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Brosse Street Journal » Features:

Struggle For Vacant Judge Posts

By Mubariz Jafarli
Brosse Street Journal
Monday, November 14 2005
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This year the selection of judges will be held in Azerbaijan. According to the Council of Court Rights, the organization involved in this selection, 1074 applicants applied and 1048 of them were registered candidates. The other applicants did not succeed because they did not have necessary documents. Some applicants have diplomas that were earned abroad, and in order to apply these applicants needed approval of their diplomas by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Education, which they did not get. Other applicants did not have enough experience.

A total of 8.4 percent of the candidates are unemployed, and 899 candidates are male.

The Council has not declared the number of judge posts it will fill. There is no information about this on the web site of the organization, and a member of the Council, Ali Huseynov, said the number of posts has not been decided yet.

"I think there are three or four vacant posts. But the Council offered to the President of Azerbaijan a plan to increase number of judge posts. We decided that Azerbaijan needs 90 more judges," Huseynov said, adding that if the president approves a decree for increasing the number of judges, the number of posts may increase.

One of the candidates, independent lawyer, former prosecutor Muzaffar Bakhishov, said the number of vacant posts does not make sense to him.

"I guess that the number of vacant posts is not more than 20. But it does not matter for me. As I know, at this time only one judge has resigned," Bakhishov said.

According to the council, there are 329 judges in Azerbaijan, nearly four judges per 100,000 citizens. According to the council, the number of judges in Baku should be increased from 51 to 84, and the number of judges in military courts should be reduced, because the work in military courts has decreased.

Bakhishov said the judges would be chosen after exams to be held in two phases. The first phase was held on September 18. A total of 163 candidates did not show up for the exam. The candidates answered the same 100 questions, which were chosen from 1,039 questions that prepared by council. According to the results of the exams, 223 candidates passed they will participate in the second phase of the exam.

In the second phase candidates will answer two questions, one from the civil code and one from the criminal code of Azerbaijan. Then the candidates will be interviewed and asked five questions. The successful candidates will take judicial courses for several months, and then the Council will submit to the president their names for appointment as judges. The schedule for the second phase and interviews has not been decided yet.

"I suppose this process will continue until the middle of 2006," Bakhishov said. "I would like to say I have some doubts about the second phase of exams. They will be checked by special judge and lawyer commissions separately. I know many members of the judge commission do not have enough theoretical knowledge. I do not believe they can check the answers impartially. They can give a question to a candidate, and when the candidate is right, they can say to the candidate: 'you are wrong.'"

Huseynov disagrees. "The present judges took the exam in 2000," he said. "First, the candidate must pass the exam. Then he can worry about the judge commission, which consists of people who have already proved themselves as judges."

The head of the Azerbaijan Lawyers' Forum, Intigam Aliyev, does not believe that the selection of judge will be unbiased. He does not think the Council is an independent organization.

"Actually, this organization seems to be a department of the Ministry of Justice," he said.

"The head of this council is the Minister of Justice. The meetings of the Council are being held in the Ministry. The information about these meetings is put on the web site of ministry. According to the Azerbaijan laws, this organization must be independent. However, as practice shows, it obeys the Ministry of Justice. Therefore, I believe that this organization cannot conduct fair and unbiased exams."

Huseynov said the Council is an independent organization. "According to the European Charter on Courts, the Council should consist of judges," he explained. Our Council basically consists of judges. In accordance with other countries, the members of parliament and government as well as prosecutors and lawyers are involved in this Council. The head of council are elected for two a half year and only one time. Then he will be replaced with another member of council. Our law is enough to support the independence of Council activity. As for me, I am very independent in this Council as a member of parliament."

According to the laws of Azerbaijan, a person who has at least five years experience as a lawyer and has necessary education can apply to be a judge. The candidates for judge posts must not have dual citizenship or obligations to other countries, must not be clergymen or former prisoners. He must be a physically and mentally normal person.

The candidates are appointed to judge posts for five years. At the end of this time, their work is evaluated by the Council. If they find no fault in a judge's work, he is authorized to work until age 65. The Council can extend that deadline to age 70 if the health of the judge is good.

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