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Minister Pažin at EU-WB forum: Access to justice must not be disrupted even in crisis caused by Covid 19 pandemic

Minister Pažin at EU-WB forum: Access to justice must not be disrupted even in crisis caused by Covid 19 pandemic
Published date: 22.10.2020 18:00 | Author: PR Service

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The EU-Western Balkans ministerial forum on Justice and Home Affairs was held today as part of the German presidency of the Council of the European Union. The ministers discussed the impact of the urgent measures taken to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic on the functioning of the judiciary. They acknowledged the importance of balancing the need to ensure the continued functioning of the judiciary with the imperative to guarantee respect for fundamental rights.

"Montenegro and its judiciary have been taking all possible steps since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic in order to guarantee the right to a fair trial and the right to defence in these unprecedented circumstances for modern humanity," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Zoran Pažin said in his address. Furthermore, he pointed out that despite the fact that due to the virus there was an extraordinary influx of cases, the basic courts achieved a very encouraging rate of as much as 95% efficiency at the level of semi-annual work.

The ministers acknowledged that, even in times of crisis, fair trial rights and defence rights of suspects and accused persons should be respected. They pointed to the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic, and acknowledged that support for and protection of victims of domestic violence warrants particular attention and dedicated measures.

"The issue of widespread use of digital communications to hold trials raises a number of issues due to concerns about preserving key principles of court proceedings, and raises the issue of protecting the right of access to court for those citizens who are not sufficiently computer-savvy to participate in online trials. These issues emphasise the need to change regulations and create a secure Internet application, in order to provide more space for the use of new communication technologies, which would enable citizens in times of crisis to administer justice easier and faster," Pažin concluded.

Speaking on the topic of access to justice in the era of digitalization, Pažin pointed out that Montenegro is making efforts in the field of development of information and communication technologies in the judiciary, with the aim of improving efficiency, transparency and accountability of judicial bodies. The European Commission recognised Montenegro’s efforts in the latest Report.

"One of the key functionalities within the strategic document that regulates the field of ICT in the judiciary is e-Fileing. It is a system that, after electronic identification, will allow the party to have insight into all court cases in which they appear in any role. In this way, access to justice will be simpler, faster and easier for all citizens of Montenegro," Pažin explained.

The EU and the Western Balkans reaffirmed that basic judicial rights and procedural principles, such as the right to a fair trial, must be ensured when employing digital solutions, and discussed the next steps to digitalise justice systems further. 

The EU expressed its continued financial and technical support for the Western Balkans partners in further developing digital tools for the justice system.


Public Relations Service of the Government of Montenegro