A new strategy, an Obsolete way - Part 2


What are the government's plans? 

The third part of the judicial reform strategy and Action Plan published by the legal issues committee of the Parliament of Georgia on October 2022, 1, is dedicated to the steps to be taken in the future within the framework of judicial reform.  
These issues include:

1. Ensuring the optimal number of judges and court officials. 
2. Alternative means of dispute resolution to solve the problem of court overcrowding.  (e.g. Arbitration, mediation) development. 
3. Improving the quality of substantiation of court decisions and the professional skills of judges and court officials. 
4. Better implementation of the European Court of human rights approaches.
5. Improving social security guarantees for judges.
6. Increase the standard of transparency of Justice.
7. Increase public awareness and communication to strengthen public trust in the judiciary.
8. Strengthening the Institute of the jury trial.
9. Expansion of the practice of using electronic means of proceedings.
10. Improvement of material-technical and technological infrastructure. 
11. Providing an adapted environment for people with disabilities.
12. Improving the translator service.
13. Strengthening the High School of Justice to train a sufficient number of Justice trainees.

The presented action plan is general and superficial. Instead of an in-depth study and analysis of the problems existing in the court, defining specific actions to solve them, general phrases such as "increasing the standard of transparency of the judiciary," "better implementation of the approaches of the European Court of human rights," "informing the public and communicating with it to strengthen trust in the court", etc. are used. 

To what extent does the action plan respond to real challenges? 

The authors of the document do not provide any concrete vision of how to strengthen trust in the court through communication with the public. It is unfortunate that the government sees the reason for the lack of faith in the court in the public's lack of awareness. In contrast, the low public trust towards the court is mainly caused not by the lack of public awareness, but by the acute problems existing in the court that impede the implementation of fair and impartial justice. It is obvious that instead of seeing and recognizing these problems, the focus is on other issues.

Today, transparency of justice is a major problem in terms of access to court acts, proactive publication of public information, or proper justification of decisions. The strategy document, without any specifics, abstractly States about increasing the transparency of the judiciary and does not explain whether the government plans to take steps in any of the above-mentioned directions, in particular, what measures it will take and how it imagines increasing the transparency standard.

According to the document, one of the main promises is to ensure the optimal number of judges. It is noteworthy that the insufficient number of judges, overcrowding of the court, and inaccessibility of the system have been hot topics for years, which, among other factors, is facilitated by the absence of a deadline for announcing the competition for vacant positions in the first and second instance courts and the delay of competitions for the selection of judges. The authors of the document do not explain how the optimal number of judges should be determined and how the problem of lack of judges should be addressed in the court.

The action plan does not say anything about the accountability of the judicial system, including the need to increase transparency and Publicity of the activities of the High Council of justice, as well as the need for fair distribution of power.  The main problem such as the internal influence of the court and the power concentrated in the hands of a narrow group is ignored, which directly poses a threat to the individual independence of judges.

According to the local civic organizations, the document prepared by the legal committee selectively and fragmentally suggests the issues to be touched upon by the reform.  The proposed vision completely ignores the main problems in the justice system, namely the concentration of power and informal, clan influences in the system.   

In the 2021 April 19 Political Agreement and in subsequent cases, the ruling party has stated that it is ready to adopt broad-scale, ambitious judicial reform as the first step towards an inclusive and multi-party process.  However, the strategy documents presented by the government do not give hope for real and comprehensive reform of the judicial system.


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Author: Keti Gachechiladze