Speech by the Minister Dekker at the Council of Europe conference on Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law

Speech by the Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker, at the Council of Europe conference on “Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law”, 9 November 2020.

(Engels uitgesproken, English only)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me first of all thank our Greek hosts for their leadership under these difficult circumstances.

I am grateful that the chair decided to organise a digital conference on such an important topic as the Independence of Justice and the Rule of Law.

One of the main pillars of the Council of Europe is the rule of law. This core principle has a direct impact on the daily lives of over 830 million citizens across 47 countries.

While we, as nations, may have different national identities, legal systems and traditions, the core principles of the rule of law are the same across Europe. Respect for the rule of law is essential for all our citizens.

Ensuring respect for the rule of law is a responsibility of each country, but we have a shared stake and we all have a role to play in addressing and resolving rule of law issues wherever they appear.

Our constitutional, legal and political systems generally reflect high rule of law standards. That is something to be proud of! However, in light of the serious challenges we face today, there is no room for complacency.

All over Europe, we see cases where the resilience of rule of law safeguards is being tested. Shortcomings concerning the key principle of the independence of justice become more evident every day.

What we need is a strong commitment to execute judgments of independent and impartial courts. At the national and international level.

Sooner or later, every government will have to deal with court rulings that are not, or not fully, in line with government policy. Including rulings by independent courts regarding other Council of Europe states. Even then, or especially then, it is our duty and obligation to uphold and strengthen the rule of law.

When it comes to cooperation between countries, we need an effective and rules-based European system. Without this, judicial cooperation is impossible.

The European Court of Human Rights is also of vital importance to the rule of law. The failure to execute judgments in a timely manner can undermine the credibility of the Convention system. Non-implementation of Court judgments also erodes the basis for pan-European cooperation in important areas such as migration/asylum and the fight against crime. As expressed in the Copenhagen Declaration in 2018: Such failures to implement the Court’s judgments must be confronted in an open and determined manner. The Netherlands therefore deems is crucial that the Committee of Ministers can perform the important task of supervising the execution of judgments with sufficient capacity and speed.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude. We face serious challenges. For the benefit of our citizens and in order to continue our cooperation we have to keep shedding light on issues concerning the rule of law and the independence of justice. This is a shared responsibility.

It is also important that we continue to adhere to the standards developed by the Council of Europe when it comes to the independence of justice but also in other important areas such as with the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and domestic violence.

Together and under the guardianship of the Council of Europe I am sure we can meet the challenges ahead.

Thank you.