The statutory Permanent Council of the UIHJ on 23 and 24 November 2023 in Paris brought together 47 delegations from four continents. It was opened by its President, Marc Schmitz, in the presence of H.E. Rose Mutombo Kiese, Minister of State, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Benoît Santoire, President of the National Chamber of the Commissioners of Justice of France. During this event, the UIHJ welcomed a new acceding member, Fesojus, the entity representing the profession of State Judicial Officer in Brazil, and two new permanent observer members, the European Law Institute (ELI) and the Blockchain platform Logion.
During his opening speech, Marc Schmitz thanked Rose Mutombo Kiese for agreeing to participate for the second consecutive year in the opening ceremony of the Permanent Council of the UIHJ. He recalled her key role in the development of the profession of judicial officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He noted that the UIHJ remained extremely active during the year 2023 and continued its work with the international institutions and organisations that it is close with to represent and above all defend the interests of the profession and face the difficulties encountered in many country due to a particularly noxious current context. In this regard, he insisted on the importance of the media which led the UIHJ to choose as the theme for the 16th World Day of the Judicial Officer of 2023: “The Judicial Officer and the Media: the Strength of Communication”, and to organise a workshop on this theme during its Permanent Council.
President Schmitz welcomed the presence of Afojebra (Associação Federal dos Oficiais de Justiça do Brasil), as a guest. He paid tribute to the judicial officers who died during the year, in particular Georges Mitsis, former President of the National Federation of Judicial Officers of Greece. He then insisted once again on the importance of training, which plays a crucial role for the UIHJ, and which gave rise to the creation on the one hand of a training platform in the form of a “Think Tank” composed of representatives of existing training bodies for judicial officers, and on the other hand of a Global Code of Ethics and Professional Standards whose outlines will be revealed during the 25th International Congress of Judicial Officers to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 7 to 10 May 2023, and which will be integrated into the first two volumes of the Global Code of Enforcement. He invited all participants to attend the work of this congress in Rio, the theme of which is “The Judicial Officer, the Trusted Third Party”, co-organised with Fenassojaf, whose President, Mariana Liria, was present, and whose Rapporteur General is Patrick Gielen, Secretary of the Board of the UIHJ.
Rose Mutombo Kiese thanked the UIHJ for its invitation and for supporting the reform of the profession of judicial officer in her country. She recalled that the Democratic Republic of Congo currently held the Presidency of Ohada, whose 30th anniversary was celebrated in October 2023 in Kinshasa, and where the new Ohada Uniform Act of on Enforcement procedures had been adopted during the 56th meeting of its Council of Ministers, in the presence of the UIHJ. She assured the UIHJ of her unwavering support for the profession of judicial officer. Following this intervention, as a sign of recognition of her exceptional contribution to the profession of judicial officer, Marc Schmitz presented H.E. Rose Mutombo Kiese with the Jacques Isnard Gold Medal of the UIHJ, the highest distinction of the UIHJ.
Then, Benoît Santoire recalled the historical links which unite the UIHJ and the profession of judicial officer since the creation of the UIHJ in 1952. He confirmed that he expected a perfect collaboration between the UIHJ and the National Chamber of Commissioners of Justice of France which celebrated its first anniversary this year. At the end of his speech, he presented H.E. Rose Mutombo Kiese with the Silver Medal of the Commissioners of Justice of France forged on the occasion of the creation of this new profession, a merger between those of judicial officer and judicial auctioneer.
João Batista Fernandes de Sousa, President of Fesojus (Federaçao das Entidades Sindicais de Oficiais de Justiça do Brasil), officially presented his organisation’s application as an acceding member of the UIHJ. This request was favourably received by the Permanent Council. Pending its definitive admission by the International Congress of Judicial Officers in May 2024 in Rio de Janeiro, a co-operation agreement was signed between the UIHJ and the representatives of the Fesojus delegation.
