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The Requirement that Tribunals be Established by Law: A Valuable Principle Safeguarding the Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers in a Context of Trust

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2022

Cecilia Rizcallah
Affiliation:
Cecilia Rizcallah is Visiting Professor at the Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles and the Université libre de Bruxelles, postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for European Law, KU Leuven and the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research.
Victor Davio
Affiliation:
Victor Davio is PhD Researcher at the Institute for European Law, KU Leuven and Assistant in Constitutional Law at the Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles.

Abstract

Requirement that tribunals be established by law – European Convention on Human Rights – EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – Fair trial – Rule of law – Separation of powers – Public trust

Type
Articles
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of European Constitutional Law Review

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Footnotes

The authors wish to warmly thank Professor Elise Muir, Professor Dimitry Kochenov and Mr Mathieu Leloup plus the reviewers for their valuable comments on the draft version of this paper. This paper was presented at the Jean Monnet Workshop NOVE-EU: EU Democracy and the Rule of Law, organised by the University of Maastricht’s Centre for European Law on 24-25 June 2021. Victor and Cecilia are part of the RESHUFFLE research project, funded by the European Research Council (the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No. 851621).

References

1 L. Pech and D. Kochenov recently regretted the lack of sufficient attention paid to this principle, in ‘Respect for the Rule of Law in the Case Law of the European Court of Justice: A Casebook Overview of Key Judgements since the Portuguese Judges Case’, SIEPS Report (2021) p. 168.

2 On this crisis see inter alia F. Marques, ‘Rule of law, national judges and the Court of Justice of the European Union: Let’s keep it juridical’, European Law Journal (2021) p. 1; K.L. Scheppele et al., ‘EU Values Are Law, After All: Enforcing EU Values through Systemic Infringement Actions by the European Commission and the Member States of the European Union’, Yearbook of European Law (2020) p. 3 and L. Pech and K.L. Scheppele, ‘Illiberalism Within: Rule of Law Backsliding in the EU’, Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies (2019) p. 1. For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that the composition of the ECJ has also been the subject of significant criticism with regard to respect for the rule of law in the context of the Sharpston saga. In this respect, the Court of Justice has recently confirmed the dismissal of two actions for annulment brought by Ms Eleanor Sharpston (ECJ 16 June 2021, Case C-684/20 P, Sharpston, EU:C:2021:486).

3 In this respect, it is interesting to note that many commentaries on Art. 6(1) of the Convention ignore this requirement and focus on those of independence and impartiality (see, for instance, Jacobs, White and Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights, 7th edn. (Oxford University Press 2017).

4 ECtHR (GC) 1 December 2020, No. 26374/18, Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland. This line of case law was later applied in other judgments, see ECtHR 7 May 2021, No. 4907/18, Xero Flor w Polsce sp zoo v Poland (on this judgment, see M. Leloup, ‘The ECtHR Steps into the Ring’, available at ⟨https://verfassungsblog.de/the-ecthr-steps-into-the-ring/⟩, visited 31 December 2021), and ECtHR 22 July 2021, No. 43447/19, Reczkowicz v Poland.

5 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, paras. 231 and 233.

6 Ibid., para. 231.

7 The authors have conducted systematic research in the official database of the ECHR, Hudoc, using the following keywords: ‘court established by law’ ‘tribunal previously established by law’ and ‘tribunal established by law’.

8 J. Velu, ‘La notion de “tribunal” et les notions avoisinantes dans la Convention de sauvegarde des droits de l’homme et des libertés fondamentales’, in Liber Amicorum F. Dumon (Kluwer 1983) p. 1287-1295 and F. Matscher, ‘La notion de “tribunal” au sens de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme’, in Les nouveaux développements du droit à un procès équitable au sens de la CEDH (Bruylant 1996) p. 29.

9 In this vein, Art. 146 of the Belgian Constitution explicitly states that ‘No court or contentious jurisdiction may be established except by virtue of a law. No commissions or extraordinary courts of any kind may be established’.

10 European Commission of Human Rights 10 October 1980, No. 8299/78, X and Y v Ireland.

11 European Commission of Human Rights 28 March 1963, No. 1216/61, Coll. 11, 1963, X v Federal Republic of Germany, p. 7.

12 European Commission of Human Rights 12 October 1978, No. 7360/76, Zand v Austria, para. 69 and European Commission of Human Rights 6 December 1989, No. 11879/85, Rossi v France.

