The messenger logo

Jury trials to be considered in high-profile cases

By Ana Robakidze
Friday, January 11
The Ministry of Justice has proposed a new draft of amendments that would advocate jury trials to those high-profile cases in which former government officials have been charged. The same should apply to those who have not held public office but are charged in those same cases.

The Justice Ministry said in an official statement that the main goal of the amendments is to strengthen the jury system. “The Ministry of Justice is working on the improvement and the strengthening of the jury system.” The statement says that the new draft aims to make a jury system available for high officials who are convicted in criminal offenses. The Tbilisi and Kutaisi civil courts will also deliberate on the cases that command high public interest, apart from the crimes under Article(s) 109, 110, 114 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. According to the statement, this is a very positive step, as a jury verdict is the most trusted by society.

The jury trial was first introduced in Georgia in 2011 and it only applies to cases of rape, aggravated murder, as well as cases of murder committed in the “heat of passion”.

Justice Minister Thea Tzulukiani told journalists on Wednesday that the lack of trust in the current judicial system is one of the reasons the new amendments were initiated. “We will let people decide whether they (state officials) are guilty or not,” Tzulukiani said.

Reportedly, the draft of the legislative amendments has already been introduced to parliament as a legal initiative of the government of Georgia.

Chairperson of the Supreme Court, Kote Kublashvili, welcomes the further development of the jury system in the country. He is sure that the established system for selecting potential jury members is very objective and the court will be able to guarantee that the process of selecting jurors will be properly organized. Kublashvili said the court cannot be against the amendments as far as the Georgian court is interested in expanding jury system.

Experts’ opinions differ on the issue however.

Analyst Kakhi Kakhishvili is among those who doubt the effectiveness of the jury trial. However, he told Radio Liberty that in a country where the court is controlled by the United National Movement (UNM), a jury trial can be the only way. The UNM is not widely trusted by people and the prosecutor’s office is not trusted by the members of the previous government. So, Kakhishvili hopes that a jury trial will serve as a temporary measure, before a truly independent judicial system is formed in the country.