Then, Pascal Pichonnaz, President of the European Law Institute (ELI), presented his institution’s application for membership as a Permanent Observer Member of the UIHJ. He did not fail to recall that the UIHJ is an ELI founding member and that this new partnership would not fail to further strengthen the links which unite the two organisations. The ELI application was immediately approved by the Permanent Council.
Finally, Stéphanie Flacher, Administrator of the Blockchain Logion platform, presented the candidacy of her organisation as a Permanent Observer Member of the UIHJ, emphasising the importance of digital technologies for the future of the profession of judicial officer, in particular as a trusted third party. Logion’s application was immediately approved by the Permanent Council, followed by the signing of a co-operation agreement.
Marc Schmitz then announced the resignation of the Association of Alguaciles of the Dominican Republic, which had joined the ranks of the UIHJ in November 2021 during the 24th International Congress of Judicial Officers in Dubai, for reasons linked to the structure of this organisation.
After insisting on the possibility for any natural person to support the UIHJ and benefit from advantages by becoming an individual member, the President of the UIHJ awarded the Jacques Isnard Gold Medal of the UIHJ to three particularly deserving judicial officers for their exemplary career and their unwavering dedication over many years: Honoré Aggrey (Ivory Coast), former President of the National Chamber of Judicial Officers of Ivory Coast, former Permanent Secretary of the UIHJ for Africa and former Vice-President of the UIHJ, Jean Christin (Switzerland), former Treasurer of the UIHJ from 1991 to 2009, and René Duperray (France), former Secretary General of the UIHJ from 1994 to 2009.
The report on the activities of the UIHJ over the past year was presented by the UIHJ Innovation Team in the form of a video, then by Mathieu Chardon, Secretary General of the UIHJ, reporting more than 200 events. A report on current and future projects and work was presented by Jos Uitdehaag, First Vice-President of the UIHJ, Luis Ortega and Jean-Didier Bidié, Vice-Presidents of the UIHJ, Françoise Andrieux, Honorary President of the UIHJ, Juraj Podkonicky, Treasurer of the UIHJ, Patrick Gielen, Secretary of the Board of the UIHJ, David Walker, Vice-Treasurer of the Board of the UIHJ, Sue Collins, Vice-Secretary of the Board of the UIHJ, Malone Cunha and Christine Valès, members of the Board of the UIHJ, Elin Vilippus and José Cardoso, members of the UIHJ Innovation Team, Carlos Calvo, Secretary of the Executive Committee of the European Union of Judicial Officers (UEHJ), and Ilias Tsipos, member of the Executive Committee of the UEHJ .
The workshop on communication with the media organised on 23 November in the afternoon was particularly informative and allowed all participants to better understand the crucial importance of mastering relations with the media, in order to avoid to convey an image of the profession of judicial officer too often presented as negative.
After the interventions of the delegations wishing to speak (Brazil and Portugal), Chris Backhuis, President of the Royal Chamber of Judicial Officers of the Netherlands, proposed the candidacy of her country to organise the UIHJ Spring Council in May 2025, which was immediately adopted by the Permanent Council.
Finally, the Permanent Council gave the opportunity to Marc Schmitz, Mariana Liria, Malone Cunha and Patrick Gielen, to report on the significant progress concerning the organisation of the 25th International Congress of Judicial Officers in Rio de Janeiro, from 7 to 10 May 2024, and to invite all delegations to attend.
When closing the work, President Schmitz thanked the participants, the heads of delegations, the members of his Board as well as the Secretariat of the UIHJ, for their support, as well as all those who invest daily and voluntarily in favour of the UIHJ, including the UIHJ Innovation Team. He particularly thanked Benoît Santoire for his – financial – support in the organisation of the magnificent gala evening on 23 November.
And the President of the UIHJ to conclude: “More than ever, the International Union must play the role of ambassador of the profession and defend its interests wherever it is essential to thus ensure a comfortable and above all sustainable for all the colleagues in the world. The challenges that await us are numerous and the emergence of one crisis after another certainly does not make our daily work easier, whether at the level of our offices or at the level of the International Union itself. Rest assured that the International Union is ready to assume its responsibility and face all challenges. And never forget: our Union is our strength.»