New Venice Declaration on the role of restorative justice in criminal matters


The summit of the Ministers of Justice of the member states of the Council of Europe took place on 13 - 14 December 2021 in Venice, Italy. The first Conference of Ministers of the semester of the Italian Presidency was fully dedicated to restorative justice. The event was concluded with the unanimous adoption of a new Venice Declaration on the role of restorative justice in criminal matters. The EFRJ was officially represented on the event by Maia Chochua Board member. Professor Ivo Aertsen, founding member and the first Chair of the EFRJ also took part in the conference. Both them addressed the high level audience as experts on restorative justice.

The Italian Presidency initiated the adoption of the “Venice Declaration on the role of restorative justice in criminal matters” in order to promote the practice of restorative justice and to further implement its application by the Council of Europe Member States, aiming at a widespread implementation of the Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec (2018)8 on restorative justice in criminal matters.

Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe emphasised in her speech the need for justice systems that are serving the interest of the society as a whole. “The 2018 recommendation urges national authorities to pass legislation making restorative justice available and accessible at all stages of the criminal justice system, so that it can be used where appropriate. Progress on this has been uneven. And I encourage all member states to look again at whether they might do more to implement the terms of the recommendation.”

Italian Minister of Justice, Marta Cartabia, emphasised that restorative justice offers a way to both respect and promote human dignity, as well as to protect safety and security of citizens and that "with restorative justice we are exploring a new chapter of justice".

The Declaration

On 14 December 2021, the 40 delegations  from all over Europe unanimously adopted the “Venice Declaration”. The Venice Conference proved to be an instrumental and timely platform for the exchange of knowledge, information and good practices, as well as discussing challenges in this area.

The Declaration underlines the importance and advantages of restorative justice and calls upon the Council of Europe to further support member states to implement the 2018 Recommendation. Member states – among others – are encouraged to consider granting the right of access to restorative justice and to actively raise awareness of restorative justice nationwide. The Declaration calls upon the Council of Europe to carry out further studies, elaborate on the principles of restorative justice and propose measures to member states to apply these principles.  

The EFRJ highly welcomes the Venice Declaration and is open to continue its collaboration with the Council of Europe through the European Committee on Crime Problems, where in 2021 the EFRJ was granted an observer status. The EFRJ is also keen to offer support for the member states in their efforts to act in the spirit of the Venice Declaration.

Minister Marta Cartabia and the keynote speakers of the Council of Europe conference

The role of the EFRJ

Current and former members of the EFRJ were invited to participate and contribute in preparatory meeting  of the conference organised by the incoming Italian presidency earlier in Como (Italy) on 12-13 October 2021. 

At the Conference of the Committee of the Ministers  in Venice Professor Ivo Aertsen contributed with an introductory talk on the topic "Towards a widespread use of restorative justice as a complement of the criminal justice system to underpin its reform aiming at desistance from crime, victims’ recovery, and offenders’ redress and reintegration. 

Board member Maia Chochua introduced the session titled "Towards a widespread training in restorative justice as a key to implement CoE Recommendation".  Both of their introductions were followed by the statements of ministers. 

Photo: the three keynote speakers of the conference with Marta Cartabia, the Italian Minister of Justice and Chair of the Conference. From left to right:  Adolfo Ceretti, Maia Chochua, Marta Cartabia,  Ivo Aertsen. 

The first day of the conference ended with testimonies on the restorative experiences in South Africa responding to the injustices of the Apartheid by Albie Sachs, a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court and Pumla Gobodo Madizikela, professor and lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch.