Tbilisi Appeal Court delegation visits Regional Court of Hamburg

The IRZ acilitated expert talks between representatives of the Appeal Court of Tbilisi and the Regional Court of Hamburg for the second time in six months. The Georgian side visited their German counterparts in Hamburg from 28 June to 2 July 2015.

This visit was a follow-up to the meeting between Georgian and German judges which took place at the Appeal Court of Tbilisi in February this year. The Appeal Court of Tbilisi kicked off the project in 2014 with support from the IRZ, with the aim of establishing cooperation between the two courts in the areas of criminal law and young offender law.

The Appeal Court of Tbilisi was represented by its President Valeri Tsertsvadze, a member of the High Judicial Council and three other criminal court judges. During these four days in Hamburg the Appeal Court delegation obtained in-depth information about procedural processes and practical procedures in criminal law and young offender law in both trial courts and appeal courts.

These topics were covered by 13 judges of the Regional Court of Hamburg in high-calibre presentations, among them several representatives of its presidency, followed by lively discussions between Georgian and German colleagues. The talks dealt with, among other things, the working methods and position of German judges in criminal proceedings, court administration, sentencing as well as possible sanctions and alternative punishments. In addition, the Georgian guests were able to take part in two trials and discuss the cases before and after the hearing with the presiding judges.

Another item on the Georgian delegation's programme was a visit to the prison and young offenders' institution at Hahnöfersand. This intense programme was organised by the Regional Court of Hamburg and was implemented with outstanding personal commitment by the President of the Court, Sibylle Umlauf, and the judges involved.

The days spent together in Hamburg confirmed the conviction of all parties involved that this exchange of experiences between the two courts is exceptionally interesting and enriching for both sides. Despite or perhaps because of the rather different position of criminal judges in German and in Georgian criminal proceedings, there is a great need to exchange opinions about practical issues, and this is why some of the addressed topics could be discussed in further detail. Therefore, it has already been agreed to continue the cooperation next year, which the IRZ warmly welcomes.

Delegation of the Regional Court of Hamburg visits Appeal Court of Tbilisi for expert talks

A delegation of the Regional Court of Hamburg visited the Appeal Court of Tbilisi from 18 to 19 February 2015 to prepare the future cooperation between the two courts in the fields of criminal law and criminal law relating to young offenders.

The cooperation had already been initiated by the Appeal Court of Tbilisi in 2014 with the support of the IRZ. The IRZ organised this first visit of a delegation to Tbilisi in order to determine whether the cooperation is beneficial from a professional point of view and can be put into practice. The Appeal Court was represented during the dialogue by the Court President Valeri Tsertsvadze and thirteen judges.

Headed by the President of the Regional Court of Hamburg, Sibylle Umlauf, who was accompanied by two judges, the German delegation learnt about the Georgian court system and the Georgian criminal procedure, the work of the Appeal Court and its criminal divisions. Both issues regarding the criminal procedure and dogmatic issues of criminal law as well as the role of the judges were part of the programme. In addition, the hosts presented the Georgian criminal law relating to young offenders both de lega lata and de lege ferenda.

The presentations held by the Georgian colleagues gave the German delegation the opportunity to gain a comprehensive overview of the current specific problems for which in-depth consultation is required. In particular the criminal law relating to young offenders was discussed very lively at a high expert level. In this field the Georgian judges were particularly interested in the practical experience gained in Germany. In the following discussions the similarities and differences of the two legal systems were identified in detail. These peer-to-peer talks were also very enriching for the German part. Furthermore, the German delegation visited a court hearing at an appeal division to gain an idea of the Georgian procedural practice and the course of the criminal trial.

This initial meeting was assessed as very productive and inspiring by both sides. It forms a good basis for future cooperation between the two courts supported by the IRZ. The personal participation of both court presidents contributed largely to this. In the next step of this cooperation, a delegation from the Georgian court will visit the Regional Court of Hamburg.

Visit of the Georgian Minister of Justice to Germany

The Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Heiko Maas with his his Georgian counterpart, Tea Tsulukiani

The Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Heiko Maas with his his Georgian counterpart, Tea Tsulukiani

"A Path forward to European Integration – Building an Institutional Democracy in Georgia" - this was the motto of the visit of the Georgian Minister of Justice, Ms Tea Tsulukiani, who visited Berlin and Eschborn with a delegation of her Ministry from 1 to 5 December 2014. In various talks the Minister outlined the plans of her government to support the democratic institutions of Georgia, aiming to provide political stability on a long-term basis. This development is already visible as regards the division of competences between the government and parliament as well as through the de-politisation process within the judiciary. This reform and many further reforms are also necessary within the implementation of the EU Association Agreement, which was also discussed during the visit.

The official purpose of journey and the most important point on the agenda was the meeting with the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Heiko Maas. He received his Georgian counterpart to a talk about the current judicial reforms in her country. Furthermore, a memorandum of understanding on the implementation of joint reform projects between the Federal Ministry and the Georgian Ministry was signed. On the evening of 2 December a very large audience had gathered to listen to the Minister's presentation about the above-mentioned topic in the Senate auditorium of Humboldt University of Berlin. The audience were mostly students and young scientists from Georgia. They were welcomed by the Vice-President of the University, Professor Dr Michael Kämper-van den Boogart, and the Dean of the Law Faculty, Professor Dr Christian Waldhoff. The many questions asked during the subsequent discussion round showed the strong commitment and interest of the young legal professionals in the developments of Georgia. The Minister, who had spent many years abroad herself during her education and professional career, appealed to the audience to put the expert knowledge gained in Germany to good use in their home country.

The ratification of the Association Agreement by the German Bundestag was in the focus of the meetings with the Members of Parliament, Karin Strenz (CDU) and Christian Petry (SPD), in the German Bundestag. The Court President Monika Nöhre received the delegation in the Higher Regional Court of Berlin and gave an overview of the judicial administration in Germany. This topic was discussed further during the visit to the German Association of Judges. There, the Vice-President Andrea Titz, Judge at the Higher Regional Court of Munich, and Lothar Jünemann, Presiding Judge at the Regional Court of Berlin, discussed judicial independence in Georgia with the delegation, in particular a recently adopted Georgian law, which was received controversially by the judiciary. Further meetings took place at the Federal Chamber of Notaries, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Embassy of Georgia in Berlin. The visit was jointly organised by the IRZ and the GIZ, since both institutions have been implementing legal reform projects with the Georgian Ministry of Justice. Therefore the agenda included a meeting with IRZ Director Dirk Mirow and a reception by the Vice-Chair of the GIZ Management Board, Dr. Christoph Beier, in Eschborn. This visit is also a good example for the hands-on cooperation between these two German legal advice organisations.