World Conference on Constitutional Justice
The World Conference on Constitutional Justice unites 116 Constitutional Courts/Councils and Supreme Courts from five continents (Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia/Oceania and Europe). It promotes constitutional justice –constitutional review including human rights adjudication– as a key element for democracy, the protection of human rights and the rule of law.
The World Conference pursues its objectives through organization of regular congresses, by participating in regional conferences and seminars, by orchestrating the share of experiences and best practices, and by offering good services to its members on request.
According to its Statute, the World Conference has three organs, the General Assembly, the Bureau and the Secretariat. The General Assembly is chaired by the Host Court of the Congress. The last host was the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania. The Presidency of the Bureau is ensured for one year by rotation between the groups. The Presidency of the Bureau is therefore not that of an individual Court but of a group of Courts. Since 21 September 2016, the Presidency of the Bureau is exercised by the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa. It is up to the groups to designate their representative. The Venice Commission acts as the Secretariat of the World Conference.
Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) became a member of the World Conference in 2013. The Court was elected to the Bureau of the Conference at the 3rd Congress in Seoul and served in the Bureau until the 4th Congress in Vilnius (2015-2017).
Since 1996, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe (the Venice Commission) has cooperated with a number of regional or language-based groups of constitutional courts. These include the Conference of European Constitutional Courts, the Association of Constitutional Courts using the French Language, the Southern African Chief Justices Forum, the Conference of Constitutional Control Organs of Countries of New Democracy, the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions, the Union of Arab Constitutional Courts and Councils, the Iberia-American Conference of Constitutional Justice, the Conference of Constitutional Courts of Countries of Portuguese Language and the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa.
In pursuing the goal of uniting these groups and their members, the Venice Commission organized, together with the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the first Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice.
Based on the declaration adopted in the 1st Congress in 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa, the draft Statute was prepared at the first meeting of the Bureau, assisted by the Venice Commission, in April 2009 in Mexico. The draft Statute was amended in the 2nd Congress held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2011 and finally adopted at another meeting of the Bureau on 23 May 2011 in Bucharest, Romania. With the accession of more than 30 Constitutional Courts, Constitutional Councils and Supreme Courts exercising constitutional justice, the Statute of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice entered into force on 24 September 2011.
On 22-24 January 2009, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa and the Venice Commission hosted the World Conference on Constitutional Justice on the topic “Influential Constitutional Justice” in Cape Town. The topic was divided into following subtopics: i) The role of constitutional courts and equivalent bodies in building a nation of rule of law; ii) The influence of constitutional justice on society; iii) The development of a global human rights jurisprudence.
The 2nd Congress dealing with the topic of “Separation of Powers and Independence of Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Bodies” was hosted by the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil in cooperation with the Venice Commission. The topic was divided into following subtopics: i) Separation of powers and independence of constitutional courts and equivalent bodies, ii) Judicial independence as a human right, iii) The independence of the constitutional court as an institution, iv) The independence of constitutional judges and court procedures as a guarantee of independence.
The topic of the congress was “Constitutional Justice and Social Integration” and discussion were held on issues such as social integration challenges in a globalized world; international rules on social integration; constitutional instruments which enhance social integration; the role of constitutional justice in the process of social integration. The President of the Turkish Constitutional Court (then Justice) Mr. Zühtü Arslan, representing the Constitutional Court of Turkey, delivered a keynote speech at the Session III of the Congress.
The Congress was held under the theme of “The Rule of Law and Constitutional Justice in the Modern World”. The Congress divided this theme into four sub-topics: i) The different concepts of the rule of law; ii) New challenges to the rule of law; iii) The law and the state; iv) The law and the individual. On the basis of the replies to a questionnaire, each sub-topic was introduced by a key-note speaker and then discussed by the participants.
President Arslan and the accompanying delegation attended to the 4th Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice held in Vilnius, Lithuania, between 11 - 14 September 2017 as well as 12th meeting of the Bureau.
An amendment to the Statute of the World Conference has been adopted by the General Assembly. Under the amended Statute, one representative from each four continent (Africa, Asia, America, and Europe) shall be elected for the Bureau term membership by the given continent. Countries that are members of constitutional justice conferences for two continents, such as Turkey, shall vote for the election of the representatives of both continents. In the Vilnius Communiqué adopted at the end of the Congress, the principle of the rule of law and the independence of courts were underlined, and all kinds of unconstitutional attempts to undermine the state of law were condemned. The Constitutional Court of Algeria was elected to host the next Congress of the Conference on “Peace and Constitutional Justice.” Accordingly, the 5th Congress will be held in 2021 (as modified) in Algiers, Algeria.