Legal reform

CoE official dismayed over Georgia’s constitution ‘crisis’

by | June 30, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Council of Europe official is in despair over the way Georgian leaders have handled the drafting of a new constitution, calling the debacle a ‘crisis’. “I’m disappointed and become more and more disappointed for every hour,” head of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio

Legal reform

Georgian president slams blueprint for new Constitution

by | June 24, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--President Giorgi Margvelashvili rejects a draft new Constitution presented by the ruling GD government because it is not based on a consensus. “The entire Georgian society believes we need a consensus document, but Georgian Dream

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling GD party demurring on electoral reform

by | June 19, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s ruling party will defer until 2024 to fulfill one of its main promises: to overhaul an election system that has favored the incumbent force for decades. The system of single-mandate districts, so-called majoritarians, was supposed to have been phased out

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling party bans sale of agricultural land to foreigners

by | June 9, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s ruling party has decided to ban the sale of agricultural land to foreigners by adding a clause to the Constitution. PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced Thursday that a passage will be added to the Constitution to ban the sale of land

Legal reform

Escalating rhetoric between Georgia’s parliament and president

by | March 9, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A meeting summoned by the Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has become the latest episode in the downward spiral of deteriorating relations between him and the ruling Georgian Dream party. On Thursday, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling party postpones switch to indirect election of president

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian Dream is backing down on a previous pledge to phase out the use of direct elections to select a president already from next year. Instead, the ruling coalition plans to introduce the change from the 2023 election. “The rules of presidential

Legal reform

Georgian parliament overturns president’s veto of judicial bill

by | February 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Opposition parties in the former Soviet republic of Georgia warn that the independence of the courts will be weakened after the ruling party overturned the president’s veto against a judicial reform bill. The so-called third wave of judicial reform was vetoed

Legal reform

Georgian govt plans controversial new control mechanism in the courts

by | May 25, 2015

TBILISI, DFWatch--The government in Georgia is planning a new court reform, which will involve creating a new body to conduct oversight over the judges. Georgia already has an control mechanism over the court system. It is called the High Council of Justice,

Legal reform, News

Local government reform modified after criticism from patriarch

by | December 11, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch--Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili has managed to convince the government to amend a disputed passage in a draft bill about local government reform, as promised. The government prepared a draft law to regulate the country’s territorial

Legal reform, News

Georgian patriarch against local government reform

by | December 6, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian parliament has postponed the adoption of a landmark bill that will drastically change local government, after the draft Self-Governance Code was harshly criticized by the influential head of the Georgian Church. The bill should have been

Legal reform, News

The justice minister will no longer have added role as prosecutor

by | June 26, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia has taken away the justice minister's added role as a prosecutor in a new regulation that came into force from Tuesday morning. Speaking at a press conference, Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani explained that before, as justice minister

Legal reform, News

Two seats still vacant in Georgia’s court oversight council

by | June 15, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch--In Georgia, two seats still remain vacant in the High Council of Justice after an election that has been going on for two weeks. Four more members were elected by parliament in the second round, but due to objections by representatives from

Legal reform, News

Saakashvili vetoes amendments to Criminal Procedure Code

by | May 30, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch--President Mikheil Saakashvili has again blocked a bill. This time it was a set of amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code. The president has remarks about two aspects of the draft: First about the dates when certain regulations will come into force.

Legal reform, News

Court reform set to be enforced against Saakashvili’s veto

by | May 2, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch--Parliament in Georgia has overturned President Saakashvili’s veto against legislative amendments about judicial reform. Those behind the amendments claim that they serve to depolarize the court system. According to the draft, which has been passed

Legal reform, News

Ivanishvili alliance to overturn Saakashvili’s veto

by | April 26, 2013

TBILISI, DFWatch--The parliament in Georgia will overturn President Saakashvili's veto against two judicial reform bills on May 1. Irina Imerlishvili, chair of the committee on procedural issues, said at a press conference Thursday that parliament will

