Georgia – annual report 2020

Participants at the online conference on “Professional ethics and professional challenges of mediation” on 20 October 2020 in Tbilisi
Participants at the online conference on “Professional ethics and professional challenges of mediation” on 20 October 2020 in Tbilisi

Strategic Framework 

Legal Policy Starting Point 

Many reforms have already been initiated in the judicial field on the basis of the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia. Georgia nevertheless faced considerable challenges in 2020 as well. Political agreement on electoral law reform was not reached until early March 2020 after protracted discussions. This was preceded by protests after the planned introduction of full proportional representation in November 2019 had initially failed in parliament. The agreement still provides for a mixed electoral system, but in future only 30 (instead of the previous 73) of the 150 members of parliament will be elected in Georgia based on a direct mandate. In consequence, the major parties will no longer be favoured quite as much as before in the allocation of parliamentary seats due to the greater likelihood of winning direct mandates. The parliamentary election was held on this basis in late October 2020. Nevertheless, the Georgian Dream Party again emerged victorious from the elections and will govern with an absolute majority for the third time in a row.

But the ongoing development of domestic politics – and organisation of the elections themselves – were dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic immediately after the breakthrough in March 2020. Georgia introduced a comparatively strict and early lockdown based on a broad, bipartisan consensus and was initially successful in containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover, Nino Kadagidze was appointed to the position of President of the Supreme Court in March 2020, finally bringing to an end the vacancy that had persisted for one and a half years. She was also selected to chair of the High Council of Justice, the self-regulatory body of the judiciary.

Overall Concept

IRZ added other legal areas to the priority of criminal law during the reporting year, especially in the area of civil and commercial law and the administration of justice. Close cooperation exists, in particular with the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Committee on Legal Affairs at the Georgian Parliament. Legal harmonisation and technical exchange of experience are the main priorities.

Cooperation was also intensified with the professional associations in 2020, first and foremost with the Georgian Bar Association. Newly established professional associations, among them the Mediators Association of Georgia, were also included in the professional exchange with a view to the adoption of a mediation law.

Cooperation with Georgia is rounded off by two regular publications aimed at bilateral academic exchange between the country and Germany.

Focus of Activity in 2020

Constitutional Law, Human Rights and their Enforceability 

  • Online moot court on constitutional law for law students

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Online roundtable discussion and preparation of draft legislation on “Commercial litigation before the chamber of commercial matters” with the Georgian Bar Association in cooperation with the German Federal Bar
  • Two online seminars with the Georgian Ministry of Justice on implementation of the “Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction”, the “Hague Child Protection Convention” and on mediation in child custody proceedings
  • Advisory measures for the Committee on Legal Affairs in the preparation of new draft legislation on consumer protection
  • Online seminar in cooperation with the Georgian Lawyers for Independent Profession (GLIP) on consumer protection
  • Online conference on labour law and technical support for the Supreme Court on aspects of civil law by a German expert
  • Technical publication “German-Georgian Journal of Comparative Law”

Administration of Justice

  • Online expert talk “Professional ethics and professional challenges of mediation” in cooperation with the German Federal Bar and the Mediators Association of Georgia
  • Online seminar on lawyers’ remuneration with the State Bar of Georgia in cooperation with the German Federal Bar

Criminal and Penitentiary Law

  • Online workshop on commentaries for the Georgian Criminal Code
  • Online seminar for the Prosecutor General’s Office on EU standards in connection with investigative measures and pre-trial detention
  • Online seminar in cooperation with the Georgian Lawyers for Independent Profession (GLIP) on the topic of “Covert investigations”
  • Online training with Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University “Drafting first instance criminal judgements and handing down sentences”
  • Online seminar with ALFG (Association of Law Firms of Georgia) “Changing the legal viewpoint in criminal proceedings”
  • Technical publication “German-Georgian Journal of Criminal Law”

Project funded by the European Union 

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

IRZ contributed as partner in this 41-month project in Georgia from October 2016 until the end of February 2020. It supported the High Council of Justice, the Constitutional Court and various courts in increasing the independence, efficiency and impartiality of the Georgian judiciary. The project was extended by a further twelve months until February 2021 and now exclusively addresses the High Council of Justice.

Included in the project is a review of the internal procedural rules at the High Council of Justice to ensure their compatibility with national legislation and international standards, as well as the development of further necessary regulations.

The fourth wave of judicial reforms in Georgia introduced new obligations and clear procedures to be followed by the High Council of Justice and other bodies:

  • timely publication of information about sessions
  • publication of draft regulatory legal acts
  • updated rules for the selection of members
  • new rules for the selection and appointment of the chairperson
  • extended scope for the “conflict of interest” clause

The project is closely coordinated with the members of the High Council of Justice to develop capacities and improve processes. Sessions preparation is just one example. There are plans in this regard to add statistics, analyses and studies where necessary to all major initiatives on the agenda. To achieve this goal, the team is cooperating with short-term experts in working groups, in exchange of practices with similar bodies in the EU Member States, and in training courses and workshops with the beneficiary.

