NATURE AND PURPOSE OF CACJ
The Council of ASEAN Chief Justices (“CACJ”), which was formerly known as the ASEAN Chief Justices’ Meeting (“ACJM”), was conceived by Singapore in 2013 to provide a forum for the ASEAN Chief Justices to hold discussions on common concerns of ASEAN judiciaries and engender mutual cooperation. The ACJM was renamed as the Council of ASEAN Chief Justices (“CACJ”) to properly reflect its status as a well-established assembly of ASEAN Chief Justices meeting regularly for the continuing development of their legal systems for the benefit of the peoples of ASEAN.
FUNCTIONS, ACTIVITES AND PROJECTS OF CACJ
It was agreed at the inaugural meeting held in Singapore in 2013 that the objectives of the ACJM are to:
- Promote close relations and mutual understanding amongst the ASEAN judiciaries;
- Provide a regular forum for the ASEAN Chief Justices to discuss and exchange views on common issues facing the ASEAN judiciaries; and
- Facilitate judicial cooperation and collaboration among ASEAN judiciaries with a view to accelerate the economic growth and development of the ASEAN region.
The ASEAN Chief Justices have since met annually. The second meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2014, the third in Boracay, Philippines in 2015, the fourth in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the fifth meeting was recently held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam on March 24, 2017.
The ASEAN Chief Justices signed the Boracay Accord during the third meeting, which formalised the establishment of the ACJM and the work/projects its Working Groups undertake in judicial training and education, case management, court technology, cross-border disputes involving children, civil processes, as well as the ASEAN Judiciaries Portal (“AJP”) project. The Working Groups hold separate meetings and report their work-plans to the CACJ during its annual meetings. The Philippines hosted a major meeting of the Working Groups in Tagaytay in 2016 on judicial education and training, ASEAN integration, as well as case management and court technology. Singapore hosted a second meeting of the Working Group on Cross-border Disputes involving Children in September 2016 and Malaysia hosted a meeting on the Working Group of Civil Processes in February 2017.
Recognising a broader need for the CACJ to be institutionalised within the ASEAN framework than what was initially identified as a pre-requisite for funding the AJP project under the auspices of the Norway-ASEAN Regional Initiatives Fund, the ASEAN Chief Justices signed the Ho Chi Minh City Declaration during the fourth meeting, which authorised that necessary steps be undertaken to secure accreditation of the CACJ as an entity associated with ASEAN under the ASEAN Charter. The CACJ also authorised the Chair of the CACJ to present the accreditation request to ASEAN with Singapore’s assistance.
On Nov 2, 2017, the Chair of the CACJ submitted formal accreditation application with supporting documentation to ASEAN Secretary-General. On Jan 19, 2017, the ASEAN Secretary-General informed the Chair of the CACJ that CACJ’s accreditation application has been approved and CACJ is listed in Annex 2 of the ASEAN Charter under “Parliamentarians and Judiciary”.
ACTIVITIES OF CACJ WHICH SUPPORT ASEAN COMMUNITY
The work and activities of the CACJ are consistent with the purposes and principles of ASEAN and therefore support the ASEAN Community, in particular adherence to the rule of law and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, ensuring that ASEAN member states and denizens live in peace with the world at large in a just environment, and enhancing the rule of law as well as promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The current activities that the CACJ Working Groups undertake are detailed below:
(a) Judicial Education and Training: Indonesia and the Philippines have been tasked to lead this Working Group to advance judicial education and training through collaborative efforts so as to enhance training opportunities for ASEAN judges. An inaugural training event was held in Bogor, Indonesia, in 2015, where judges discussed the role of the judiciary in addressing trans-boundary environmental issues in ASEAN countries. The second iteration was held in Singapore in 2016, which focused on alternative dispute resolution with particular focus on international commercial arbitration and mediation. The third judicial training was hosted by the Malaysian Judiciary in a joint colloquium with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in Kuala Lumpur which focused on the sharing of good practices regarding international human rights law.
(b) Service of Civil Processes within ASEAN: Malaysia has been tasked to lead this Working Group to harness judicial co-operation in ASEAN by collaborating and sharing best practices in facilitating the service of civil processes within ASEAN. The Working Group is studying the feasibility of proposing a standard and uniform method of service of civil processes among ASEAN member states, either by way of treaty or a model rule in the ASEAN member states’ respective rules of court.
(c) Court Technology and Case Management: Malaysia has been tasked to lead this Working Group and is currently studying the best practices in the use of court technology and case management techniques in ASEAN member states.
(d) Cross-border Disputes Involving Children: Singapore and the Philippines have been tasked to lead this Working Group to look into ways to ameliorate the difficulties faced by children in ASEAN who are caught in cross-border disputes, when increasingly common marriages between parties of different nationalities within ASEAN are at risk. The Working Group is currently discussing the establishment of a network of ASEAN judges to share information and knowledge on cross-border cases involving children.
(e) ASEAN Judiciaries Portal: Singapore has been tasked to take the lead on developing an ASEAN Judiciaries Portal. The aim is to bring the ASEAN legal jurisdictions to the world, by providing a portal through which the world can appreciate, learn or know more about the judiciaries and legal environment of ASEAN member states. Singapore is working towards launching the portal officially by 2018.
MEMBERSHIP, NETWORK AND KEY OFFICIALS OF CACJ
The CACJ comprises the Chief Justices and Heads of the ten ASEAN judiciaries, namely:
- The Honourable Dato Seri Paduka Hj Kifrawi bin Dato Paduka Hj Kifli, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Brunei Darrussalam;
- His Excellency Dith Munty, President of the Supreme Court of Cambodia;
- The Honourable Prof. Dr. H. Muhammad Hatta Ali, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Indonesia;
- His Excellency Khamphane Sitthidampha, President of Lao People’s Supreme Court;
- The Right Honourable Tun Arifin bin Zakaria, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia;
- The Honourable Htun Htun Oo, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Union of Myanmar;
- The Honourable Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines;
- The Honourable Sundaresh Menon, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Singapore;
- The Honourable Veerapol Tungsuwan, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Thailand;and
- The Honourable Nguyen Hoa Binh, Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam
The current Chair of the CACJ is Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Hj Kifrawi bin Dato Paduka Hj Kifli, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Brunei Darrussalam.