Legal reform, News

New criminal procedure law doesn’t work: lawyers

by | February 7, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - It is one of Georgia's most touted reforms abroad, but now lawyers who have experienced it in practice warn that the overhauled Criminal Procedure Code of 2010 isn't working. The reform saw deep involvement by top legal expertise from

Legal reform, News

Confusion sets in over Georgian election reform

by | January 27, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - As Georgia is heading for potentially the first real competitive election, confusion arose Friday over different versions of the same law. A think tank says the government significantly changed a draft law which was sent to the Council of Europe (CoE) for advice. The Georgian Development Research Institute, which was founded in November 2011, says that the CoE's advisory body called the Venice Commission saw another version of the draft law on political associations of citizens than the one the government made available to parliament. The one that was finally passed in December violates the country’s constitution and other parts of its legislation. The think tank says it will contact the Venice Commission about the issue. In December the law about political associations of citizens was changed so that rules that previsously only applied to party financing now applies also to organizations, private companies and even individuals which have an aim of impacting the political process. Analysts say that with the new law, if a person does a party a favor or expresses sympathy for a politician, all the restrictions about party ...

Legal reform, News

Oops! Gov’t backtracks on election reform

by | November 11, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The government is retracting on several of its eleventh-hour changes to the Georgian election law, but  stands firm on not allowing video surveillance in polling stations and defends the right of governors to participate in the election campaign. This emerged Friday in comments made by a member of the editorial group which has worked out the text of the draft law, Mamuka Katsitadze, of the New Rights party. When the ruling party suddenly introduced changes to the draft law without consulting anyone in August, several organizations objected, such as the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Transparency International Georgia and International Society for Democracy and Fair Elections. They objected that a number of issues needed to be changed, especially when it comes to issues which were introduced right before the draft law was finished, and after an agreement had been signed with two opposition factions. The Venice Commission also criticized the last minute changes. During their recent working visit to Georgia, the Commission said it was necessary to stick to the terms of the agreement. According to Mamuka Katsitadze, the government is now ...

Legal reform, News

Public Defender to get more power

by | November 4, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Public Defender in Georgia is to get a more active role in the courts and will also do more monitoring of conditions in social institutions. The slightly increased powers comes following a decision by the government, after a bill was introduced to amend the Law about the Public Defender, prepared by Lasha Tordia, chairman of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee. One of the things it does is that it will allow the ombudsman to perform as what's called Amicus Curiae (‘friend of the court’) also in the Constitutional Court. Until now, he has had this role in the two lower tiers of the court system: the city or district courts and the appeals court. A "friend of the court" means that a person having this right can help people to prepare and present an appeal; consult them and represent him or her in court. Another result of the bill is that the ombudsman will be granted access to monitor certain types of social institutions and shelters. He can enter orphanages, shelters for the elderly and psychiatric facilities. Lasha Tordia who put ...

Legal reform, News

West to Georgia: More Balanced Labor Regulations Needed

by | October 28, 2011

TBILILSI, DFWatch - Georgia has received a stern message from Western diplomats to amend its Labor Code during a conference dedicated to facilitate social dialogue held in Tbilisi on Thursday. The European Union's mission in Georgia made its position quite clear: If Georgia doesn't change its Labor Code, it will get neither EU Association Agreement nor Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+), arrangements which are designed to ease trade with EU member states. It also became clear during the conference that the Georgian government has eased its stubborn stance regarding the Labor Code which has been fiercely criticized for imbalance in the relationships between employers and employees, with strong tilt towards rights of employers. The Georgian government has justified it by emphasizing that such a policy would lead to more investments to the cash-stripped country. The conference was funded by the EU and organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German foundation.  In the opening speech Philip Dimitrov, the head of the EU mission in the country reminded the government that it still has some important commitments to fulfill. He said that the EU ...

