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Justice Lewandowski: "The Federal Constitution opened the doors of the country's courts to the population"

Led by Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, the 4th General Assembly of the Conference of Portuguese Speaking Constitutional Jurisdictions (CJCPLP), held last Friday (April 8th) gathered presidents of constitutional courts of countries that have distinct institutional, political and social backgrounds, but share the same language: Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe. Gianni Buquicchio, the president of the Venice Commission, advisory body on constitutional matters, also attended.

In the morning session, the representative of each nation made remarks on the topic of the event, “The Effectiveness of Constitutional Guarantees”, in the scope of their specific countries. As host, Justice Lewandowski opened the debates by stressing the importance of the subject, chosen in the last Assembly, held in Angola in 2014, for any Democratic Rule of Law State.

Effectiveness

Lewandowski highlighted that constitutional norms should have the deepest and most complete efficacy and effectiveness, under the penalty of undermining their meaning and strength. In addition, he quoted one of the most prominent Brazilian jurists of all time, Rui Barbosa: “There are no provisions in the Constitution that must be merely viewed as a moral value of advice, warnings or teachings. All have binding force”.

According to the Chief Justice, the Constitution isn’t metaphysical or ethereal, but a set of principles and rules that must be observed in a cogent manner. That being said, he highlighted the advances of the 1988 Federal Constitution and the Constitutional Amendment n. 45/2004, which bestowed the judiciary, in particular the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, procedural safeguard mechanisms of the binding force of the Constitution.

"The Federal Constitution opened the doors of the country's courts to the population," he added, "rights without guarantees are innocuous and have no way to pass on to concrete reality." Closing his speech, Lewandowski reinforced the commitment of the Supreme Court to ensure the stability and respect for the institutions of the republic, particularly in this difficult time for the Brazilian nation.

New Courts

Afterwards, the representatives of the other nations also shared the experience and the position of their countries’ Court about the topic of the Assembly. The President of the Constitutional Court of Angola, Rui Ferreira, introduced the Court, established in June 2008. "We believe that the history of constitutional justice in Angola is young," he said. Ferreira explained that although Angolans have a letter with full fundamental rights, there is a gap between material rights and instrumental rights which function to concretize and guarantee the former. Moreover, he pointed out the general difficulties resulting from the state of development of society itself, because the Democratic Rule of Law in Angola is an ongoing and unfinished process which started in 1991, after an atrocious civil war. This phase, he said, limits the dynamic that is expected of the full functioning of all institutions, including the Constitutional Court itself.

Still younger is the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Cape Verde, installed on the 15th of October 2015. The President of the Court, João Pinto Semedo, spoke for the delegation of the country for the first time in this conclave. Among the experiences, the jurist highlighted the Support Appeal, a remedy directed for the redress of violations of rights and freedoms committed by acts or omissions of public authorities, and recognized the evolving nature of the Cape Verdean condition: “the social efficacy has not yet been felt in full, but as all the institutions of our relatively young republic can be improved over time”.

The president of the Constitutional Court of Portugal, Joaquim José Coelho de Souza Ribeiro, stressed the independence that the constitutional courts have reinforced in recent years and the bonds of solidarity that are created between the courts in these conferences. "They can constitute a blockade, a certain barrier as they progress from phenomena that do not cease to disturb and bring up uncertainty and doubt". Ribeiro presented the summary of some constitutional guarantees and court statistics - pronouncing each year about 1,500 decisions, with 900 judgments on citizens’ fundamental guarantees. "The richest part of our jurisprudence is located in this area."

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