Presentation of the First National Report from the Matrix of Indicators for Monitoring of the Performance and Reform of the Judiciary

On 28 February 2019, the Center for Legal Research and Analysis [CLRA] presented the First National Report from the Judicial Indicator Matrix for measuring of the Performance and Reform of the Judiciary.

Opening addresses were given by Judge Xhemali Saiti, President of the Judges’ Association; Dominic Otway, Deputy Ambassador of the UK; Renata Deskoska, Minister of Justice; and Zharko Hadji-Zafirov, Senior Programme Manager at the Center for Legal Research and Analysis.

Judge Xhemali Saiti, President of the Judges’ Association, opened the event and bid welcome to those present, highlighting the importance of this research, which sets the basis for further reform in the judiciary. He pointed out that the report makes it evident that there is improvement in the quality of the courts’ judgments, as well as that there are continuous steps being taken to satisfy all other parameters pertaining to independence and impartiality. He stressed that the Report adopts a methodological scientific approach, and that it would be useful for the future for the courts themselves, as well as the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, the Judicial Council, and the professional associations.

The Deputy Ambassador of the UK in Skopje, H.E. Dominic Otway, also addressed those present, highlighting words of congratulations on the work done and stressing that the support provided by the British embassy in relation with the reform of the judiciary shall continue. He spoke that the values built into the concept of the rule of law are common to all, and that its strengthening is only possible if there are ways to measure its progress. That opens the possibility of addressing the challenges and the problems, but also of contributing to the strengthening of stability, prosperity and integrity of the judicial system in the country.

What can be measured can also be upgraded”, pointed out the Minister of Justice of the Republic of North Macedonia, Renata Deskoska. She highlighted that this approach of policymaking through measuring and examination is the right principle that the Ministry of Justice follows when taking measures in the area of the judiciary. She added that pursuant to the goals ascertained in the Strategy for Reform of the Judicial Sector (2017 – 2022), the findings of the report will be useful to the preparation of the proposed reforms of the judiciary, and their channeling into specific legal solutions.

Zharko Hadji-Zafirov, the programme manager of the CLRA, highlighted that this report is the first of its kind, and is particularly meaningful because of the inclusive approach toward all target groups falling within the monitoring. “The process of the first national monitoring included over 6,000 respondents, whereas the responsiveness of the directly included stakeholders in the judiciary is over 70%”, he added. “What is particularly important is that this report is a result of the inclusion of all stakeholders and is not an external evaluation of the judiciary, which makes it credible and legitimate. Today, after four years spent in creating the Matrix itself, its piloting in 2017 and its national application in 2018, we have the first report that shall serve as basis to further promote the Strategy”.

Through an in-depth analysis that crossed perceptions, legal framework and relevant reports and data of the judicial institutions, the Center for Legal Research and Analysis prepared the report that enables an evaluation of the performances and the reform of the judiciary in the five key areas.

The situation with regard to efficiency indicates that despite the insufficiently developed infrastructure and the lack of staffing in the judicial service, the courts display a high level of efficiency in their work. In terms of transparency and accountability, the situation indicates that the existing system of announcing of judicial decisions is still not functionally applicable for the expert and general public. In addition, it sheds light on the necessity for a higher level of inclusion of the public in the work of the Judicial Council of the Republic of North Macedonia. With regard to quality of judicial justice, there are still no adequate criteria for its evaluation, although conditions are being made for its measurement through an amendment in the legal framework and an increased level of argumentation in the judicial decisions and application of judicial practice. Only partial independence of the judiciary was recorded, conditioned by financial and political factors. Impartiality is still at a low level, although there is an ongoing trend of creating mechanisms for its consistent securing. Professional development should mandatorly be specialized and continue following the trends and needs of the judiciary. Adequate representation on grounds of sex, age and ethnicity is at a solid level, though there is a need to select judges of Roma ethnicity.

In the end, the findings of international reports on the country in relation with the judiciary were presented, largely aligned with the findings of the perceptions and the domestic sources. Recommendations on how to better use the data of the Judicial Council of the Republic of North Macedonia were also presented, also highlighting that through a systematic and instrumental analytical approach, the urgent problems of the judiciary will emerge.

At the very end of the event, judge Saiti highlighted that the findings of the report were a result of the perceptions of relevant stakeholders in the judiciary, and that this is the reality that has to be accepted to achieve progress and development in the future. He added that this data is also useful for the adoption of the recommendations of Chapter 23 and the pre-accession negotiations with the EU.

The report is a result of the first national measurement conducted through the Judicial Indicator Matrix for measurement of the performance of the judicial system, envisaged as a mechanism in the Strategy for the Reform of the Judiciary 2017 – 2022, under Strategic Planning and Policy making.

The report was drafted within the framework of the project “Enhancing the transparency, legal certainty and efficiency of the judicial system in Macedonia”, implemented by the CLRA and supported by the British embassy Skopje. The report is available on the following link.

Gorica Nadjinska