TBILISI, DFWatch — Georgia is to use juries in trials concerning crimes committed by officials, including abuse of powers.
The initiative comes from the Prosecutor’s Office and was picked up by the Justice Ministry, which has prepared a draft bill and presented it in parliament.
It is only a year and a half since Georgia introduced the jury system, accompanied by a massive public publicity campaign.
In the first phase, it has only been used in murder trials. But with the new bill, juries will get expanded jurisdiction to review cases receiving high public attention; also criminal trials against high officials, including abuse of powers and corruption.
The reasoning is to strengthen the jury institute. If parliament approves the bill, charged officials will have the right to demand jury trial.
Only persons who are on trial for grave crimes have until now had the right to demand that a jury is used.
Levan Bezhashvili, who represents the previous government, suspects that this initiative ‘is only fit for one specific subject and specific situation.’
He asks, considering how new the jury institute is to Georgian reality and that it is being questioned by the public, how can it be able to take the responsibility for justice?
Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani says that the new government doesn’t trust the current courts and that is one of the reasons why the government decided to make this step.
She explained that every judge is not the same, but ‘there are judges who crossed the line and created unfair justice.’ In addition, there are questions regarding certain cases, whether they are politically motivated. That’s why the Prosecutor’s Office took the initiative to expand the use of the jury system and let the people decide such cases, the minister explained.
“Let the people decide whether the former Defense Minister is guilty or not; or General Kalandadze is guilty or not.”
She hopes parliament will support the initiative regarding the jury.
Tinatin Khidasheli from the parliamentary majority thinks that if there is to be jury system at all in the country, it should have the opportunity to have jurisdiction over more types of criminal cases.
“Generally I’m not very satisfied with the functioning of the jury institute in Georgia, but if it exists, it is more logic, correct and legitimate that juries make decision regarding cases which attract big public interest,” she said.