Number of Non-Guilty Verdicts Increased during Pre-Election Period
Shorena Kakabadze, Kutaisi
Problem of independent judiciary, restricted judges, ungrounded court judgments, easily imposing two-month imprisonments and mostly without grounds, right to freedom, etc – Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association presented results of 6-month trial monitoring in their Kutaisi Office.
Chairwoman of the GYLA Tamar Chugoshvili stated that purpose of the trial monitoring was to observe procedural activities of courts when processing cases, and compliance of the judiciary system with the Constitution of Georgia, national and international law. The results exposed problem of judiciary independence particularly in criminal cases.
Representatives of the nongovernmental organizations discussed verdicts passed by Kutaisi City Court. They noted that independence problem of judiciary system is evident in Kutaisi as well as in other regions of Georgia; in most cases the judge supports the prosecutor’s allegation that finally reflects on the verdict.
“In fact, two-month imprisonment was legalized and it is terrible. Only bail and imprisonment shall not be used in judiciary practice. However, it is noteworthy that situation has significantly changed during pre-election period (supposedly on purpose) and the number of non-guilty verdicts has increased. For example, last month, Zestaponi district court passed 12 non-guilty verdicts. Our organization is implementing a project “Promotion of Transparency of Judiciary System in the Western Georgia” and we permanently observe ongoing developments. Our findings are not much appreciable,” Khatuna Khurtsidze, representative of the association Sachino said.
Representatives of nongovernmental and media organizations believe that number of problems was result of several factors. Among them is prohibition of audio and video-recording of trials. “At first sight every judge agrees to audio-record the process but when somebody applies to them with the request, they create some obstacles. They tell us the court will provide us with audio-protocol in case of necessity. We were told at the Zestaponi district court that they could not see any necessity to allow us audio-record the trial because they were preparing audio-protocol of the process. After the trial we requested the audio-protocol but they did not give any. The court personnel said it was spoilt,” Khatuna Khurtsidze.
Tamar Chugoshvili, GYLA Chairwoman: “We have prepared several recommendations. The court’s argument with regard to audio-video recording of the trial is that they cannot work and pass verdict in the presence of cameras. However, it does not mean that we should sacrifice public interest to the order in the court-room. We raised this issue a year ago and they promised to start working on it. We discussed this problem at the Supreme Council of Justice too, but court representatives immediately shifted everybody’s attention to another issue. Of course, we continue working in this field together with journalists and we have already launched a second phase of our work.”
The chairwoman of the GYLA clarified that they will monitor trials of the Kutaisi City Court [criminal cases] in the fall of 2012. According to preliminary evaluations of local lawyers, the results will be interesting.
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