During her stay at the IISL, Dr. Stefanie Lemke carried out research about the increasing number of judges involved in politically motivated charges and convictions againt civil society activists and the important role of international organisations to safeguard the independence of judges more effectively in Europe and other regions of the world.
The research, which I carried out during my stay at the IISL, sheds light on the widespread judicial harassment of human rights activists in Europe and the important role of international organisations to address such wrongdoings more effectively. While the politicisation of Europe’s judiciaries is on the rise, a growing number of judges is involved in politically motivated charges and convictions against human rights defenders and other government critics, performing their judicial duties with bias and ignoring fair trial rights. For instance, it became common practice in some jurisdictions that judges use fabricated evidence against the defendant, order pre-trial detentions without further examining a case, and side with the prosecution. Yet international organisations seem to have no credible answer to tackle this problem. None of their existing audit and monitoring mechanisms seem to be powerful enough to contribute to change in countries where governments use the judiciary to criminalise and stigmatise human rights activities. In my work, I therefore look at new ways to safeguard the independence of judges in Europe. I argue that judges are bound by international law to comply with professional integrity standards, such as upholding the right to a fair trial; furthermore, that international organisations have a promising but yet underutilised potential to hold national judges to account for the misconduct of their judicial duties.