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Court system breakthrough

By Messenger Staff
Friday, May 24
On Wednesday night, Kutaisi city court ruled in favour of a two month pre-trial detention of the former Prime Minister and acting United National Movement (UNM) Secretary General, Vano Merabishvili. The court did, however release the current governor of Kakheti and former Minister of Health, Zurab Tchiaberashvili on 20,000 lari bail.

Those who were satisfied with the decision gathered in front of the court building in Kutaisi, stating that, at last the courts reached a decision which would at least partially restore the reputation of the justice system in the country. However, UNM representatives were upset with the verdict, although they promised to resist and consolidate their positions.

The freedom of the court system is one of the major pillars on which a democratic society is built. This pillar was damaged and had not properly been repaired for the last nine years in Georgia.

When the Rose Administration came to power in 2003, it promised to establish justice through a fair court system. Immediately afterwards, it terminated the employment of all judges from the previous regime labeling them corrupt.

A thorough examination was carried out and several hundred well-educated judges were deemed qualified for their positions, resulting in the appointment of 300 judges all around the country. The age for the judges was reduced to 26 and everybody in the country thought that a new era for the justice system had dawned

However, slowly but surely, Saakashvili’s administration started undermining the court system under its control. Eventually and within two years of taking power, a strict hierarchy of the courts was established in the country, backed up by different constitutional, legislative laws, rules and instructions, which were entirely controlled by the UNM.

President Saakashvili, together with the then Minister of Justice, Zurab Adeishvili, and Chairman of the Supreme Court, Kote Kublashvili, were at the top of this system. As a matter of a fact, the court system in Georgia slowly became the tool for the ruling party to govern the people and the country. In fact, the role of the courts was diminished so much that the judges just repeated the opinions of the Prosecutor’s Office word for word. Their demands were met by the obedient judges.

The statistics show that there were almost no cases where the judges went against the opinions of the Prosecutor’s Office in releasing those who were accused of different offences. There were hardly any cases that were returned to the police or Prosecutor’s Office for re-investigation.

If during Shevardnadze’s regime, there was so-called “telephone justice”, when cases were followed by a telephone call from “the top” with instructions on what to do, during Saakashvili’s regime even telephone calls were not needed. The Prosecutor’s Office would make the decision, send it to the court and the latter knew what to do.

The people who gathered in front of Kutaisi courthouse on May 22nd were celebrating the indication that most of the above was at an end.

The fact that the Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili signed a document which would release the judiciary from outside pressure, seems to confirm this view. Different details were considered and re-considered moving the judicial system closer to independence.

Although the Georgian Dream coalition won a Parliamentary majority, the court system had been so solidly built and controlled by the former UNM, that until May 22nd all the judges still depended on it.

So it was a comic situation: The Prosecutor’s Office would detain somebody on different charges, send the case to court with the request to detain the person for two-months pre-trial but the court would rule out their release on bail. Thus this ping-pong was practiced for 7 months under Georgian Dream governance.

However, Georgian people demanded restoration of justice in the country, as there were thousands of cases where the court had made incorrect decisions. Certain cases became notorious thus they needed re-investigation. Sometimes international engagement was also needed to do so (e.g. Girgvliani’s case) but Saakashvili’s Administration ignored such signals so that the new government had to improve the situation which is obviously very difficult but it appears as if the first step has been taken.

Judge Akhalbedashvili ruled in favor of detaining the most powerful person from the former Georgian administration, Merabishvili who masterminded a cruel system of repression, control monitoring, secret surveillances, etc.

Merabishvili has been sentenced to a two-month pre-trial detention.

So, it appears as the major breakthrough has occurred.