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Low trust in the courts

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, January 12
An independent court system is the most important feature of a democracy. Georgia claims to be on its way towards democracy; however there are serious shortcomings in the country’s court system and it seems unlikely that in the short term the situation will change for the better.

Almost all the conducted polls indicate the public’s low level of trust in the court system.

According to the research carried out by Transparency International Georgia the majority of respondents are sceptical of the court system in Georgia. More than 50% of the population thinks that Georgian courts treat few people justly while others do not receive a fair and just trial. The public largely believe that most court decisions are made under pressure from above and are politically motivated. The research mentioned that people think that the number of decisions finding in favour of the accused resulting in a release from detention is catastrophically little. Indeed the percentage of such decisions is very low. For example, in 2010 0.01% of verdicts taken were in favour of the defendant, which amounts to only a 1 in 1000 chance for an ordinary citizen to be found 'not guilty'. Independent analysts think that this is very negative reality showing that judges follow the instructions they receive from the Prosecutor’s office. The particular issue is the system of so called procedural settlement when convicts are released after paying some money. But paying money does not necessarily mean that convict is innocent.

Some think that procedural settlement is simply a legal way for the state to extort money. There are often cases of a businessman being detained because it is claimed he has committed a minor violation; rather than penalising him the court decides on a procedural settlement and the accused is released after paying a hefty amount of money. People believe that this kind of practice is not only damaging to Georgia’s business environment, but also to the overall situation in the country. Many say it is easy to start a business and register your company but keeping it running is problematic. This kind of attitude is particularly dramatic in regards of small and medium size businesses which are considered to be the backbone of any economy.

International organisations and Georgia’s western friends in NATO or the EU have pointed out several times that Georgia’s claim to become integrated with euro Atlantic structures or EU membership cannot be achieved unless the country’s court system is regulated. State officials claim that steps are being made in this direction, however there remains much public criticism of the current system.