Elections, Legal reform, News

Groups boycott right-to-vote reform

by | October 15, 2011

Three rights groups refuse to take part in a new system meant to guarantee every Georgian the right to vote, because they think the reform may make things worse. Parliament has just decided to establish a new system for going through the voters rolls and make sure that every citizen who has a right to vote is on the list, and no-one else. But three organizations think the new arrangement won't be good enough and will boycott its work. Every past election has been plagued by mistakes on the voter's roll which some think are made deliberate to manipulate the outcome. The new system was supposed to guarantee every citizen the right to vote, following criticism from the Council of Europe. But three rights group are skeptical.  Tamar Chugoshvili, chairman of Georgian Young Lawyer's Association (GYLA) doesn’t rule out that the voters' roll will be even more plagued by mistakes than it is today.   The groups think despite being plagued by problems, it would be better to keep the old system and have the new commission only as a supplement.   Under the new system, ...

Elections, Legal reform, News

CoE to Georgia: No more surprises, please

by | October 13, 2011

Two observers from the Council of Europe (CoE) have asked Georgia's ruling party to stop coming up with surprise changes in a draft law without going through the normal democratic procedures. At least according to one of the opposition politicians, two rapporteurs from the Monitoring Committee of the CoE's Parliamentary Assembly asked Georgia's ruling party to stick to what has been agreed with other politicial factions and not go it alone. "They think that if there is an attitude that we want to agree on the document, then there must not occur non-coordinated issues," Mamuka Katsitadze, a member of the New Rights party told DFWatch after a meeting with the rapporteurs. Georgia has been reworking its entire election system since 2010, after being criticized by the CoE for shortcomings. President Saakashvili's party entered into talks with the opposition, but most of them left the talks. After a deal was struck with two factions, the ruling party changed the draft without consulting anyone. The rapporteurs who were here on a working visit focused on the election system in general, but particularly the issue of how ...

Legal reform, News

Competition watchdog must do more with same budget

by | October 10, 2011

Government wants to reform the antimonopoly service and give it new tasks. But its budget is to stay the same next year. Experts think it's doubtful whether there will be any real change in how the service operates, which the European Union is demanding from Georgia. A well-functioning antimonopoly service is the most important among several conditions to be met before negotiations can start to sign a free trade agreement between the EU and Georgia. That was the reason the government decided to establish the service in Spring 2010. At first, the service was set up but its functions were not defined. The government then promised that a special bill would be worked out in the near future. Only now has this condition been met by the draft new law on Free Trade and Competition now awaiting review by parliament. The draft is quite long, and outlines the functions of this service and what areas will be regulated. “The Law defines the principles of protection from unlawful restraint of free and fair competition. This creates the basis for the development of free trade ...

Legal reform, News

Confusion over parliament’s first session in Kutaisi

by | October 6, 2011

There is rising confusion after President Saakashvili said that the first parliamentary session in Kutaisi will be on the next national day, May 26, 2012. He said this two days ago at the opening of a new House of Justice in the city. But according to the Georgian constitution, parliament can only convene in Kutaisi after the results of the next parliamentary elections have been announced. Those elections are slated for October 2012. The parliamentary majority has a different interpretation of the president's speech. But constitutionalists claim there are clear indications that a May session would be in breach of the law. When it was decided to move parliament to Kutaisi, the decision was highly criticized, and analysts had different explanations for why the president did it. But the decision is already made, and what is important now is how it will be accomplished. A previous draft of the constitution gave both Tbilisi and Kutaisi as location of parliament. If it had not been altered, this statement by the president would not have caused such turmoil. The thing is that a few months ago ...

Legal reform, News

New law may restrict consumers’ rights in Georgia

by | October 6, 2011

Parliament is to consider a new law about product safety which might require scrapping an old law, and a big chunk of the country's consumer rights with it. The new bill is called "Code on Product Safety and Free Flow" which envisages to set up a special commission to monitor product safety in the market. "This would all have been fine, if it hadn't been for the fact that the new law requires the repeal of the Consumers Rights Protection Law," says Lika Todua, food safety project officer at the organization Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG). "Several really important rights of consumer will be lost." According to Tudua, the new law provides product safety, but the product quality is neglected. This was regulated by the Consumers Rights law. She explains that the aim of the bill is to bring legislation in line with international standards, and it would have done so, if it didn't abrogate an old law. There are several important issues in the new law which will damage consumers's interests. One is that the law has a narrow definition of ...

