The justice sectors in Council of Europe member states have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Special arrangements have been introduced in most systems in order to respect the need for social distancing, while at the same time delivering a minimum level of service in cases where postponement would have particularly harmful implications. This is the case notably as regards proceedings involving children, custody, domestic violence and detention. This responsiveness is to be welcomed.
COVID-19 has been traveling rapidly since December last year. Carried by millions of tourists and expanding, first, to Europe, the United States and then the rest of the world. At the beginning gradually and imperceptibly, then exponentially. The WHO declared it a pandemic on 11 March 2020 when the number of infected people was "only" 118,000 and the number of deceased people, 4,291. With over 3.5 million people infected and over 250,000 dead as of the day of this writing, the world has built new frontiers and is becoming unrecognizable.
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.
Ever since 1979, the Indian Supreme Court has accepted access to justice as a basic human right, a view propounded by legal scholars Mauro Cappelletti and Bryant Garth. Towards achieving this goal, the Legal Services Authority Act was passed by parliament in 1987. As a result of this legislation, free legal aid and advice is available to all women, children, persons in custody, and other disadvantaged persons. Access to justice has been challenged by COVID-19 in an unimaginable way.
As the President of the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Judicial Integrity Network and in my personal capacity, it pains me to see the whole world suffer under the terrible weight of this catastrophic COVID-19 virus. The images on television and in the newspapers show our world valiantly coping with the unknown. Doctors, nurses and health professionals in the world are teaching us all a lesson of sacrifice, solidarity and generosity. Let us be part of the world efforts in this fight for human life.