4 March 2020 - Judging from the eager interactions of so many judges and judicial experts gathered under one roof in Doha last week, the importance and appeal of UNODC's Global Judicial Integrity Network, launched in Vienna in 2018, continues to grow. During a three-day high-level meeting held under the patronage of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, Chief Justices and senior judges from around the world debated the hottest judicial integrity-related topics affecting their remits, and the myriad challenges facing judiciaries in their quest to apply justice.
In his welcome address, Dr. Hassan bin Lahdan Alhassan Almohanadi, Chief Justice of the State of Qatar, told participants: "This is an exceptional meeting, one that represents the fact that those participating here are guardians of justice and humanity, conveying a message of trust in them from the international community. The clear and direct message conveyed by the Global Judicial Integrity Network addresses all members of the judiciary around the world, underscoring that we need to treat others as we treat ourselves to make sure that justice is done, and the innocent are protected."
Counting over 700 participants from 118 countries and 50 judicial associations and organizations, the size of this event in Doha surpassed even the launch of the Network, which at the time had been the largest gathering of judges ever assembled under the auspices of the United Nations. Naturally, it was to the accomplishments of the Network so far that the gathered judges first turned their attention; as they prepared to discuss the "Past, Present, Future" of the Network, John Brandolino, Director of Treaty Affairs at UNODC, declared: "The work that we have collectively carried out within less than two years of the Network's existence is unprecedented in its scope and reach - we have developed a series of practical guides on emerging judicial integrity issues, implemented a training programme in more than 45 countries, and continued to deepen our ties as a pre-eminent Network for judges worldwide."
After taking stock of the Network's impressive achievements since its launch, several plenary sessions and a dozen thematic breakout sessions addressed the existing and emerging challenges related to judicial integrity, as they explored the different kinds of efforts made by judiciaries to address them and identified the priority areas for the Network. The use of social media by judges (for which the Network has issued Guidelines, available on its website), the use of artificial intelligence by judiciaries, and gender-related judicial integrity themes (on which the Network has just released a paper downloadable on the website), all subjects of highly topical relevance, provided packed plenaries with interesting and thought-provoking contributions from around the world. Other topics, such as judicial immunities, developing codes of conduct, the selection and appointment of judges or mainstreaming anti-corruption, amongst others, were discussed in engaging breakout sessions.
Chief Justice Dr. Almohanadi also used the occasion to announce Qatar's willingness to finance and establish an international training and research hub on judicial integrity to be set up in Doha. The soon-to-be-established hub will further support the activities of the Network and strengthen the implementation of UNODC's Judicial Ethics Training Tools.
This important international meeting was also marked by the adoption of 'The Doha Declaration on Judicial Integrity' and by the joint proposal of Chief Justice Dr. Almohanadi and the International Association of Women Judges to submit a proposal to the General Assembly of the United Nations, recommending the establishment of the International Day of Women Judges.
The Network's Advisory Board, which develops the Network's workplan and acts as its ambassador around the world, met at the conclusion of this second high-level event, using the occasion to announce that two new members had joined the Board: by welcoming Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey, Supreme Court of Seychelles, and Judge Vanessa Ruiz, President of the International Association of Women Judges, the Network's Board is also getting closer to achieving its goal of gender parity.