13 ECtHR 27 October 2009, No. 30323/02, Pandjikidze and others v Géorgia, para. 103 and ECtHR 22 June 2000, No. 32492/96, Coëme and others v Belgium.

14 Emphasis added. Coëme, supra n. 13, para. 98 and Zand v Austria, supra n. 12, paras. 79 and 80.

15 ECtHR 14 September 2010, No. 38224/03, Sanoma Uitgevers NV v Pays-Bas, para. 83.

16 Coëme, supra n. 13, para. 98.

17 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4.

18 Zand v Austria, supra n. 12, and European Commission of Human Rights 18 December 1980, No. 8603/79, 8722/79, 8723/79, 8729/29, Coll. 22, Crociani and others v Italy p. 147.

19 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, para. 211.

20 Ibid., para. 211.

21 Ibid., para. 213.

22 Ibid., para. 226.

23 Ibid., para. 236.

24 Ibid., para. 240.

25 Ibid., para. 245.

26 Ibid., para. 246.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid., para. 249.

29 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, para. 222 and Xero Flor w Polsce sp zoo v Poland, supra n. 4, para. 224.

30 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, para. 222.

31 Coëme, supra n. 13, para. 98.

32 Translation is ours, Pandjikidze and others v Géorgia, supra n. 13, para. 103 and Coëme, supra n. 13, para. 105.

33 Translation is ours, S. Van Drooghenbroeck and J.-F. Van Drooghenbroeck, ‘Le principe de la légalité en matière judiciaire’, in L. Detroux et al. (eds.), La légalité, un principe de la démocratie belge en péril (Larcier 2019) p. 81.

34 Ibid., p. 81.

35 ECtHR 12 January 2016, No. 57774/13, Miracle Europe KFT v Hungary, para. 58.

36 Ibid.

37 Crociani and others v Italy, supra n. 18, p. 147.

38 Xero Flor w Polsce sp zoo v Poland, supra n. 4.

39 See by way of example ECJ 16 February 2017, Case C-503/15, Ramón Margarit Panicello, EU:C:2017:126, para. 27; ECJ 17 July 2014, Case C-58/13 and C-59/13, Torresi, EU:C:2014:2088, para. 17; ECJ 6 October 2015, Case C-203/14, Consorci Sanitari del Maresme, EU:C:2015:664, para. 17.

40 In this vein, see M. Leloup, ‘The Appointment of Judges and the Right to a Tribunal Established by Law: The ECJ Tightens Its Grip on Issues of Domestic Judicial Organisation: Review Simpson’, 57(4) Common Market Law Review (2020) p. 1139 at p. 1148. The present authors have conducted systematic research on the official database of the ECJ, Curia, using the following keywords: ‘court established by law’ ‘tribunal previously established by law’ and ‘tribunal established by law’.

41 ECJ 27 February 2018, Case C-64/16, Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses, EU:C:2018:117. See for example on this landmark case, M. Bonelli and M. Claes, ‘Judicial serendipity: how Portuguese judges came to the rescue of the Polish judiciary. ECJ 27 February 2018, Case C-64/16, Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses’, 14(3) EuConst (2018) p. 622; A. Torres Pérez, ‘From Portugal to Poland: The Court of Justice of the European Union as watchdog of judicial independence’, 27(1) Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law (2020) p. 105.

42 For a detailed account of the facts of the saga, see Leloup, supra n. 40, p. 1139-62.

43 Council, Public call for applications for the appointment of judges to the European Civil Service Tribunal, OJ 2013, C 353/11.

44 Council Decision (EU, Euratom) 2016/454 of 22 March 2016 appointing three judges to the European Union Civil Service Tribunal, OJ 2016, L 79/30.

45 ECJ 19 July 2018, Case T-646/16 P, Simpson v Council, EU:T:2018:493; ECJ 19 July 2018, Case T-693/16 P, HG v Commission, EU:T:2018:492.

46 ECJ 26 March 2020, Joined Cases C-542/18 RX-II and C-543/18 RX-II, Erik Simpson and HG v Council of the European Union and European Commission, EU:C:2020:232.

47 The ECJ specified that the irregularity in this case resulted exclusively from the Council’s disregard for the public call for applications of 3 December 2013 and not from an infringement of the requirements under the fourth paragraph of Art. 257 TFEU or Art. 3 of Annex I to the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union (see ECJ, ibid., para. 68).

