Watchdog: Georgia’s judicial system is improving

TI Georgia published a report after it monitored trials of high-profile criminal cases from July 2013 to May 2014., 07 Jul 2014 - 15:20, Tbilisi,Georgia

Non-Governmental organisation Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) says Georgia’s court system has improved in the past 12 months.

TI Georgia published a report after it monitored trials of high-profile criminal cases from July 2013 to May 2014.

The group’s observers attended court hearings of eight former high officials – Vano Merabishvili, Gigi Ugulava, Nikanor Melia, Bachana Akhalaia, Data Akhalaia, Nika Gvaramia, Megis Kardava and Tsezar Chocheli.

The court proceedings for these hearings had been completed and the final verdicts had been delivered. The report also covered cases still under discussion.

This is the second time TI Georgia has published this kind of monitoring report. The first one covered the period from February 2013 to July 19, 2013.

In its most recent report, several positive trends were outlined through the monitoring process. The report said that compared with the previous monitoring period, a portion of the Prosecutor’s actions had clearly improved. In some cases the Prosecutor’s actions had been more argumentative than during the previous monitoring period.

Also, TI Georgia said compared with the previous period, the Prosecution had not based their cases solely on witness testimony but used other evidence to back up the case.

In addition, judges held the Defence and Prosecution both equally liable in instances of misconduct and fined each side when appropriate.

The report also noted some improvements that could be made to Georgia’s judicial system. It said in some instances witnesses were not properly separated while in the Court building and this could be changed.

"As a result, in one of the cases, a number of witnesses were called who had been waiting together in the Court corridor wherein they were able to communicate with one another. Monitors frequently noted that witnesses were called had spoken to each other in the Court’s corridor.”

The report also noted that during the monitoring period a number of high ranking officials made statements which directly violated the principle of the presumption of innocence.

"It is possible that these instances put an indirect form of pressure on the Court’s assessments. While trials were ongoing, politicians attempted to politicize the trials, which could have had an indirect effect on the judges,” TI Georgia said.

In addition, TI Georgia said the Defence made several unjustified public statements about Judges and Prosecutors being biased.