Outlook

Cooperation is scheduled to extend beyond the current priority of criminal law in 2021. New topics may be added to the work with the Georgian Ministry of Justice in particular. Moreover, a German expert will provide advice to the Supreme Court and will be available as a permanent contact person for technical questions.

Following the parliamentary election in 2020, the parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs will again receive targeted support in 2021 for legal reforms and draft legislation, for example in consumer protection law. Likewise, the various legal professional associations will be accompanied in the form of targeted exchange of expertise in regard to concrete legislation projects and initiatives.

Furthermore, IRZ is also considering a closer cooperation with the High School of Justice and the universities to support the basic training of lawyers in a sustainable way.

Georgia - annual report 2019

Conference on state liability law. On the stage: Judge Mzia Todua (centre), temporary Chair of the Supreme Court
Conference on state liability law. On the stage: Judge Mzia Todua (centre), temporary Chair of the Supreme Court

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Convergence with EU law and standards as well as integration into NATO remained Georgia‘s declared goals in 2019. A large number of reforms have already been implemented as part of the Association Agreement concluded between the EU and Georgia, and the determination for reform on the domestic political front continues to further exist. But very little of what has been achieved so far is actually noticeable for the population.

Moreover, the country‘s improved overall economic situation has little effect on the economic situation of its citizens. This is further exacerbated by the deterioration in both the domestic and foreign policy situation, which has contributed to growing dissatisfaction among the people of Georgia. The tense relationship with Russia in particular precipitated a further aggravation of the domestic political situation and led to larger demonstrations, resulting in controversial responses by the security forces. The governing party “Georgian Dream“ relented and promised to introduce proportional representation for the next parliamentary elections in autumn 2020 – one of the opposition‘s key demands. Prime Minister Mamuka Bachtadze also resigned and was succeeded in office by the former Interior Minister Georgi Gacharia. However, the constitutional reform necessary for electoral reform was not supported by the ruling party in parliament, so that the three-quarters majority required to adopt the plans was not achieved, which in turn led to a resumption of public protests. It remains to be seen whether this situation will lead to early elections.

In regard to judicial policies and due to its particular importance to the judiciary as a whole, it is worth mentioning that the Chair of the Supreme Court and the Chair of the Supreme Judicial Council, is still vacant since August 2018. An appointment is expected in the first half of 2020.

Overall Concept

IRZ continues to focus its efforts in Georgia on the provision of professional legal support and implementation of the reform projects in criminal law. In this, IRZ cooperates with the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, as well as with relevant actors within the judiciary, primarily the Supreme Court and other courts, the General Public Prosecutor‘s Office in Georgia and the Georgian Bar. In addition, cooperation also includes targeted professional exchange 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 with law faculties of other universities, as well as with the Penitentiary and Probation Training Center (PPTC), are also important elements of the project work.

Another IRZ priority in 2019 was a comprehensive project on media law, which was funded by the Federal Foreign Office. The focus was on professional exchange between the judiciary, politics, academia, media and students.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • National moot court on constitutional law for Georgian law students in Batumi
  • Release of the publication “Prohibition of discrimination in national case-law“ by the Supreme Court of Georgia

Civil and Commercial Law

  • German-Georgian lawyers‘ forum on civil and commercial law issues in cooperation with the German Federal Bar

Public Law

  • Seminar in cooperation with the analytical department of the Georgian Ministry of Justice on corruption prevention and corruption risk assessment
  • Mentor training as part of the project to develop a mentor system for the Georgian Parliamentary Training Center (PTC)
  • Workshop for the final proofreading and editing of the case collection on expert opinion techniques in administrative law
  • Kick-off conference “The new challenges facing media“
  • Autumn Academy in media Law
  • Five seminars on social media law, data protection law, media and ethics, media and politics
  • Seminar for judges of the Supreme Court of Georgia on state liability law
  • Closing conference on the topic “Limits to freedom of expression“

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Working visit by members of the Georgian Parliament and high-ranking representatives of the Constitutional Court of Georgia on “Legal bases, practical application and control of covert investigation measures, in particular telecommunications surveillance measures“
  • Conference at the Supreme Court of Georgia on “Adversarial and inquisitory procedural models: a comparative law analysis“
  • Conference in cooperation with the Ivane-Javachishvili State University of Tbilisi on medical criminal law
  • Online publication “German-Georgian Criminal Law Journal“ (www.dgstz.de): Publication of scientific articles, conference reports and case-law
  • Advice on the development of a strategy paper on mental health programmes in the penitentiary system
  • In cooperation with GIZ in Georgia: Publication of the South Caucasus Law Journal, Vol. 9/2018/2019 (topic: Juvenile criminal law)

Basic and Further Training

  • Participation of three law students of the “IRZ Summer School on German Law“ in Bonn
  • Participation of two judges in the International Conference of the Memorandum Group of several national associations of judges in Bonn
  • Provision of German legal literature and commentaries to the Committee on Legal Affairs in the Georgian Parliament

Project funded by the European Union

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

IRZ has been a partner in this 41-month, EU-funded project in Georgia since October 2016. IRZ is supporting the Supreme Court, the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the Constitutional Court and various other courts in increasing the independence, efficiency and impartiality of the Georgian judiciary.