48 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4.

49 Erik Simpson and HG, supra n. 46, para. 74.

50 Ibid., paras. 71–75.

51 Ibid., para. 75. Emphasis added.

52 Ibid., paras. 79–81.

53 Opinion of AG Tanchev, 15 April 2021 in Case C-487/19, W.Ż., EU:C:2021:289; Opinion of AG Tanchev, 15 April 2021 in Case C-508/19, M.F. v J.M., EU:C:2021:290; Opinion of AG Tanchev, 6 May 2021 in Case C-791/19, Commission v Poland, EU:C:2021:36.

54 Opinion of AG Tanchev, 6 May 2021, ibid., paras. 101-109.

55 Ibid., para. 107.

56 ECJ 15 July 2021, Case C-791/19, Commission v Poland, EU:C:2021:596, paras. 164-177.

57 Opinion of AG Bobek, 4 March 2021 in Joined Cases C-357/19 and C-547/19, Euro Box Promotion and Others, EU:C:2021:170; Opinion of AG Bobek, 4 March 2021 in Joined Cases C-811/19 and C-840/19, FQ and Others, EU:C:2021:175.

58 Opinion of AG Bobek, 4 March 2021 in Euro Box Promotion and Others, ibid., para. 133.

59 Ibid., para. 144 ff.

60 Ibid., para. 157.

61 ECJ 6 October 2021, Case C-487/19, W.Z., ECLI:EU:C:2021:798, para. 29.

62 Ibid., para. 30.

63 Ibid., para. 31.

64 Ibid., para. 37.

65 Ibid., paras. 32-33, 141. ECJ 2 March 2021, Case C-824/18, A.B. and Others, ECLI:EU:C:2021:153.

66 W.Z., supra n. 61, para. 131.

67 Ibid., para. 152.

68 Ibid., para. 141.

69 Ibid., paras. 142-143.

70 Ibid., para. 159.

71 Ibid., para. 160.

72 Art. 19(1)(2) of the TEU reads as follows: ‘Member States shall provide remedies sufficient to ensure effective legal protection in the fields covered by Union law’.

73 See e.g. ECJ 26 March 2020, Joined Cases C-558/18 and C-563/18, Miasto Łowicz and Prokurator Generalny, EU:C:2020:234, para. 34 and ECJ 19 November 2019, Joined Cases C-585/18, C-624/18 and C-625/18, A.K., EU:C:2019:575, para. 83.

74 Commission v Poland, supra n. 56, paras. 164-177; W.Z., supra n. 61, paras. 102-161.

75 See C. Rizcallah and V. Davio, ‘L’article 19 du Traité sur l’Union européenne : sésame de l’Union de droit - Analyse de la jurisprudence récente de la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne relative à l’indépendance des juges nationaux’, Revue trimestrielle des droits de l’homme (2020) p. 178 ff. We argue that the wider scope of Art. 19(1)(2) TEU than that enjoyed by Art. 47 of the Charter must be offset by a reduction in its substantive scope, notably because of the limitations set out in Art. 51(1) of the Charter. Several conclusions of the Advocates General point in the same direction, and are quoted in this paper. See more recently in this vein, Opinion of AG Bobek, 23 September 2020 in Joined Cases C-83/19, C-127/19 and C-195/19, Forumul Judecătorilor din România, para. 150 ff; Opinion of AG Bobek, 20 May 2021 in Joined Cases C-748/19 to C-754/19, Prokuratura Rejonowa, para. 130 ff, e.g. para. 144.

76 S. Van Drooghenbroeck, La proportionnalité dans le droit de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme: prendre l’idée simple au sérieux (FUSL 2001) p. 372 and O. Scorcello, ‘Preserving the “Essence” of Fundamental Rights under Article 52(1) of the Charter: A Sisyphean Task?’, 16(4) EuConst (2020) p. 647.

77 ECJ 25 July 2018, Case C-216/18 PPU. LM, EU:C:2018:586, para. 48; Erik Simpson and HG, supra n. 46, para. 71. See also in this vein, Leloup, supra n. 40, p. 1154 ff.

78 See e.g. Opinion of AG Bobek, 4 March 2021 in Euro Box Promotion and Others, supra n. 57, para. 136 ff; Opinion of AG Tanchev, 15 April 2021 in W.Ż., supra n. 53, para. 70 ff.

