Conference on Criminal Procedure Law in Georgia

"The criminal procedure in Georgia – challenges on its path towards the approximation to the EU" – this was the title of an IRZ conference held in Tbilisi on 22 and 23 October 2015.

The conference was organised in cooperation with the Supreme Court of Georgia. It was attended by representatives of parliament, of the bodies of criminal justice of Georgia, by judges of the Supreme Court as well as by professors of various Georgian universities.

The event was opened by the President of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Professor Nino Gvenetadze. On the part of the German embassy in Georgia, Joachim Hecker, Head of the Divisions for Business as well as Legal and Consular Affairs, welcomed the participants.

The IRZ has been active for several years in the field of criminal justice in Georgia.

The current Georgian criminal procedure law contains some elements which need to be reformed. The purpose of this conference was to discuss these fields of problems with an expert audience and to drive further reforms. The following topics were discussed:

  • ECHR provisions for criminal proceedings,
  • safeguarding judicial independence,
  • rights of the defence counsel from a Georgian perspective as well as
  • structures of inquisitorial and adversarial criminal proceedings.

On the German part, Ellen Best, Vice-President of the Local Court of Bremen, Holger Pröbstel, Presiding Judge at the Regional Court of Erfurt, Professor Ingeborg Zerbes of the University of Bremen and Professor Thomas Weigend of the University of Cologne gave comparative presentations on criminal procedure law.

The presentations of the German and Georgian speakers gave rise to open and lively discussions, which showed that the judiciary still has to struggle with many procedural law regulations. The need for reforms, however, is assessed differently and has led to strong disagreement within the judiciary and the justice system in general. Bearing this in mind, it is doubtful whether adaptations of the code of criminal procedure can be expected in the near future. The IRZ will keep following the discussions about this issue and offer its consultation if required.

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.