The “4th Wave“ judicial reform was finally pushed through after protracted discussions and debates. It seeks to resolve problems relating to the excessive length of proceedings and the punishing court workload. The judicial reform also includes changes to the mandate of the HCoJ, an independent body responsible for the selection and appointment of judges, and the High School of Justice. There was consensus on most issues among representatives of the judiciary, parliament, the Ministry of Justice, international organisations and the NGO coalition.

In 2019, the project managers organised another training session, a summer school for Georgian judicial staff under the auspices of the Supreme Court of Georgia, the HCoJ and the High School of Justice. The purpose of this measure was to institutionalise ongoing coordination and communication between judges and judicial staff and the individual, competent persons or bodies. Judges discussed problematic legal issues with judicial staff within this framework. In addition, the project also featured events with the alumni network of the summer schools. This improved the quality of coordination and complementarity between the legal training of judges on the one hand and judicial staff, law students, lawyers and public prosecutors on the other.

A timely start of project extension analysis is recommended in order to ensure a smooth continuation of support to the Georgian judicial sector.

Outlook

The positive and established cooperation with the partner institutions will be continued and deepened if possible in 2020. Among other things, this concerns cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, which could be more in the focus of activities in the future. Moreover, IRZ is considering closer cooperation with the High School of Justice in order to promote the sustainable training of judges. The same applies to collaboration with the law faculties in Georgia, with which IRZ could develop and introduce a basic and further training programme on working methodology and case solving techniques in criminal, civil and public law as a means of improving the education of law students and young professionals. Overall, IRZ plans to continue expanding its advisory services in Georgia beyond the field of criminal law.

Georgia - annual report 2018

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

  • National moot court on constitutional law for Georgian law students in Batumi
  • Publication on anti-discrimination law

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Legal colloquium in cooperation with the German Federal Bar on judgement by default, the burden of proof and other issues of civil procedural law in Tbilisi

Public Law

  • "@mediasocieties Georgia 2018“: introduction to European media law for stakeholders in the Georgian media sector (funded by the Federal Foreign Office)

Administration of Justice

  • Working visit to Düsseldorf by a delegation from the Tbilisi City Court (court administration) to learn about the planning of court buildings
  • Train the trainer for educators at the Georgian Penitentiary and Probation Training Center (PPTC)
  • Legislative advice for the Legal Issues Committee in the Georgian parliament on various planned reforms of the country‘s Code of Criminal Procedure
  • Participation in expert talks by the German section of the International Commission of Jurists during a study trip to Georgia

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Conference on the topic of domestic violence (implementation of the Istanbul Convention) in cooperation with the Tbilisi State University
  • Two practical training courses on European standards in investigation methods and pre-trial detention
  • Further training for public prosecutors in Tbilisi on policy to combat and investigate corruption
  • Courses on the methodical drafting of criminal judgements in courts of first instance in cooperation with the High School of Justice / continued development of the manual (of forms) for judges and public prosecutors
  • Conference in Tbilisi on the planned reform of criminal law on narcotics
  • Online publication “German-Georgian Criminal Law Journal“

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.

  • Overall, ten different training activities, workshops or other events were carried out within the framework of Component 1, including measures to combat fraud, as well as in the areas of culture, disaster management, public relations and presentation, instruments of external assistance and Georgia‘s foreign policies.
  • Project Component 2 featured a number of training courses on practical implementation of the Legal Assessment Manual and the guidelines for Georgia, with the objective of consolidating knowledge on the process of legal harmonisation through sector-specific activities designed to consolidate capacities.
  • A nationwide information campaign was carried out as part of the activities within Component 3 (implementation of the EU and Georgian communications and information strategy). Moreover, the project was involved in drafting the action plan for the Communications Strategy 2018 concerning Georgia‘s membership in the EU and NATO for 2017 to 2020.

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:

  • strengthening of capacities among relevant state stakeholders in the decision-making processes and legislation, with a particular prioritisation of the Georgian Ministry of Justice;
  • support for the Ministry of Justice in its representative function toward international courts and organisations;
  • strengthening and ongoing development of the Centre for the Translation of Georgian Laws into English, i.e. of EU acts of law with relevance to Georgia into the Georgian language.

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.