79 S. O’Leary, ‘The EU Charter Ten Years On: A View from Strasbourg’, in M. Bobek and J Adams-Prassl (eds.), The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Member States (Hart Publishing 2020) p. 42. As also remarked by O’Leary, the ECJ often refers unevenly to Art. 52(3) of the Charter in its case law. In this vein, see G. de Búrca, ‘After the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: The Court of Justice as a Human Rights Adjudicator?’, 20(2) Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law (2013) p. 168.

80 Erik Simpson and HG, supra n. 46, para. 72.

81 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, paras. 131-140.

82 See e.g. T. Lock, ‘The Influence of EU law on Strasbourg Doctrines’, Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper series (2017) p. 1; O’Leary, supra n. 79, p. 37.

83 See O’Leary, supra n. 79, p. 62 where the author stresses the need for a common approach between the ECJ and the ECtHR on the rule of law and fundamental rights.

84 Opinion of AG Sharpston, 12 September 2019 in Joined Cases C-542/18 RX-II and C-543/18 RX-II, Simpson and HG, ECLI:EU:C:2019:977, para. 64.

85 The latter justification seems more questionable to us. It is indeed strange to use the guarantee of irremovability – directly linked to the protection of the judicial independence – as a justification that could possibly cover an irregularity committed during the appointment process, possibly putting at stake the said independence.

86 Erik Simpson and HG, supra n. 46, para. 75.

87 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, para. 246.

88 See in particular Erik Simpson and HG, supra n. 46, paras. 79-80 where the ECJ distinguishes the irregularity at stake from that at issue in the decision of the EFTA Court of 14 February 2017, Pascal Nobile v DAS Rechtsschutz-Versicherungs, which concerns the duration of judges’ mandates.

89 Opinion of AG Sharpston, 12 September 2019 in Simpson and HG, supra n. 84, para. 107.

90 GC 23 January 2018, Case T-639/16 P, FV v Council of the European Union, ECLI:EU:T:2018:22, para. 77.

91 See e.g. A.K., supra n. 73, para. 142.

92 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, paras. 289-290.

93 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, partly conc., partly diss. opinion of Judges O’Leary, Ravarani, Kucsko-Stadlmayer and Ilievski, paras. 34-35.

94 Opinion of AG Tanchev, 15 April 2021 in W.Ż., supra n. 53, para. 98.

95 Ibid., para. 99.

96 Ibid., para. 101.

97 Opinion of AG Bobek, 4 March 2021 in Euro Box Promotion and Others, supra n. 57, para. 153.

98 On the initial use of this notion, see, inter alia, A.V. Dicey, An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (Macmillan and Co 1889) p. 114.

99 R. Von Mohl, Die polizei-wissenschaft nach den grundsatzen des rechtsstaates (H. Laupp) p. 1844.

100 See, about these different conceptions, J. Waldron, ‘Is the Rule of Law an Essentially Contested Concept (In Florida)?’, 21 Law and Philosophy (2002) p. 137 and R.H. Fallon, ‘“The Rule of Law” as a Concept in Constitutional Discourse’, 97(1) Columbia Law Review (1997) p. 1.

101 Dicey, supra n. 98, p. 183; L.L. Fuller, La moralité du droit (Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles 2017) p. 55; J. Raz, The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality (Oxford University Press 1979) p. 217 and C. Grewe and H. Ruiz Fabri, Droits constitutionnels européens (PUF 1995) p. 24.

102 Dicey, supra n. 98, p. 189; Fuller, supra n. 101, p. 89; Raz, supra n. 101, p. 216; Grewe and Ruiz Fabri, supra n. 101, p. 24; T.R.S. Allan, Constitutional Justice: A Liberal Theory of the Rule of Law (Oxford University Press 2005) p. 31.

103 Two readings of this principle exist in the literature. For the proponents of a formalist reading, the rule of law is limited to requiring compliance with certain forms and procedures. For the proponents of the substantive reading, the rule of law also has a substantive dimension, which includes the protection of fundamental rights. See, inter alia, R. Dworkin, A Matter of Principle (Harvard University Press 2000); P. Craig, ‘Formal and Substantive Conceptions of the Rule of Law: An Analytical Framework’, Public Law (1997) p. 467.

