Data protection notice: Protection of personal data is an important concern for us. Therefore, usage data are collected and stored only in an anonymized form on this website for the purpose of optimization.

Georgia - annual report 2018

Published: July 10, 2019
Legal colloquium with the participation of Dr Frank Engelmann, lawyer, Dr Anja Teschner, Vice President of the Regional Court of Berlin, David Asatiani, President of the Georgian Bar, Teresa Thalhammer, IRZ, and Lasha Kalandadze, lawyer (from left to right)
Legal colloquium with the participation of Dr Frank Engelmann, lawyer, Dr Anja Teschner, Vice President of the Regional Court of Berlin, David Asatiani, President of the Georgian Bar, Teresa Thalhammer, IRZ, and Lasha Kalandadze, lawyer (from left to right)

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Georgia continues to pursue its path of European integration and is already engaged in implementation of the Association Agenda that was defined within the framework of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the EU. Papers on necessary legislative amendments have already been developed or legal reforms initiated in numerous areas such as public procurements, customs and trade, intellectual property rights or company law as a means of harmonisation with EU law. Nevertheless, this progress and the effects of the flourishing tourism sector remain largely unnoticeable in the economic situation of large sections within society.

It follows, therefore, that the domestic situation in Georgia during the reporting year was marked by turbulence. Among other things, the General Public Prosecutor resigned from office in response to a controversial case within the criminal justice system that had triggered widespread outrage in civil society. Facing sustained protest and embroiled in dispute within his own party, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili from the ruling “Georgian Dream” Alliance ultimately stepped down as well. He was succeeded by the former Finance Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, who carried out a cabinet reshuffle and reduced the number of departments, but otherwise has not initiated any major reform steps. Popular dissatisfaction with the government continued to grow, and the political rifts within the country again became apparent during the presidential elections of October 2018. Although a sweeping constitutional reform had removed any real powers from the political office, the election campaign was acrimonious and in places featured dubious assistance from administrative authorities. Salome Zourabichvili, who is associated with the ruling party, eventually emerged victorious from the run-off at the end of November.

The constitutional reform that had been passed in March entered into force with the presidential inauguration. This reform completes the country‘s transition to a parliamentary system of government. One of the important reforms referred to the appointment of the Chair of the Supreme Court, which until then had been the responsibility of the State President, but from now on will fall within the remit of the High Council of Justice. The position had been vacant since the former chairman, Prof. Nino Gvenetadze, resigned in August 2018. In view of the upcoming constitutional reforms, a conscious decision had been made for the next incumbent not to be chosen by the President so as to avoid creating ‘facts on the ground‘. Among the reasons why this position is so important to the Georgian judiciary is that the chair of the court also holds the Chair of the High Council of Justice, the self-governing body within the judiciary.

Overall Concept

The IRZ continues to focus its efforts in Georgia on the provision of technical support and implementation of the reform projects in criminal law. For legislation projects, this takes place in cooperation with the Parliamentary Legal Issues Committee, as well as with relevant stakeholders within the judiciary, so primarily the Supreme Court and other courts, the General Public Prosecutor‘s Office in Georgia and the Georgian Bar.

Moreover, cooperation also includes meaningful exchange of information between the members of these partner institutions and their German colleagues to discuss legal issues and developments from a comparative perspective. Collaborations with the Tbilisi State University and the law faculties at other universities, as well as with the Penitentiary and Probation Training Center (PPTC), are therefore important elements in the project work.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

Civil and Commercial Law

Public Law

Administration of Justice

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

Projects funded by the European Union

EU Technical Assistance Project: Support to the Independence, Accountability and Efficiency of the Judiciary in Georgia

The IRZ has been a partner in this EU-funded project in Georgia since October 2016. During the 41-month term, a consortium led by Human Dynamics (HD) is supporting the Supreme Court, the High Council of Justice, the High School of Justice, the Constitutional Court and other courts in increasing the independence, efficiency and impartiality of the Georgian judiciary.

