Administration of Justice and Protection of Human Rights in the Justice System in Georgia

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Human Rights

A public debate at the Heinrich Boell Foundation South Caucasus Regional Office held on 16 November 2011 was devoted to the issue of Administration of justice and protection of human rights in the justice system in Georgia.

The speakers of the debate included:

  • Giorgi Tughushi – Public Defender of Georgia;
  • Ucha Nanuashvili - Executive Director, Human Rights Center (HRIDC);
  • Tamuna Gvaramadze  – Project Coordinator, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA);
  • Manana Kobakhidze - Executive Director, Public Advocacy.

The debate was moderated by journalist Nino Bekishvili.

Human rights may be violated everywhere, but independent courts have to be in place to redress them. However, we move in a vicious circle, declared Ucha Nanushvili, one of the speakers of the discussion. The objective of the discussion was to find out how human rights are protected in Georgian justice system, what problems exist in the area and where they originate - in a lack of professionalism or imperfect legislation.

This was not the first debate held on this issue by the HBF. The debate on similar topic was also held in 2008. By that time, Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia briefed the audience about reforms in the judicial system and answered questions asked by opponents. Unfortunately, this time, no representative of the Court or governmental institutions attended the discussion and the only choice left to the speakers was to share problems, remarks and recommendations with the audience. 

Protection of human rights in the justice system is one of the main working areas for Giorgi Tughushi, Public Defender of Georgia. A special charter in his annual report to the Parliament of Georgia is devoted to this particular issue. In the past, the organic law on the public defender included a specific article, which entitled the ombudsman to reexamine decisions made by the court, if, after examining the court case, the public defender concluded that the court violated human rights. The decision and request by the public defender was not obligatory for the court. However, as Giorgi Tughishi pointed out, there was a case when the court took a decision to revise its verdict based on his recommendation. After amendments in the procedural code the public defender was stripped off this right.

“Despite reforms and successful projects, several fundamental problems in the court system that existed before still remain, underlined Giorgi Tugushi.  As in previous years, monitoring of criminal cases revealed that judges violated human rights in 2011. The Ombudsmen talked about unjustified intermediate and final decisions, violations of principles of equality of arms by courts, unjustified refusals to petitions and removals of judges from Tbilisi to the regions.

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) has been working on issues related to justice administration for many years.  GYLA systematically implemented projects to promote and strengthen independence and transparency of the judiciary. Tamuna Gvaramadze talked about problems related to institutional independence of the judiciary and appointment of members of the Supreme Council of Justice and its decision-making regulations.

The fact that legislation does not prohibit political activity to the members of the Supreme Council of Justice gives political connotations to the work of the Council and raises danger that it will not be independent from political pressure and conjuncture, declared Tamuna Gvaramadze. GYLA developed recommendations and submitted them to the Supreme Council of Justice, which at this point agreed to restrict the right to political activity only to those members, who are appointed at the recommendation of the Georgian President.

Gvaramadze talked about other issues as well, which in her opinion, are unclear and raise many questions concerning independence of the judiciary, for instance, procedures for the appointment of judges, disciplinary proceedings and appointment of disobedient judges to remote areas.

Practicing lawyer Manana Kobakhidze talked about concrete facts of human rights violation. “I have worked on many high profile cases during the last two years. I know very well how it is possible to ignore the court and justice when there is government’s interest, or when the Persecutor’s office, which is a clear dominant in the system, wants to withdraw the concrete case,” concluded Kobakhidze.

Ucha Nanuashvili discussed issues raised by Thomas Hammarberg, Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe in his report released on 30 June 2011. Nanuashvili discussed problems in the justice system highlighted by Hammemberg. “There is no political will to address these problems mentioned in the report, significant legislative changes, trainings are crucial, but without concrete political will our debates will be futile. Only discussions are not enough to redress systemic shortcomings,” concluded Nanuashvili.