December 2019 CEELI Institute Prague, Czech Republic

Over the past year, the CEELI Institute has produced and published a number of substantive tools, guidelines, and monographs on topics of current relevance to judges, lawyers and human rights defenders across Europe and beyond. Among them, CEELI is delighted to introduce the most recent publication, Practical Guidelines on Use of Social Media by Judges: Central and Eastern European Context. The Guidelines recognize that participation on social media platforms is an intrinsic part of modern life; they also recognize that for many judges, participation on social media actually contributes to their public outreach efforts and their effort to build public interest in and trust of the judiciary.

Since there have been very little specific guidance and very few standards to date regarding these issues, judges often have to come up with their own individual solutions or approaches, which might lead them into situations involving conflicts of interests and ethical dilemmas. The new Guidelines represent several years of work by judges from CEELI’s Network of Central and Eastern European Judges, and summarize research and discussions that Network members have undertaken over the past several years. The goal of the document is to provide judges with a clear overview of the pros and cons of using social media and offer recommendations on how to use it smartly and safely. The document is relevant to any individual judge who is active on social media as well as to anyone responsible for setting national guidelines for judicial conduct. This includes members of judicial councils, court presidents, officials from judicial associations and any other members of the judiciary who need to set regulations on the behaviour of judges on social media. This publication is a testament to the extraordinary commitment of time and effort by the Network judges who participated in this project and who undertook extensive independent research and editing, coming together periodically at the Institute to coordinate and collaborate on their work.

Thanks also to Ksenija Renko,Jupiter Strategic Consultant Ltd. and Marko Rakar, Mrak Ltd, regional public relations and communication experts, to David Sellers, Public Affairs Officer, Administrative office of the US Courts, Barbora Field and Freda Grealy, CEELI Institute Program Managers, and Katherine Sorrell, CEELI Institute Legal Intern (William and Mary Law School) for their valuable contributions in developing these Guidelines. The Institute also wishes to thank the Hon. Judith Macaluso, Janet Katz, and Jane Mahoney for their invaluable assistance in editing this document.

Download the Guidelines


1. Represent the Judiciary Well in ALL Social Media Content

Always maintain a professional tone and maintain an awareness of your role as a judge even if posting in a personal context. Anyone with a career in the judiciary needs to be careful about what they write and what they publish online, whether via email, text, or social media posts, since digital content is so easily and widely accessible and could impact their work in a variety of ways.

2. Never Comment on Pending Cases

In line with the Bangalore Principles comments about court judgments or ongoing cases are particularly sensitive, because they can raise suspicions about the impartiality and objectivity of judges and the judicial system.

3. Do Not Use Social Media to Investigate Parties

Judges must consider only the evidence presented by the parties and any facts properly subject to judicial notice. Judges should not independently investigate case facts by means other than those provided by law.

4. Mind Whom You “Friend” and What or Whom You “Like”

When declaring yourself a friend with someone on social media or liking particular posts, members of the judiciary should take care not to compromise their neutrality. Interaction on social media can create the perception of bias, even if it does not exist.

5. Avoid Political and Commercial Comments

Judges should stay out of political debates and not publicly disclose their political views.

6. Adjust and Monitor Your Online Visibility

Carry out regular review of your online social presence and adjust your privacy settings if necessary.

7. Protect Your Personal Data

Think twice before revealing any personal information. Once you post personal information on Facebook or any other social network, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to keep it private. Such personal data has a permanent presence and can be recovered, circulated, or printed years after being sent or posted online.

8. Educate Your Family and Friends

Talk to your family and friends to ensure they understand the sensitivity of the judicial work you conduct and potential consequences of their actions online if they reveal personal information or photographs that could be linked to your profile.

9. Using Social Media to Educate the Public

Social media platforms can be used as a positive tool to engage and educate the public, promote transparency, advocate, explain the importance of judicial tasks, and provide information about the activities of judicial institutions. Many judges throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and beyond, have successfully used social media to this end.

10. Continue to Educate Yourself about Social Media

Social media is here to stay and judicial training and continuing education on social media use is critical. Among other things, judges must be familiar with the operation of social media as issues related to its use will increasingly be relevant to the cases before them.

November, 2019, Belgrade, Serbia

High-Level International Anti-Corruption Conference “Fight against Corruption for Prosperity in South-East Europe” was held from 3-5 November 2019 in Belgrade organized by the Ministry of Justice and the EU funded project Prevention and Fight against Corruption.

