It took more than a year for the Judicial Council of the Republic of North Macedonia to elect six judges to the Court of Appeal Skopje. Finally, on 10 February 2020, according to the old selection criteria according to the law in force at the time of the announcement of the open job advertisement, 3 judges in the criminal area, 2 judges in the civil area and 1 judge in the commercial area were elected.
The job advertisement was published on 7 February 2019 before the announcement of the presidential elections, in order to immediately elect the judges, and before the adoption of the new Law on Judicial Council and the Law on Courts providing new criteria for evaluation and selection of judges. However, from May 2019 until their final election, the election of judges to the Court of Appeal Skopje was postponed on several occasions without giving a justified reason.
Under pressure from the media, but also on the basis of the statement by the President of the Judicial Council that due to the early parliamentary elections there will be a selection of judges, finally, on 10 February 2020, 6 judges were elected in the Court of Appeal Skopje.
The Court of Appeal Skopje is a court that was assessed as a non-up-to-date court by the Judicial Council with a number of backlogs in several quarters, thus delaying the election of judges to this court directly affected its efficiency on the one hand, but on the other violation of international standards provided for in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Although the Judicial Council has not set deadlines for the election of judges, it is understood that once the formal part of the proceedings is completed, the appointment of judges should be commenced as soon as possible. Interest in these positions has long been high, with over 90 candidates applying, and the unjustified prolongation of the election has prompted uncertainty for their future career.
The Blueprint Group believes that the prolongation of the election has called into question the efficiency and effectiveness of the Judicial Council in the selection and dismissal of judges. The Judiciary Council is a body that should take care of the promptness of the courts and provide conditions for the smooth operation of the courts. In addition, there is room for speculation about the possible external and political interference with the Council’s work that has affected delays and arbitration. This situation certainly affects the citizens’ confidence in the Judicial Council and the judiciary as a whole which is already very low.
At the same time, the issue of not filling vacant job positions in the Supreme Court of the Republic of North Macedonia remains unclear. Namely, the Judicial Council announced a call for election of judges to the Supreme Court as early as September 2019 and a second call for election of judges to the same court was published in November 2019 at the request of the Acting President of the Supreme Court due to the alarming situation in the court and the lack of a sufficient number of judges to form panels, which calls into question the efficient and effective operation of that court.
The Judicial Council put the election of judges on the agenda of the Supreme Court on 7 February 2020 after both job advertisements. Following the advertisement for the election of judges to the Supreme Court published in September 2019, the Judicial Council of RNM selected 3 judges from the candidate list (2 in the criminal area and 1 in the civil area). After the second job advertisement, where 10 candidates applied for 3 positions, 1 judge was selected, while the remaining candidates did not receive the required majority. As a Blueprint Group we believe that despite the new criteria and bylaws adopted by the Judicial Council of the Republic of North Macedonia for the purpose of specifying and scoring the criteria for drawing up the lists of candidates for judges, the Judicial Council still allows discretion not to select judges who have gone through all the procedures. The commission consisting of three members drawn by lot on the basis of the procedures made a rank list, however, without any justification and explanation, the Judicial Council did not fill all the required job vacancies in the advertisement. It is not enough just to refer to a provision of the law that provides that a candidate who receives a majority of votes from the members of the Judicial Council shall be elected as a judge. The question arises as to the responsibility of the Judicial Council for knowingly failing to exercise its jurisdiction to elect judges and to ensure the smooth operation of the courts.