Mistakes and miscarriages of the justice in the past was the fault more of the prosecution rather than of judiciary as the former was exerting influence over the latter, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani told a large group of judges during a meeting on March 16.
The meeting, facilitated by the UN Development Programme, was held to discuss a new bill by the Justice Ministry which aims at setting up of an ad hoc commission to look into complaints over miscarriages of justice.
The draft law on creation of “Temporary State Commission on Studying Miscarriages of Justice” envisages setting up of a 15-member commission for a three-year term with a possibility to extend its authority for maximum one more year.
Members of the commission will have to be nominated by parliamentary factions and approved by the Parliament with at least 76 votes.
Members of the commission will enjoy with immunity similar to those of parliamentarians; rule banning ex parte communications will apply to them, like it is in case of judges.
The commission will be authorized to study applications filed by those who think that they were unfairly convicted in cases involving “grave” or “especially grave” crimes; those, convicted for “less grave crimes”, will also have the right to apply for review of their cases if they were sentenced to imprisonment.
The commission will also be authorized, according to the bill, to study cases of civil and administrative litigations, stemming from disputes worth of over GEL 100,000.
The commission will also be authorized to look into those cases which were settled through plea bargaining, in particular by assessing whether these plea bargain deals were or not made in conformity with relevant procedures set by the law.
If the commission concludes that there was a miscarriage of justice, the case goes into the court, which has to review it based on new evidence, according to the bill.
Supreme Court Chairman, Kote Kublashvili, who also participated in the meeting on March 16, welcomed in his opening remarks that such a proposal was being discussed with active participation of representatives from the judiciary. He expressed hope that the Justice Ministry would take into consideration remarks of the judiciary while preparing the final draft.
He said that mistakes of the past should be addressed through legal means, which would not cause even more mistakes in the future.
“We do not want those mistakes which were made in the past – and that happens in every country, to be addressed in a way which may lead us to other new mistakes. That’s why our main remarks about the proposed draft are related to those points, which we think contain such shortcomings,” Kublashvili said.
Supreme Court Chairman stressed that if the planned commission concludes that a case contained miscarriages of justice, it should not in any way serve as a reason for launching disciplinary measures against a judge who delivered verdict into this case in the past.
In her opening remarks, after which the discussion continued behind the closed doors, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said that the new government had “an ambition to achieve once and for all the establishment of independent and unbiased judiciary.”
“I wanted this meeting with you in order to tell it directly to you and to get assurance that you too have the same ambition,” Tsulukiani said.
“As I’ve spent ten years in Strasbourg [where she worked as a lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights] reading your verdicts [referring to cases which were filed to the Strasbourg-based court from Georgia], I believe that the problem of the previous authorities was neither the President nor any individual minister – the problem was prosecution and judiciary being in illegal union with each other and those illegal, unfair court verdicts that might have been delivered in the past was the fault more of the prosecution; but the judiciary cannot shun away from its share of responsibility in this regard either,” the Justice Minister said.
“There were mistakes and these were not only your mistakes,” Tsulukiani told judges. “So this is the mechanism [commission on studying miscarriages of justice] that we are putting forth in order to rectify those mistakes in a way that will not create in the country parallel justice structure and to let judges themselves to address mistakes of the past.”
“This commission together with the judiciary will create a huge legal practice and culture which Georgia needs in order to have a comprehensive mechanism for addressing miscarriages of justice that may occur in the future too. Mistakes can occur in every country, but these should be separate cases not practice,” she said.
“Today we have tens of thousands of complaints about miscarriages of justice and these complaints need to be studied,” the Justice Minister said. “If the result is delivered in even at least twenty or thirty cases from these tens of thousands of complaints, then we can deem complaints of our voters legitimate – that complaint was that a judge was not free; today you are free from prosecutors.”