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The World Conference on Constitutional Justice

The Constitutional Court was one of the initiators of the establishment of  the World Conference on Constitutional Justice (WCCJ)—the organisation uniting institutions of constitutional review from all over the world, and it is still a member of the Bureau of the WCCJ. At present, the WCCJ unites 100 constitutional justice institutions from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

The objective of this organisation, organized under the initiative of the Venice Commission, is to promote constitutional justice as a key element for democracy, the protection of human rights, and the rule of law. In pursuit of this objective, the WCCJ organises congresses aimed at gathering different organisations uniting constitutional justice institutions and founded on a regional and linguistic basis: Union of Arab Constitutional Courts and Councils, Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa, Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institution, Commonwealth Courts, Conference of European Constitutional Courts, Ibero-American Conference of Constitutional Justice, Association of Constitutional Courts using the French Language, Southern African Chief Justices Forum, Conference of Constitutional Control Organs of Countries of New Democracy, and Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of the Portuguese-Speaking Countries.

It was during the XIVth Congress of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts, which took place in Vilnius on 3–6 June 2008, that the idea to establish the WCCJ was raised. Being one of the initiators of the establishment of the WCCJ, the Constitutional Court of Lithuania was elected as a member of the preparatory Bureau (an institution entrusted with the organisation of the 1st Congress of the WCCJ) of the WCCJ. The Constitutional Court has been a member of the Bureau of the WCCJ without interruption so far. At present, the WCCJ unites 95 constitutional justice institutions of various states from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The Venice Commission discharges the function of the Secretariat of the WCCJ.

The participants of the 3rd Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice, which took place in the Republic of Korea in 2014.
The photo by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea

The 1st Congress of the WCCJ that took place in Cape Town (the Republic of South Africa) coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was organized by the Constitutional Court of South Africa in co-operation with the Venice Commision. This Congress was attended by participants from more than 90 constitutional justice institutions  and nine organisations operating on regional or linguistic grounds. Its topic was “Influential Constitutional Justice—its Influence on Society and on Developing a Global Jurisprudence on Human Rights.” In the declaration adopted during the Congress, it was noted that constitutional justice is a key element in fostering the basic values enshrined in the Constitutions that form the basis of the work of the constitutional courts. It is emphasised that while constitutions differ, the basic principles underlying them, in particular the protection of human rights and human dignity and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, form a common ground. The participants of the Congress underlined the paramount importance of the respect for human rights and freedoms in all parts of the World and insisted that governments must implement international human rights instruments. During this Congress, President of the Constitutional Court Kęstutis Lapinskas delivered the national report “Some Aspects of the Influence of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania on Society”.

The 2nd Congress of the WCCJ took place in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 2011. It was organized by the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil in co-operation with the Venice Commision. It discussed the topic “Separation of Powers and Independence of Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Bodies”. The representatives from 88 constitutional justice institutions and 10 regional and linguistic groups from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe participated in this Congress. They discussed the issues related to the independence of constitutional courts from the legislative and executive powers, as well as from the media. President of the Constitutional Court Kęstutis Lapinskas and Justice of the Constitutional Court Armanas Abramavičius took part in this Congress. The national report “The Principle of Separation of Powers and Independence of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania” was submitted to the Congress.

The 3rd Congress of the WCCJ was held in Seoul (South Korea) in 2014. It was organized by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea in co-operation with the Venice Commision. This Congress was attended by representatives from more than 90 constitutional justice institutions and ten organisations operating on a regional or linguistic basis. The Congress dealt with the topic “Constitutional Justice and Social Integration” in the following sub-topics: challenges of social integration in a globalised world, international standards for social integration, constitutional instruments enhancing/dealing with/for social integration, and the role of constitutional justice in social integration. President of the Constitutional Court Dainius Žalimas and Justice of the Constitutional Court Gediminas Mesonis took part in the Congress. The Constitutional Court delivered its national report “The Jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania in the Face of the Challenges Brought About by Social Integration”. Additionally, the Congress addressed the issues and tendencies concerning the defence of the independence of constitutional courts (or equivalent institutions).

The 4th Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice under the topic “The Rule of Law and Constitutional Justice in the Modern World” was organized by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania in co-operation with the Venice Commision and took place in Vilnius on 11-14 September 2017.

The 4th Congress of the WCCJ in Vilnius has received record interest. It was attended by representatives from the constitutional justice institutions of 91 different countries of the world. Among them, there were representatives from 85 members of the WCCJ and 2 constitutional justice institutions that were not members of this organisation, delegations from the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the General Court of the European Union, as well as other guests. In total, this event in Vilnius has attracted 422 participants and guests.

The participants had an opportunity to discuss the topic of the 4th Congress in 5 separate sessions. Each session had a different subtopic, which were as follows:

  • 1) The different concepts of the rule of law;
  • 2) New challenges to the rule of law;
  • 3) The law and the state;
  • 4) The law and the individual;
  • 5) Independence of Constitutional Courts – Stocktaking.

The representatives of constitutional justice institutions from various countries have discussed the diversity of the concepts of the rule of law in different states, the role of constitutional courts in ensuring the rule of law, the protection of human constitutional rights, and the independence of constitutional courts.

The Vilnius Communiqué states that, despite the fact that the principle of the rule of law is interpreted in each state in a specific manner, it nonetheless constitutes the cornerstone of every legal system in the modern world, where it is integrally linked to democracy and the protection of human rights. The rule of law is a generally recognised principle, inseparable from the constitution itself. As a fundamental constitutional principle, it requires that the law be based on certain universal values.

Constitutional Courts ensure the respect for and the implementation of national constitutions and exert a strong influence on shaping the content of the principle of the rule of law. The different aspects of this principle are revealed in the case law on constitutional justice. The impact of constitutional justice on the strengthening of the state under the rule of law and on ensuring the protection of individual rights is as essential as is the interest to explore it.

The discussions at the 4th Congress on the independence of constitutional courts showed that a number of courts had come under pressure from the executive and the legislative powers of their respective countries, but also from the media. This generally occurs when courts render decisions that displease other state powers or political actors. Several courts have been subjected to fierce and unfair criticism.

Vilnius Communiqué, adopted by the participants of the 4th Congress can be found here http://www.wccj2017.lt/en/4th-congress/communiqu/148 .

For more information on the 4th Congress of the WCCJ, visit http://www.wccj2017.lt/.

 

The 4th Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice was hosted by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania and organised in co-operation with the Venice Commission. Photo by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania