When in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, the legislative branch joins the executive, the freedom disappears”, Peluso meant to bring forward the participation of the Supreme Court of Brazil and of the Judiciary branch in the “positive transformation” Brazil is going through.

As he concluded by saying that the Conference is a celebration of freedom, Justice Peluso also mentioned the need of harmony between all three powers and announced the upholding of Republican Pacts, which are formal agreements between the chiefs of all three powers.

During the Conference, the delegations met around plenary sessions. The first plenary session discussed the central theme of the Conference. On the second session, other themes related to that central theme were presented and discussed. The General Report was written during the third plenary session and the last Session provided an outline of the by-laws of the World Conference.

Beyond the central theme which was presented and discussed in the plenary session on Monday morning, the participants also focused on three different subjects: ‘the institutional independence of the constitutional court’, ‘the independence of the single judge’ and on the idea of ‘procedure as a guarantee of court independence’. For that matter, three working groups were formed, each one having a president and a rapporteur.

In each one of the Commissions that were constituted to discuss specific themes concerning the II World Conference on Constitutional Courts, the Rapporteur produced, on Tuesday morning (18th), a summary of their work. The President of the Constitutional Court of Benin Mr. Robert Doussou was in charge of writing the Report on the institutional independence of the Constitutional Court and presenting it before the Plenum. The report on the independence of the single judge was written by the President of the Constitutional Court of Portugal Mr. Rui Moura Ramos. Finally, Mr. Mohammed Habchi, who’s a judge in the Constitutional Counsel of Algeria, spoke about the idea of procedure as a guarantee of court independence

Many of the subjects under analysis were interconnected. Some of them concerned the nomination of Supreme Court judges and servants; the length of mandate of judges; the publicity of discussions and deliberation in the Court, as well as budget management. Discussion was not conclusive, nor did they bring forward final answers, rather stimulating the overall debate. For instance, some countries believed there should be single lengthy mandates for judges, while other countries believed mandates should be short with the possibility for the judge to hold a second mandate.

As for the by-laws, the participants also discussed which should be the objectives, the composition and the regularity of the World Conference on Constitutional Courts, as well as its organs, the lay-out of a General Assembly, of a Board and of a Secretariat.
 

What is the Venice Commission?

Established in 1990, the Venice Commission is the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters. Its work aims at upholding democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

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 in a context of democratic transition, it has become an internationally recognized independent legal think-tank.

Since 2002, non-European states were allowed to become full members. Brazil joined the Venice Commission as observer in 2008 and became a full member in 2009, after the establishment of closer relations between the Venice Commission and the Ibero-American Conference of Constitutional Justice.

In order to get more information on the Venice Commission, go to: http://www.venice.coe.int/site/main/Presentation_E.asp.

 

To know more about the World Conference on Constitutional Justice, go to:  http://www.venice.coe.int/WCCJ/WCCJ_E.asp.

To check the member states, go to:  http://www.venice.coe.int/site/main/map_WCCJ2.asp.

Details of the subjects on discussion can be obtained at: http://www.venice.coe.int/WCCJ/WCCJ_E.asp.

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