On 14 December, Ivars Bickovics, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, participated in an international conference in Kiev on the role of the Supreme Courts in ensuring the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Supreme Court of Ukraine organized the conference to review and evaluate the changes introduced in the work of the new Supreme Court of Ukraine in the first year after the radical reform of the judicial system, including the reform of the Supreme Court.

A year ago, a new Supreme Court was established in Ukraine, merging four cassation courts. A competition was announced for all judicial positions, involving the society in the candidate evaluation. The aim of the reform is to increase public confidence in the court and to integrate the Supreme Court of Ukraine into the European legal area. These topics were also highlighted at the international conference, asking the presidents of the Supreme Courts of the European Union to share their experience.

At the conference, Ivars Bickovics, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Latvia, spoke about the independence of national judge in ensuring the protection of human rights.

The Constitution of Latvia provides for a catalogue of fundamental rights; the Constitutional Court is active, as it is actively involved in defining the boundaries of fundamental rights and interpreting the relevant norms. The national courts have the most responsible task of ensuring that these principles are applied in each case.

Ivars Bickovics spoke about the assessment given by the Supreme Court of Latvia on the analysis in the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in specific cases. He pointed out that the role of the national court is essential to ensure the protection of fundamental rights within the meaning of the national standard, which may go beyond the minimum guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. “It is also part of the court's independence. The follow-up of the violation of fundamental rights is also part of the dialogue between national courts and the European Court of Human Rights,” the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court underlined.

The Supreme Court's balance sheet contains a ruling that restored criminal proceedings even without a specific ECHR instruction, because the Supreme Court itself considers the standard of protection of its fundamental rights higher than that requested by the European Court of Human Rights in its judgment. The Supreme Court considered that it followed from the nature of the infringements found that the criminal proceedings were renewable, as the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in this case is to be regarded as a newly discovered circumstance that may have a significant effect on the outcome of the case.

"The Court is independent in its rulings, insofar as it retains its subordination to law," stressed Ivars Bickovics, also mentioning the opinion of the Latvian Judicial Ethics Commission that a view different from the case law is not arbitrary if duly justified. Such a conclusion is equally valid for a ruling in which the conclusions differ from those of the international court.


Information prepared by
Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court
E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 2865221