TBILISI, DFWatch – The court system will be depoliticized, cumulative sentencing will be abolished and video recording at trials will be allowed under certain conditions.
This is the decision of te new government. An appropriate bill has been prepared.
The amendments may be separated into two groups. The first is about reforms in the court system, while another deals with liberalization of the criminal code, which first of all will abolish the principle of cumulative sentences.
Under current law, there is a principle of adding sentences on top of each other, so that if a person commits several crimes, he is sentenced to the maximum sentence for the most severe crime, plus half of the maximum sentence of each other crimes. It creates very difficult situation and has become a problem in recent years.
With the new initiative, this rule will be abolished and under the new rule, a severe crime sentence will be foreseen. With the new amendments, the maximum sentence is 20 years.
Under current legislation, if a law foresees establishing alleviating conditions, it has retroactive powers. If this principle is established, it will apply to people who are serving a sentence under the old regulations. But representatives of the justice ministry say that today there are no mechanisms to enforce it and the proposed draft foresees an effective mechanism of enforcement.
The new law will have a transition article, by which the government will be obliged to review a case of each person as adopting new principles will become grounds to review each sentence.
There are several changes in terms of court reform. The goal is to depoliticize the court system. The chair of Supreme Court will be deprived of many powers in the process of appointing judges and this right fully goes to the Council of Justice. The powers of ordinary judges will increase and engagement of non-government organizations and lawyers will be strengthened.
Current law prohibits filming taking photos during court hearings. The government made this decision after the rose revolution, after violations were observed at a number of trials, which proved that the court system was politicized and that there were violations.
The law demanded from the court to make recordings and transfer the material to the media and the public, in case of interest, but this was never fulfilled.
According to the new draft, courts will be instructed to make audio and video recordings of each proceeding; also to send a copy of this material to the media and others who are interested.
The Public Broadcaster will always have a right to without restrictions record court proceedings and will have an obligation to give the material to others. They will have to prove why they want to record the proceedings, while the court will have a right to decide whether to satisfy this request or not.
Tamar Chugoshvili, chair of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association says that the new principle is just what their organization has been asking from the government for years, to no avail.
She thinks the proposed draft is very balanced, as on the one hand, the reform must be conducted in the court system and make it become independent; on the other hand, parliament shouldn’t interrupt too much in the activity of the courts, and neither should it interrupt the government.
Kote Kublashvili, head of the Supreme Court, considers that the reform is positive; however corrections are necessary regarding several issues. Otherwise, problems may appear, he says.
Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani says her ministry is ready for discussions and consultations, as it will take into account every well-prepared remark from every body.