The IRZ contributes to the project in the areas of European standards for the protection of human rights by dispatching short-term experts, but especially through its Georgian long-term expert, Lali Ckhetia. The aim is to raise awareness for the significance of the European Convention on Human Rights among Georgian judges and to ensure that they consider case-law by the European Court of Human Rights in their decisions. Access to the important ECHR judgements was facilitated for this purpose, and they are now available in a database, some of them with a Georgian translation. There were also seminars for judges in order to train methods of referencing judgements by the ECHR.

In addition, numerous activities during the reporting year were targeted at legal staff at the courts (assistants to the judges and members of the academic service), as their competencies are highly relevant to the quality of case-law and this aspect has been given insufficient consideration in the past.

Another important reform in 2018 was the introduction of an IT system for the allocation of cases at court, similar to the case allocation at a German court. Underlying the introduction of this case allocation system is the intention to prevent the exertion of any influence in the assignment of cases to individual judges and hence to strengthen the independence of the judiciary in Georgia. The system was introduced nationwide on 31 December 2017 and has largely been received as positive and sensible. Nevertheless, it is still dogged by too many technical problems, which necessitate further evaluation and improvements.

EU Technical Assistance Project: Facility for the Implementation of the Association Agreement in Georgia

The IRZ implemented this EU project in Georgia – which is equipped with a budget of €2 million – under the leadership of the Belgian partner IBF from July 2015 onward. It came to an end officially in December 2018.

Within the project, the main beneficiary partner, the Georgian Governmental Commission for EU Integration, received assistance in the implementation of the EU’s bilateral agreements with Georgia (Association Agreement, Free Trade Agreement, Visa Liberalisation Agreement and the Association Agenda). Another objective of the project was to introduce institutional reforms that are necessary for implementation of the bilateral agreements. In addition, the project supported the continued development and realisation of the communications and information strategy by the Georgian government in connection with the bilateral agreements with the EU.

EU Technical Assistance Project: Legislative Impact Assessment, Drafting and Representation

The EU project, which started in April 2015, was brought to a successful conclusion in August 2018. In addition to the IRZ, CILC from the Netherlands was involved as a junior partner in the international consortium under the leadership of IBF from Belgium. The project term was forty months and the budget amounted to approx. €2 million.

The main beneficiary was the Georgian Ministry of Justice, with participation by other state institutions in Georgia. The project was divided into the following three components:

More than one hundred activities were carried out within the project components. They included numerous training courses for members of parliament, government representatives and employees of the Ministry of Justice.

In addition to the preparation of guidelines and a manual on harmonising legislation with the EU Acquis, the project also included the development of extensive methods and concepts for regulatory impact assessment, as well as guidelines to improve government capacities in the legislative and decision-making processes.

Large-scale training courses and train the trainer courses were also held within the project to promote harmonisation of legislation and draft legislation; moreover, strategy papers were prepared on a variety of issues as a means of providing insight and recommendations for the basic outlines of future reforms.

In order to guarantee the sustainability of project outcomes, it would be desirable that the government continue its current efforts and that trainers, who specialised within the framework of this project, will act as multipliers.

Outlook

A number of important projects like the preparation of a manual of forms for the judiciary and Public Prosecutor‘s Office should continue and be brought to a positive conclusion. A strengthening of the proven cooperation with the Bar is also under consideration. For instance, this might enable the inclusion of courses by German lawyers as an integral part of legal training, for which the Georgian Bar is responsible and which is currently undergoing fundamental reform.

A large number of activities are also scheduled within the EU project on judiciary reform. For instance, the High Council of Justice will receive stronger support in implementing the judicial reform strategy; this will also involve communicating the content and significance of this strategy to the judiciary at national level. Moreover, a new fundament will be established for the recruitment and management of judiciary staff through the introduction of uniform, clear standards and guidelines.