Legal reform, News

Georgian government to boost civil society

by | October 5, 2011

The Georgian government is to start handing out funds to select players in the whole non-public sector, after a decision in parliament. Power to hand out money will reside with ministries. The effort is not limited to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but may also include educational institutions and branch offices of foreign think tanks as well as private Georgian citizens. The bill was prepared by parliamentarians Zviad Kukava and Kakha Anjaparidze, whose stated aim of changing the Law on Grants is to enhance support for the whole non-public sector. But commentators DFWatch spoke to say that while it is important to support the NGOs, they fear that in a country with authoritarian features, such a measure may be used to assert influence. Whereas the decision about giving grants will lie at the ministry level, according to the new law, the government will have an opportunity to get information about the aim of giving the grant, the amount of funds and consult a preliminary estimate, before it formally commits public money to the NGO. While giving the central government a final say about releasing money, another ...

Elections, Europe, Legal reform, News, Politics

Political Tbilisi skeptical to proposed new election system

by | October 3, 2011

Work to improve the Georgian election environment has ended as a draft has been sent off to the Council of Europe's Venice Commission for review and the government promises that parliament will not start its review until the results of the review are clear. It's hard to say what the Venice Commission's conclusions will be and how well the government has anticipated its remarks. Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have already criticized the amendments to the draft law. In their view, this project does not include many substantive changes to improve the election environment. On the contrary, some sections make the situation even worse than it is today; or the vagueness of some regulations make it impossible to understand the different formulations. Last year when talks began to change the election law, it was said that reforms were needed in several areas: More transparency in the election itself, the monitoring process, changes regarding the handling og voters's lists, the election system, use of administrative resources, election financing, election administration, election disputes and sanctions for violations of the election law. The draft sent to the ...

Elections, Europe, Legal reform, News

Ruling party’s latest election law maneuver a setback for democracy

by | October 2, 2011

Three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are seriously concerned after the government's sudden changes to the draft for a new election law. Now that rights advocates have had time to look closer at the changes, which were worked out behind everyone's backs and revealed a week ago, their conclusion is that this is a disappointment to everyone who had been hoping for freer and fairer elections in Georgia. "The new changes to the Electoral Code do not improve the electoral process at all," Tamar Chugoshvili, chairman of Georgian Young Lawyer's Association, said as three NGOs presented their conclusions at Radisson Hotel Tbilisi on Friday. "On the contrary, the changes make the election process unclear," she said.   "The government won't be able to sell the changes as a part of the agreement with the opposition" --Mamuka Katsitadze, New Rights Party   Talks to change the election law started last year to accomodate critique from the Council of Europe's Venice Commission. But most opposition parties dropped out of the talks, and the government finally reached an agreement with only two opposition factions. Then the draft was sent off to ...

Elections, Legal reform, News, Politics

Government introduces surprise changes in new election law

by | September 23, 2011

After reaching a hard-fought agreement with several opposition parties, the ruling party has introduced significant changes in the draft for a new Georgian Election Code. According to lawmakers, the eleventh-hour changes were only made in order to ensure a democratic election environment in the country, however many opposition parties remain skeptical. Some of the changes in the draft were made due to recommendations tabled last year by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs. The latest draft is already sent to the Commission for another round of review. Work to reform the election process began in October 2010 with talks between a coalition of opposition parties and the ruling National Movement party, but in the end, the ruling party managed to strike an agreement only with two out of eight opposition groups.   "There is no point in discussing things in an editorial group if the government continues with such surprises"  -- Levan Vepkhvadze, Christian Democrat party   The agreement envisages nine basic changes which will come into force in time for the parliamentary elections in 2012. Eight of them were ...

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