European Association of Judges, PORTUGUAL

As a judge for around 30 years from September 1989 to the present day, JOSE IGREJA MATOS was elected as the President of European Association of Judges in 2016 for a two years mandate and re-elected for a second term in 2018. Mr. Matos also has been serving as a Member of the Advisory Board of the Global Judicial Integrity Network of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) since April 2018. In addition to his professional career as a judge, he is also an Associate Researcher of the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra and a Member of Portuguese’s High Judicial Council Cabinet – 2011/2013. Mr. Matos also lectures in meetings of the judiciary in several dozens of countries in four continents and has written several books, articles and studies in different topics including Human Rights protection and Rule of Law affirmation.

Event Title: Protection of Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights                Date: September 25, 2019


For the judiciary “dark clouds” are now pending in our Old Continent. During the past few years we were confronted with a crisis of rule of law, with severe implications for human rights protection, which is spreading like a plague in multiple countries.

Allow me to tell you a story. Some months ago I was, once again, in Poland, as you know one of the more disturbed countries within the European Union. I was speaking informally with an international expert that works now in Warsaw. And then she explained me: “Look, José, during more than 14 years I worked for international human rights organizations. But very recently I decided to change my professional framework and actually to take a step back. I realize that to be really effective in avoiding violation of HR we desperately need to have previously an institutional framework. Courts and judges play an essential role especially to protect social and cultural rights; if we don’t have independent courts committed in an impartial way to defend our core values then we will be in very serious troubles.

So here I am now; working with judges because in Poland like in other countries of the region is mostly here that our future is being shaped.” In a recent survey more than 60% of our 43 EAJ members declared that in the past 5 years the situation of judiciary in their countries concerning judicial independence as worsened.

Turkey represents the most terrible of the examples: thousands of judges and prosecutors arrested for years, expelled from the judiciary and with all their assets confiscated. The European Association of Judges has already spent more than one hundred twenty thousand euros in humanitarian assistance to several dozens of judges and their families with contributions that don’t exceed 900 euros to each of those families; only to cover very basic needs.

Democracy is based on two major pillars: elections providing legitimacy to the rulers but also the values assembled by the “Rule of Law”, as opposite of rule of men, in which the principles of separation of powers and judicial independence are vital prerequisites.

The arrival of so-called illiberal democracies at the very heart of European Union has, since the early stages, instigated a vigorous attack on courts. Therefore, in countries like Hungary or Poland, the second pillar of democracy is neglected, if not dethroned.

The menaces to Rule of Law are now everywhere as democracy is being characterized as out-dated and inefficient with its terrible habit of respecting minorities, upholding human rights and freedom of expression and of avoiding excessive concentration of State powers.  

Alexis de Tocqueville, almost 200 years ago, baptized Democracy as “the great experiment”.

I sympathize with this definition that alert us to the delicacy of democracy, characteristic of a system that is always being tested. I do believe –working intensively in the last years in different regions of the world – that the solutions for the problems the judiciary is facing today is intimately connected with Goal 16 of UN Sustained Development and should be build in cooperation and partnership with civil society working together in field projects that addresses our mutual concerns.

Obeying to an lesson of practical conduct, that is enshrined on our European culture, advanced many centuries ago by Aristotle’s words: “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, for example men become builders by building and lyre players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts”.

An alliance of good will men and women to protect democratic values is now the only remedy to the rise of populism and radicalism. That is why is so important for me as a judge to be present on this conference and to publicly praise the work of the Journalists and Writers Foundation and of all the global partners specially, in my particular case, the Associação Ilhas da Paz of Mozambique.


Video Link:

Recommended Posts