By: Judge Senija Ledić and Nella Popovic
Judge Senija Ledić is a judge in the County Court of Split in Croatia, as well as one of the trainers of the Croatian Judicial Academy. Nella Popovic is the Head of the International Cooperation Department of the Croatian Judicial Academy. All opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the authors as external experts and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNODC.
Croatia is one of the more than forty jurisdictions that have agreed to become training sites for the implementation of the UNODC Judicial Ethics Training Tools, with the aim to enhance judges' integrity and contribute to the fight against corruption in the judiciary at the global level.
Training activities on judicial ethics are already regularly included in the annual programmes of the Croatian Judicial Academy (JA), which is the national public institution in charge of initial and continuous judicial training. As of 1 January 2010, the Academy has been functioning as an institution that is independent of the Ministry of Justice.
The JA management was first informed about the UNODC Judicial Conduct and Ethics Training Package by the President of the Croatian Supreme Court, Judge Đuro Sessa, who is also the President of Academy's Steering Council and a member of the Network's Advisory Board. The 'search' for a national trainer who would attend the training of trainers in Vienna in March 2019 then began. Judge Senija Ledić of the County Court of Split, who is also one of the JA trainers, enthusiastically accepted the invitation to attend, to motivate judges and judicial advisors in Croatia to take the e-learning course on judicial ethics in English and to support them, if necessary, throughout the course.
Last spring, after the train-the-trainers workshop in Vienna, Judge Ledić spoke with Nella Popović, Head of the International Cooperation Department of the JA and the official focal point from the JA for the implementation of the UNODC training tools, about the course and about how to organize a face-to-face workshop in Croatia based on the training tools. Ms. Popović was at first concerned that the JA would struggle to find participants who would like to take the course in English in addition to their workload at courts, but Judge Ledić was adamant that this would not be a problem and that the JA should target newly appointed judges and judicial advisors who were fluent in English and interested in online training methodology.
In the end, Judge Ledić's enthusiasm persuaded Ms. Popović and together they managed to assemble a nice group of 26 participants coming from various Croatian jurisdictions. Some of them were very experienced judges, some of them judicial advisors and newly appointed judges and 73% of the entire group successfully completed the UNODC e-learning course before the face-to-face workshop. During the opening of the workshop they all said the online course was very interesting, with many examples that provided guidance for situations in which they already found or may find themselves.
Judge Barbara Bosner (County Court of Rijeka) and Judge Ledić developed the training materials for the face-to-face workshop by using the UNODC training tools. In addition, the training sources from the Judgecraft workshop of the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN) were used.
In this respect, the presentations for the workshop had a three-fold objective: to present the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct and their interpretation at the global level; to explain to the participants the differences between the Bangalore Principles and the Croatian Code of Judicial Ethics; and to enable them to combine the contents of the oath that Croatian judges take on the occasion of taking up their duty with the Bangalore Principles .
Furthermore, one of the aims was to make the participants familiar with the fact that the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct have been widely accepted worldwide and that they constitute a set of universal ethical principles and standards crucial for the performance of judicial duties in any part of the world regardless of regional differences.
In addition, the training materials were enriched with ideas and insights pertaining to non-legal fields, such as psychology, in connection with the risk of bias, be it conscious, or unconscious, which may jeopardize judicial integrity overall. In this context, a dedicated session on judges' resilience against various types of pressure was held. Last but not least, a very important part of the training material was dedicated to judges' use of social media and related risks.
Ms. Popovic and Judge Ledić describe the results of their efforts: "Having in mind that excellent interaction with the participants was achieved, the face-to-face workshop was very successful. We managed to create an atmosphere in which the participants felt free to raise various challenging questions and ask for additional explanations. This convinced us that the workshop provided the basis for the high-quality application of the acquired knowledge."