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Thursday, 11 April 2019

New Judges Elected in Respect of Turkey and Malta

Earlier this week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) elected two new judges to serve 9-year terms at the European Court of Human Rights. In respect of Malta, Lorraine Schembri Orland was elected with an absolute majority of votes cast. Judge Schembri Orlan currently presides over Malta's Civil Court, which also has jurisdiction over human rights matters. She has been very active throughout her career on non-discrimination and women's rights issues, co-drafting legislative reforms to integrate the norms of the UN's CEDAW Convention into Maltese law, advising on gender mainstreaming in the public sector and actively combatting domestic violence. She is also the first woman ever to be elected as judge to the European Court in respect of Malta. This was statistically guaranteed, as Malta submitted a list of three women to PACE (selected out of four timely applying candidates). 

There is no small irony here, as Malta became infamous in this context in 2009 during the last elections, when its lists of submitted candidates were rejected three times for featuring only male candidates. PACE deputies were very concerned about the argument of the Maltese government at the time that no qualified women could be found in such a small State Party for the position of a judge in Strasbourg. The policy of PACE is that "to ensure gender-balance on the Court, states are also asked to put forward at least one candidate from "the under-represented sex" unless there are exceptional circumstances." This in turn was the result of the European Court itself - in the context of that same discussion with Malta- issuing one of its first advisory opinions, in which it held that exceptional circumstances should be allowed for (no blanket ban by PACE on lists with only candidates of one sex, in short). As a pierce of context, currently about one third of the Court's judges is female, so an all-female list, like the current one was allowed.

In respect of Turkey, dr Saadet YĆ¼ksel was elected as the new judge, also with an absolute majority of votes. She is currently chair of the constitutional law department at Istanbul University and an associate professor there. One may note that all three candidates put forward by the Turkish government were academics and thus none came from the currently much-discussed Turkish judiciary. 

Good luck to both judges for the start of their work in Strasbourg later this year!