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Justice Minister promises unbiased judges

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Tuesday, December 16
Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani said that soon Georgia will have a decent chamber of judges. According to Tsulukiani, this will ensure trust to all criminal cases the court works on. Tsulukiani claims that Georgia has made huge progress towards Euro-Atlantic Integration.

“This progress is obvious and our future is in our hands. The ministry works for the justice system and the judges to be unbiased. The Office for Democratic Institution and Human Rights (ODIHR) has published a trial monitoring report and it’s time to use their recommendations in practice,” stated Tsulukiani.

ODIHR published Georgia Trial Monitoring Report on December 9. The report followed an invitation from the country’s authorities, which began in February of 2013 and reviewed 14 criminal cases against senior officials of the previous government in Georgia.

In total the trial monitoring project monitored 327 court hearings. The report provided analysis of compliance with selected fair trial rights, with a focus on identifying shortcomings in court practice and national legislation.

The Ministry of Justice published a statement regarding the report. According to the statement, the report recorded no problems indicating any incidents of external pressure on the judiciary.

“This issue has been resolved once and for all in Georgia. However, the individual judge's independence from the court authorities still needs strengthening. In order to solve this very problem, the Ministry of Justice has developed a third wave of reform, which has been recently approved by the Venice Commission,” reads the statement.

Among the shortcomings within the judiciary, the report listed unacceptable practices such as transferring judges between courts; non-transparent procedures for the allocation of cases among judges; exchanging of judges midway through on-going proceedings without explanation, etc.

“The report states that the current practice allows "manipulation and interference". It should be noted that the third wave of the judiciary reform prepared by the Ministry of Justice aims at providing strict, transparent and fair conditions for regulating these issues,” reads the statement.

ODIHR Director Michael Link believes that finding and recommendations from the report will contribute to the further consolidation of Georgia’s democratic institutions.

“Georgia is undergoing important reforms of its criminal justice system that will hopefully result in the improved protection of fair trial rights in court proceedings” stated Link.

Head of the ODIHR’s Democratizations Department Thomas Vennen said that trial monitoring has proven to be a powerful tool for supporting judicial reforms and promoting domestic and international guarantees of fair trial rights in many OSCE participating states.

“We stand ready to continue assisting the Georgian authorities in the implementation of the recommendations presented today in our Trial Monitoring Report,” stated Vennen.