104 Fuller, supra n. 101, p. 89.

105 Report CDL-1D(1011)003 of the Venice Commission, 25-26 March 2011 on the rule of law.

106 J. Waldron, ‘The Concept and the Rule of Law’, Georgia Law Review (2008) p. 1.

107 L. Pech and D. Kochenov regret, in this sense, a lack of sufficient attention paid to this principle: see Pech and Kochenov, supra n. 1, p. 168

108 P. Pettit, Republicanism : A Theory of Freedom and Government (Oxford University Press 1997) p. 55.

109 Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, para. 222 and Xero Flor w Polsce sp zoo v Poland, supra n. 4, para. 240.

110 D. Smilov, ‘The Judiciary: the Least Dangerous Branch?’, in M. Rosefeld and A. Sajó, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 866.

111 Ibid., p. 867.

112 P. Mikuli, ‘Separation of Powers’, Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law (2018).

113 E. Barendt, ‘Separation of Powers and Constitutional Government’, Public Law (1996) p. 609.

114 Smilov, supra n. 110, p. 862.

115 See, for a recent analysis of the undermining of checks and balances in EU member states, A. von Bogdandy, ‘Principles of a systemic deficiencies doctrine: How to protect checks and balances in the Member States’, 57(3) Common Market Law Review (2020) p. 705.

116 Mikuli, supra n. 112.

117 Ibid.

118 Ibid.

119 Ibid . See also, on the role of the judiciary and the legislative and the executive from a Polish perspective, M. Gersdorf and M. Pilich, ‘Judges and Representatives of the People: A Polish Perspective’, 16(3) EuConst (2020) p. 345.

120 ECtHR (GC) 6 May 2003, No. 39651/98, 39343/98, 46664/99 et al, Kleyn and Others v the Netherlands (No 6), para. 193 and ECtHR (GC) 6 November 2018, No. 55391/13, 57728/13 and 74041/13, Ramos Nunes de Carvalho e Sá v Portugal, para. 146.

121 A. Tsampi, ‘Separation of Powers and the Right to a Fair Trial Under Article 6 ECHR’, in L.A. Sicilianos, Fair Trial: Regional and International Perspectives (Anthémis 2020) p. 697; ECtHR 22 June 2004, No. 47221/99, Pabla Ky v Finland, para. 35; Opinion of Advocate General Hogan, 17 December 2020, in Case C-896/19, Repubblika v II Prim Ministru, para. 54 and Guðmundur Andri Ástráðsson v Iceland, supra n. 4, para. 215.

122 ECtHR 21 January 2010, No. 4313/04, Gorguiladzé v Georgia, para. 69; ECtHR 27 January 2010, No. 30323/02, Pandjikidzé v Georgia, para. 105; FV v Council, supra n. 90, para. 68; at the level of the EU, see e.g. Opinion of AG Bobek, 4 March 2021 in Euro Box Promotion and Others, supra n. 57, para. 137. See also in this vein, L. Pech, ‘Dealing With “Fake Judges” under EU Law: Poland as a Case Study in Light of the Court of Justice’s Ruling of 26 March 2020 in Simpson and HG’, Reconnect, Working Paper No 8 (2020). See also P. Filipek, ‘Only a Court Established by Law Can Be an Independent Court: The ECJ’s Independence Test as an Incomplete Tool to Assess the Lawfulness of Domestic Courts’, Verfassingsblog, 23 January 2020, available at ⟨https://verfassungsblog.de/only-a-court-established-by-law-can-be-an-independent-court/⟩, visited 28 December 2021.

123 Emphasis added. Coëme, supra n. 13, para. 98.

124 Crociani and others v Italy, supra n. 18, p. 147.

125 Xero Flor w Polsce sp zoo v Poland, supra n. 4.

126 Smilov, supra n. 110, p. 861.

127 G. Yudkivska, ‘Between Scylla and Charybdis – Judicial Independence and Accountability in the Populist Era’, in Sicilianos, supra n 121, p. 757-760.

128 Coëme, supra n. 13, para. 107.

129 Opinion of AG Tanchev, 15 April 2021 in W.Ż., supra n. 53, para. 69.

130 ENCJ report on Public Confidence and the Image of Justice, report 2017-2018 on Communication by and from the Judiciary, available at ⟨https://www.encj.eu/index.php/node/480⟩, visited 28 December 2021.

131 Ramos Nunes de Carvalho e Sá v Portugal, supra n. 120, para. 144.

132 Smilov, supra n. 110, p. 861.

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