detail - Rule of Law Programme Middle East and North Africa
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The conference started with a brief introduction by Dr. Anja Schoeller-Schletter, Director of the Rule of Law Programme Middle East / North Africa. After her welcome speech, the attending experts, J. Adel Omar Sherif, Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Egypt, J. Antoine Messarra, Member of the Constitutional Council of Lebanon, Couns. Faisal Al-Gharib, Adviser to the Minister of Justice of Kuwait, J. Moulay Abdelaziz El Hafidi El Alaoui and J. Mohamed El Ansari, both Members of the Constitutional Court of Morocco outlined the importance of case-law databases and presented the current status and recent developments thereof in their respective countries.
All participants agreed that the accessibility of court decisions is to be considered an essential component of a fair trial. Access for citizens to information held by state bodies is a fundamental right and part of the right to freedom of expression and information. Public accessibility of court decisions not only ensures a transparent and predictable judiciary, strengthens the public understanding of justice, but also increases the trust in the judiciary and state institutions in general. A broad access to court decisions constitutes furthermore the foundation for a coherent, well drafted jurisprudence, and also fosters exchange between courts and comparative research in the MENA region and internationally.
The discussion round showed, however, that although a lot of progress has been achieved in this field in recent years, in most countries of the MENA region, comprehensive and openly accessible databases of court decisions are still insufficiently developed, which is mostly due to technical and financial reasons. In addition, the accessibility to court decisions raises issues of data protection and privacy of information, causing reluctance for the development of data-bases that are open to the public. It was stressed furthermore, that the sole access of the public to court decisions does not necessarily strengthen the public understanding and confidence in the judiciary. Instead, the judiciary should at the same time improve the quality of the drafting and thereby enhance the overall comprehensibility of court decisions.
The expert meeting allowed the participants to share and get to know more about the different legal systems and traditions in the MENA region. Finally, challenges and possible ways of reform were discussed, focusing in particular on the role of social media and new technologies within courts. As in most fields of society, the internet has also transformed the judiciary. By offering the opportunity to publish a high quantity of court decisions on online databases, courts have the possibility to increase their visibility and transparency considerably.
The expert meeting was followed by an evening reception in the premises of the Rule of Law Programme Middle East/North Africa.