The conference aimed to highlight and promote the complementarity efforts of the international and national anti-corruption and integrity mechanisms and authorities, including the results of the specialized law enforcement institutions in fight against corruption in Serbia, region and beyond. More than 200 delegates from 14 countries attended the conference. The opening ceremony was addressed by Serbian Minister of Justice Nela Kuburović and Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Ambassador Sem Fabrizi. The Minister of Justice stressed that the Government of Serbia demonstrates a clear political will and unambiguous commitment to a strategic approach to the fight against corruption. Aware of the far-reaching consequences that corruption has on the rule of law, social equality and economic development, Serbia began a systematic fight against corruption in 2012. Kuburović stressed that Serbia has more than ever strengthened and rounded off its repressive mechanism in this area by adopting the Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Authorities in Combating Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption, as well as reforming the Criminal Code by introducing seven new anti-corruption crime measures while others are improved.

The Minister of Justice emphasized that Serbia paid equal attention to preventive action. In May this year a new Law on Prevention of Corruption was adopted, in November last year the Law on Lobbying was adopted while from 2015 Serbia became a pioneer in protection of whistleblowers by adopting the Law on protection of whistleblowers. In the 18 months since the enforcement of the Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Bodies in the Suppression of Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption began, 749 persons have been convicted of corruption offenses. During that period, special departments of the higher public prosecutor’s offices acted on criminal charges filed against 15,222 persons, of which 1,269 persons were indicted and 771 verdicts were rendered, of which 749 were convicted.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi said that Serbia is on its way to the EU and that as such it is fighting corruption, that several important laws have been adopted to this end, and that there is now an emphasis on the implementation of those laws. Fabrizi stressed that it is very important that laws do not remain a dead letter and that, if the laws are enforced, the confidence of citizens, companies and the international community will be greater. EU countries are a positive example in this area, as the Corruption Perceptions Index, measured by Transparency International, is among the top 20 in the EU’s 14-member states and wants to share its experiences in the region.

“Serbia has taken a number of crucial steps in the past period, which helped build a framework of legislation and institutions that can help deter corruption and related phenomena. There is important work that is being carried out by the newly established special specialized authorities to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate corruption and organized crime in line with the law”, Ambassador Fabrizi says. The EU expects Serbia to actively apply these legal solutions, which is why we will monitor the results presented through the data together with the public, says Ambassador Fabrizi.

“We have a long road ahead in the European Union and in Serbia and in the countries of the region. I assure you that we will continue to work together. I thank all those involved in the implementation of projects, and especially the fighters against corruption, who are facing this phenomenon on a daily basis,” concludes the Head of the EU Delegation.

The ministers of justices, prosecutors, heads of state bodies for the prevention and fight against corruption, as well as representatives of the civil sector from Serbia, Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey discussed the improvement and strengthening of cooperation between the relevant anti-corruption institutions and services. Within the conference, a ministerial segment was led by Minister Kuburović, addressing participating ministers of justice, as well as four panels on new investigative mechanisms and international cooperation in prosecuting corruption cases, the role of state authorities in preventing corruption, the role of civil society in preventing corruption and usage of modern technologies in the fight against corruption.

The conclusions of the international conference conducted by senior experts Roman Prah from Slovenia, Ksenija Renko from Croatia and Veliborka Staletović from Serbia, emphasized that effective fight against corruption requires:

• Effective cooperation and synergy of all national and international bodies;

• Improving the capacity of all bodies in the prevention and fight against corruption;

• Ensuring minimum standards in the field of corruption prevention – promoting institutional governance and the exchange of information and good practice between national and anti-corruption bodies;

• Improving the efficiency of public administration, increasing transparency, accountability, integrity in governance and decision-making in public policy-making – which will further mitigate the risks associated with corruption;

• The civil sector has a very important role to play in the fight against corruption, which has been recognized in all participating countries;

• Civil society organizations, in addition to raising awareness of the importance of preventing and combating corruption, must constantly monitor the functioning of government bodies and institutions;

• With an independent and strong judiciary and good laws, preventing corruption requires use of modern technologies, which will strengthen the internal capacities of public authorities in the digital age;

• Such modern anti-corruption policies make it possible to effectively measure corruption and assess its impact on economic development and the rule of law, and links between corruption and organized crime;

• Continuous trainings and exchange of information of all relevant actors in the prevention and fight against corruption.