Third Webinar of the ELI Charter of Fundamental Constitutional Principles Webinar Series


On 8 April 2024, experts convened for the ELI Webinar dedicated to Part III (on Judicial Independence) of the ELI Charter.

ELI President, Pascal Pichonnaz (Professor at the University of Fribourg), opened the webinar with a warm welcome to both speakers and attendees, setting the stage for discussions. He added that Charter III of the Principles builds on an existing ELI initiative on the subject, namely the ELI-Mount Scopus draft European Standards of Judicial Independence:

‘We at ELI think that this project is timely and will become of great importance as a milestone, given the current and ever-changing political situation in Europe and around. This is such an important project and endeavour, to set out fundamental constitutional principles for European democracies’, emphasised Pichonnaz.

Project Co-Reporter, Takis Tridimas (Professor, King’s College London), outlined the aim and context of the project, before proceeding to the topic of the Webinar: Part III on Judicial Independence, an aspect of the rule of law that was thought to be so fundamental that it deserved separate treatment.

He explained each of the four Principles in detail:

  • Judicial independence and impartiality (article 14)
  • Rules governing judicial independence (article 15)
  • Specific guarantees (article 16)
  • Independence as a general principle of reviewing bodies (article 17)


Sophie Turenne (Co-Reporter of ELI project on ELI-Mount Scopus European Standards of Judicial Independence; Assistant Professor, University of Cambridge) spoke on the aims and scope of the ELI-Mount Scopus European Standards of Judicial Independence project and how they seek to reinforce and develop Principles 14–16 of the Charter.  Among other things, Turenne focused more specifically on judicial appointments and the impact of reforms of the justice system and their implications on judicial independence.

Article 14 was referred to by Signe Öhman, Vice Chair of the Council of Europe's European Committee on Legal Co-Operation (CDCJ) as a cornerstone for the functioning of the legal system. She cautioned that without judicial independence, there is a high risk of interference by the executive, legislature and other external actors, as well as a consequential erosion in citizens’ trust in democracy. Öhman referred to continuing challenges on judicial independence, the CDCJ’s work and national measures in the field. ‘ELI and the CDCJ are working towards the same goals … We should continue to follow each other’s work’, she concluded.

Jan van Zyl Smit (Acting Director of Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, British Institute of International and Comparative Law) provided reflections on Principle 15 of the ELI Charter, devoted to ‘Rules governing judicial independence’. Before doing so, he said that ‘having a Charter on Constitutional Principles is so important because the Principles work together to support liberal democracy’. Among other things, van Zyl Smit emphasised the crucial role of the broader justice system in ensuring judicial independence. A healthy justice system, he said, is not built overnight. It is supported by the internal traditions of the profession/of legal education and supportive funding. van Zyl Smit gave more reflective comments on judicial independence relating to the separation of powers and individual rights, beginning with historical considerations. He also positioned his discussion in modern contexts, before providing a thorough analysis on Principle 15.

The interventions were followed by lively discussions.

Other webinars in the series:

More information about the project is available here.