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Modern challanges of the judicial reform in the South Caucasus

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, April 7
The modern challenges of judicial reform in the South Caucasus region were discussed in Tbilisi on April 4-5. The two-day conference which was organized by the Supreme Court of Georgia, Program of German International Cooperation (GIZ) Advice on Legal and Judicial Reform in the South Caucasus - implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) aimed to discuss integrity based judicial reform in the South Caucasus.

Local and international legal experts had a wonderful opportunity to share their knowledge and experience of specific applications necessary for following the implementation of international standards at a national level. Nihal Jayawickrama, Coordinator of the Judicial Integrity Group introduced the audience to the global standards adopted by judiciaries from various countries united in the Bangalore Principles. Sharing the main values of the draft law which included independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, competence and diligence could be used as the main criteria for effective delivery of justice based on standards of behavior. Emphasizing the necessity for ensuring the high quality of justice in each country, the sides spoke of the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct along with other international tools which have been significantly affected by the human rights standards.

A functioning legal system is an important pillar for upholding human rights as well as economical development of each country. That is why it is so important to support such systems to secure the rule of law worldwide. “We think that the independence of Judiciary is underway in the region but still needs strengthening in terms of the independence and impartiality of the system. So, common rules of the Bangalore Principles are aimed at improving the judicial system for the sustainable development of law in the region,” Zeno Reichenbecher Director of GIZ legal program explained the importance of the conference to The Messenger.

Talking of corruption as the main enemy of political stability and economical viability, Ambassador of Germany to Georgia Ortwin Hennig expressed his confidence that such discussions would guarantee high competence towards the issue. Jamie Mcgoldrick UNDP Resident Representative in Georgia also stressed the regional cooperation would increase efficiency of the partnership programs globally. “Judicial independence is the main guarantee to fundamental reforms and a major step to developing democracy. While accountability to the public through cooperation helps us acknowledge shortcomings and make relevant improvements,” Mcgoldrick stated.

Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijan representatives shared their experiences and qualifications in implementing the Bangalore principles at a national level. Talking of the importance of the conference on the judicial system with its main values based on European standards, Konstantine Kublashvili, Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia thanked the international guests for their arrival. “Judges from European states appraise Georgia’s achievements in judicial system which follows the results of the European states. Such conferences are always interesting as they give an opportunity to compare the quality of justice and take relevant measures,” Kublashvili told The Messenger.

Sharing the Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the Independence, Georg Stawa, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), spoke of how the CoE has been offering tools to working groups on how to implement theoretic ideas in their practical lives. “We are promoting best practice solutions on how to ensure fairness of balance on the national level so that the society could become aware of how courts are performing,” he stated. Encouraging the participants to take an opportunity to follow international standards, Stawa told us that all the countries in the region have a big chance to be a part of the new system of standards.

Discouraging any Governmental interference in the judicial system, the members of the conference agreed on the necessity of self-governance systems with the disciplinary liable policy. Neither the Parliament nor the Government should interfere in the process of delivering justice not to endanger the supremacy of law; or the ignorance of law would cause a conflict of will and a violation of legal norms. Moreover, public criticism or pressure from media also exceeds the independence of judges. Emphasizing the historical basis of the problems in the areas of independence and impartiality in the region Lord Manse Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom told us that the conference would discover and develop the ways of improving the legal procedures and increase public confidence in the court.

At the end of the conference Armenian, Azeri and Georgian judges together with the members of the Judicial Integrity Group and representatives of civil society adopted the “Tbilisi Recommendations on Judicial Integrity” stating among other things that the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct should form an integral element of every judicial reform.

The participants affirmed that judicial independence is not a privilege of the judge but an essential element of the rule of law; the right to fair trial is guaranteed as a fundamental human right; They also agreed that judges should take responsibility for the development of the judicial system by ensuring that trials are held within reasonable time; ensure freedom from hierarchal influence in the performance of judicial functions; systematic continuing legal education and training; administer disciplinary proceedings; develop comprehensive methods of quality improvement; institute modern case management techniques; make available standard, user-friendly forms and instructions, court procedures, filling fees and hearing schedules to potential court users;

The sides also emphasized the necessity for ensuring transparency and access to information through contemporary media sources including electronic publications of court decisions, further strengthening the role of judicial associations and encouraging Governments for providing the courts with appropriate resources for effectively administering justice. Finally the participant countries stressed that the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct should form an integral element of every judicial reform process. A network of judges and interested stakeholders from the region might facilitate that process and support exchange and learning cycles in the region.