Request of referral to the Grand Chamber on the vetting of Albanian judges

On 16 April 2021, the law firm S&P submitted a request of referral to the Grand Chamber under Article 43 ECHR in relation to the Chamber’s judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights on 9 February 2021 in the case Xhoxhaj c. Albania concerning the dismissal of a judge of the Albanian Constitutional Court (and ad hoc judge of the European Court of Human Rights) following the procedure for the reevaluation of judges and prosecutors (so called “vetting”) introduced by the 2016 reform. Addressing for the very first time the question of the compatibility of the vetting with the ECHR standards, the Chamber’s judgment has found no violation of Articles 6 and 8 ECHR by relying essentially on the “exceptional” and sui generis character of the reevaluation procedure and overtly departing from the Court’s previous case-law. The Chamber’s findings – which were adopted by majority with the dissenting opinions of judges Serghides and Dedov – raises serious questions of interpretation and application of the Convention as well as a question of general importance for the Albanian legal system and for other Contracting States. Just recently, a Chamber of the Court has relinquish jurisdiction in favor of the Grand Chamber in the case Grzęda v. Poland concerning the 2017 reform of the judiciary in Poland as a result of which the office of a Supreme Administrative Court judge elected to the National Council of the Judiciary was terminated before the end of his four-year term.

For these reasons, the applicant trusts that the panel of five judges of the Grand Chamber will accept her request for referral, thereby offering the opportunity for the most authoritative judicial formation of the Court to rule on the compatibility of the vetting with the Convention standards and to remedy its critical aspects so as to fully ensure the independent of the judiciary and to avoid the risk of arbitrary sanctions that are not subject to adequate judicial review.

Managing Partner