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Georgia’s Judicial Reforms and Practices in Recent Years

By Khatia Kardava
Monday, February 12
After the 2012 parliamentary elections, the new government Georgian Dream declared the most important goals of its governance: liberation of judiciary from political influence and independence of judges.

Number of reforms were launched during these years: decisions taken in favor of the state were reduced. In 2012, 79% of the dispute was settled in favor of the state. In 2014, it was reduced to 53%. Reforms regarding the quality of transparency of the Supreme Council of Justice were adopted.

Progress is noticeable in reforms. However, they have not yet been fulfilled in long-term practice to help establish an entirely independent and transparent court. According to the "Judicial System: Reforms and Prospects" published by the „Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary “in 2017:“Although a number of positive changes have been made at the institutional level since 2012, the judiciary system faced new challenges, which are expressed in the non-formal negotiations behind the closed doors. This situation complicates the systematic analysis in the court.”

The report reads:
• There are grounded suspicions about the existence of political influence on some of the high-profile cases. Despite the fact that since 2012, number of decisions in favor of the state significantly reduced, as well as important changes were made in the direction of open proceedings, judicial independence, there are still challenges, which are especially evident in cases of political context (eg. The so-called "Rustavi 2" case).
• There is a deficiency of variety of opinions in the body of judges.
• The High Council of Justice fails to perform functions at appropriate level to an independent judiciary system. Monitoring of the Council's activities show number of decisions made by the Council are non-transparent and unreasonable.

"After 2012, the situation in the judiciary has improved ... " reports Transparency International Georgia in its’ report from 2016. However, the reporters also write about the fact that the reform was not fully implemented and problems still exist.

Surprisingly, in the 2018 index of Economic Freedom issued by Research Center the Heritage Foundation, Georgia takes 18th place in Europe in the criterion of the judicial system. Among East Europe, Central and South Asia, Georgia is in on first place. It precedes 14 EU member states, including Malta, Spain, Italy, Romania, Greece, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Cyprus, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

The judicial effectiveness is a new component of this study since 2017. It is based on the following criteria:
• judicial independence,
• quality of the judicial process and
• likelihood of obtaining favorable judicial decisions.

“We are not satisfied with the achievement and we have more ambitious future plans of reform. The process of refining the judiciary will not stop, but rather deepen. We are leaders in the region and one of the leaders in Europe, but we have the potential to improve the situation in the judiciary, "stated Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament Sopo Kiladze.

The Heritage Foundation created the Economic Freedom Index in 1995, and is conducting annual research on economic freedom in 180 countries around the world. The Index covers 12 freedoms, from property rights to financial freedom in 186 countries.

The survey divided nations into five major categories: Free (80-100), mostly free (70- 79.9), moderately free (60-69.9), mostly unfree (50-59.9) and repressed(0-49.9).

Georgia’s economic freedom score is 76.2, taking 16th place in the 2018 Index. Its overall score has increased by 0.2 points with a substantial improvement in property rights offsetting modest declines in government integrity, judicial effectiveness, and fiscal health. The country is on the 9th place among 44 European countries, and its overall score is above the regional and world averages.