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.

Mentoring System in the Georgian Penitentiary System

A 10-strong Georgian study group was invited by the experts to visit the Bildungsinstitut des niedersächsischen Strafvollzugs as well as prisons in Wolfenbüttel and Sehnde in July 2013

A 10-strong Georgian study group was invited by the experts to visit the Bildungsinstitut des niedersächsischen Strafvollzugs as well as prisons in Wolfenbüttel and Sehnde in July 2013

The penitentiary system is a particularly sensitive issue in every country. Georgia in particular has had massive problems in this connection in the past. Therefore, the Government has initiated major reforms to enhance prison conditions and to lay the basis for independent mentoring, internal official supervision and prisoners' rights to complain.

In June 2013, a comprehensive project was kicked off at the initiative of the Georgian Penitentiary and Probation Training Centre (PPTC) supervised by the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Aid in cooperation with the IRZ, with the aim of introducing a mentoring system into the Georgian penitentiary system. Two IRZ experts were involved from the German side, namely Dr Jürgen Herzog, Director of the Justizvollzugsschule Hamburg (ret.) (prison staff training centre) as well as Günter Schroven, Director of the Bildungsinstitut für Justizvollzug (penitentiary training institute) in Lower Saxony. A 10-strong Georgian study group was invited by the experts to visit the Bildungsinstitut des niedersächsischen Strafvollzugs as well as prisons in Wolfenbüttel and Sehnde in July 2013. Mentoring and training concepts as well as the necessary framework were subsequently developed, adapted to the Georgian penitentiary system and presented at a follow-up event in Sighnaghi. A programme tailored to the introduction of the mentoring and the selection and training of mentors was set up and adopted on this basis under the management of the two IRZ experts. Then, in early May 2014, Dr Herzog trained 20 mentors in Rustavi at the PPTC training centre at a five-day training course. This pilot training scheme informed the prospective trainees about the relevant legal basis, international standards as well as organisational, educational and psychological elements. The training furthermore covered issues of communication, cooperation, conflict resolution as well as handing on experience. As of now, the mentors not only convey knowledge, values and experience but also act as a link to the PPTC. The intention is that they will guarantee uniform standards across Georgian penitentiary institutions.

The system was officially introduced on 6 May 2014 at an international final conference organised by the IRZ, held directly after this training, where it was presented to the Georgian authorities involved, the interested public and international organisations. The Deputy Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Ekaterine Kristesashvili, Dr Herzog as well as the Director of the PPTC, Maia Khasia, gave an account of their findings with regard to successful cooperation, the development process and the implementation of the mentoring programme. All parties pointed out the great importance of the cooperation between the PPTC and the IRZ for the development of the Georgian penitentiary system. One issue which was particularly emphasised was the strong commitment of the Georgian representatives, without which it would not have been possible to achieve such a positive result within such a short time.

The conference is a milestone in the efforts made by Georgian institutions towards enhancing their penal system. The first mentor-assisted training course for penitentiary staff can now start in June 2014. The IRZ will support the PPTC with the further implementation and provide guidance in dealing with any difficulties that could arise in the implementation process.