In the week of February 22-26, 2021, the National School of Judges is implementing a program of training judges of the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) so that they could continue their professional development; enhance and update relevant knowledge, skills, competencies; and learn international judicial experience in counteracting corruption. The content for the first day of training was developed by USAID New Justice Program jointly with the EU Pravo-Justice Project. They engaged experts and supported the online session Best Practices and Lessons from Anti-Corruption Courts in Europe.
Presentations were made by Judge Jan Hrubala, Chief Judge of the Special Criminal Court of the Slovak Republic; Pavol Zilincik, Member of the High Council of Justice of the Slovak Republic; Judge Snežana Nikolić-Garotić, President of the Anti-Corruption Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade (Serbia); Judge Marieta Nedelcheva, Appeal Specialized Criminal Court of the Republic of Bulgaria; and Judge Marijan Bitanga, High Criminal Court of the Republic of Croatia.
The session was moderated by David Vaughan, USAID New Justice Program Chief of Party; Olga Nikolaeva, USAID New Justice Program Legal and Judicial Specialist; and Anna Adamska Gallant, International Key Expert from the EU Pravo-Justice Project.
The discussion focused on ensuring efficient operation of anti-corruption courts, establishing productive communications with the media, and maintaining public trust under conditions of increased pressure and high expectations of prompt decisions in high-profile cases that concern corruption-related crimes committed by top government officials. Besides, the participants discussed factors contributing to the success of specialized courts. A separate discussion was devoted to constitutional challenges faced by anti‑corruption courts as such precedent took place in Slovakia. Yet, the court resumed its operations once the Law on Anti-Corruption Court had been amended accordingly.
Once the USAID New Justice Program, together with its European and Ukrainian partners, supported establishment and institutional development of the High Anti-Corruption Court. Last year, we planned international study visits for HACC judges so that they could see how anti-corruption courts in other countries operate. However, we had to postpone those visits because of the pandemic. Nevertheless we can continue moving and use other ways to share experience, such as this online training event”, pointed out USAID New Justice Program Chief of Party David Vaughn in his introductory remarks.
In Croatia, it may take up to eight years to consider an anti-corruption case. On average, this is three years for the first instance and another two year for the appellate instance. One judge considers approximately ten anti-corruption cases per year. At the same time, the public and media always expect prompter consideration and more radical judgments”, shared his experiece Judge Marijan Bitanga from the High Criminal Court of the Republic of Croatia.
Every so often, one has to explain to the media why the court has delivered this specific judgment. And I never evade such communications and explain everything thoroughly”, said Snežana Nikolić-Garotić, President of the Anti-Corruption Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade.
At the end of the meeting, David Vaughn extended his thanks to the participants for the interesting discussion. He expressed a hope that learning experience first hand during study visits would become a reality very soon.