3-year monitoring shows Georgian courts improve

The results of the monitoring shows judges in Georgia are more independent now then they were three years ago.
Agenda.ge, 13 Dec 2014 - 04:38, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian courts are "significantly improving”.

The results of three years of court monitoring by two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have identified positive trends in the country’s judiciary system.

Judges are now showing "much less” of a tendency to follow prosecution demands in their decision making than they were three years ago, the main findings of the monitoring study said.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and Transparency International Georgia (TI), monitored criminal and administrative law cases respectively in Georgian courts for the past three years.

GYLA reported that Georgian judges were now more independent than before.

The monitoring showed judges were no longer automatically granting the exact pre-trial preventive measure requested by the prosecution.


Chart #1 from GYLA monitoring report

In many cases judges were now imposing a lighter measure or imposing lower bail amounts than demanded.

Chart #2 from GYLA monitoring report

GYLA also found that criminal court judges now provided better substantiation for their decisions and were more active in plea agreement discussions - no longer approving these agreements without scrutiny. 

Chart #3 from GYLA monitoring report

Meanwhile, TI’s monitoring of administrative cases showed the chances of a private party prevailing over a state institution were substantially greater than they were three years ago. 

Chart #1 from TI monitoring report

Over its four monitoring periods TI Georgia observed the following positive trends:

  • The success rate of the state party reduced significantly. The success rate of the state party was 85% in the first monitoring period, by the fourth period the rate was 53%.
  • There were significant improvements in the openness and transparency of court hearings. The regulation which banned audio and video recordings of hearings without the consent of the judge was revoked. According to new regulations, court hearings opened to the media. Audio and video recordings, as well as broadcasting, as a rule are now allowed. Moreover, during the monitoring project anyone interested was allowed to attend administrative hearings. The monitors had no problems when taking notes in courtrooms.
  • Once TI Georgia started to monitor and advocate on the punctuality of the courts, the results became significantly better. For example, at Tbilisi City Court during the first monitoring period only 35% of hearings started on time, while during the fourth monitoring period 80% of hearings started on time.

However, despite tangible progress being made by both the criminal and administrative courts, the monitoring revealed certain problems still remained. 

GYLA said in criminal cases bail and detention were still applied "too frequently”, public access to first appearance hearings were still not guaranteed, and police searches were still "overwhelmingly approved” by reviewing judges in an after-the-fact, rubber stamping exercise.

TI said in administrative cases, during all four monitoring periods judges were very reluctant to exercise their inquisitorial powers and they were passive in their conduct of hearings.