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A View from a Kobuleti Court House

07.07.2008
Maka Malakmadze, Batumi

The building of Kobuleti District Court is near the central market in Kobuleti. It is an old building and does not differ much from other old buildings. However, there are only two judges in the district court: Iuza Butskhrikidze and Vera Dolidze. Vera Dolidze also works interim court chairperson as well.

The court house hall is never overcrowded. Here you will see people sitting on benches and the people who could not find empty space on the bench walk back and forth nervously in the hall; some entertain themselves by reading information on bulletin board. However, this information is not much of use as it does not give information on appointed trials, the time that trials are scheduled, the contentious articles or any information about charges against the accused. However, you can see a poster of Legal Aid Service of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia on the board.

 The text of Article 42 Part I of the Constitution of Georgia is written on the information board: “Everyone has the right to apply to a court for protection of his/her rights and freedoms”.
The people at the court house do not know much of their rights. Tamaz Nakaidze, a citizen tired of waiting for the trial expresses his irritation in the chamber of an assistant to a judge: “I have been waiting for 3 hours. Why can’t you bring my respondent to court by force? If not let me leave. I have been waiting here for a long time.”

Zurab Nuidze who is physically disabled was invited to the court as a witness and he was waiting for his trial. He came here without a wheel chair and had been waiting for a trial for two hours: “The trial should have begun at two p.m. but it is already 4 o’clock and the court hearing has not started yet. However, they claimed that the proceeding would get start….”

People do not believe in fairness. “We are living in an unfair county”, stated a woman who was invited to the court to appear as a victim.

Kobuleti District Court is as punctual as any Georgian courts. “I know from my personal experience that the trials are always delayed in Kobuleti District court and this is not because the judge attends another trial. According to the “Law on Disciplinary Proceedings of the Judges of General Courts of Georgia”   this activity is the disciplinary offence of the judge.

Although trials are delayed in many courts of Georgia but in Kobuleti District Court, it occurs rather often. The trials are delayed for several hours,” states Lali Ishkhneli, the lawyer of the Human Rights Center.

Last year the “Law on Disciplinary Proceedings of the Judges of General Courts of Georgia” was amended and according to this amendment no one has the right to enter the court room with a recorder or a photo camera.  However, no bailiffs are seen control the situation. You can find bailiffs only in a room of an assistant to a judge sitting and they are not wearing uniforms.

This time I found the bailiff in the first room of the assistant to the judge I went in: The assistant to the judge presented a bailiff but he was out of uniform. “This is Ramazi”. I asked him why he was not wearing a bailiff’s uniform. The assistant to the judge answered in stead: “We have not had bailiffs up to now. Ms. Vera (Judge Vera Dolidze) has managed to provide us with bailiffs only recently. The bailiffs have been appointed just recently, and so new, that their uniforms are only now being tailored in Tbilisi.”

There is neither the State Emblem nor flag in the court room. You can see only old benches and tables there; the only thing that is new in the courtroom is the judge’s armchair.

It is very common here that the judge converses on mobile phone during the trial: “How are you? Yes, tell me. That’s OK, what is your last name – Lekashvili, first name –Natela, OK. When I finish the trial, I will look up for the information. I will find out if an appeal is lodged or which judge is leading up the case. It is not my case as far as I remember, but I will try to clarify…”

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