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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07TBILISI1479 2007-06-19 13:56:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi
Cable title:  

JUDICIAL REFORM: MOVING FORWARD

Tags:   PGOV PREL GG 
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DE RUEHSI #1479/01 1701356
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O 191356Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6727
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001479 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC AND DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/15/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: JUDICIAL REFORM: MOVING FORWARD

REF: A. TBILISI 1242


B. TBILISI 281

C. TBILISI 284

D. TBILISI 1299

E. TBILISI 767

Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT. REASONS: 1.4 (B) AND (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Georgian officials admit privately that
judicial reform was not high on the list of reform projects
immediately following the Rose Revolution. It was deemed too
hard to accomplish quickly, and as a result, was slow to get
started. International pressure, however, has moved this
crucial area to the forefront. On June 8, Deputy Chairman of
the Parliamentary Legal Committee (and Saakashvili insider)
Giga Bokeria confirmed to Poloff that a draft law banning ex
parte communications was introduced in Parliament the week of
June 4. He expects it to pass this year as part of a
judicial reform package that will also repeal Soviet-era laws
which provided criminal and administrative sanctions against
judges for making an "incorrect decision." In addition, both
Bokeria and Chief of the Tbilisi Appeals Court Eka
Tkeshelashvili provided additional details on the Irakli
Batiashvili case (reftel A). He was recently convicted for
providing assistance to rebel warlord Emzar Kvitsiani. They
claimed that his case has been carried out in accordance to
Georgian law. End summary.



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BAN ON EX PARTE COMMUNICATIONS INTRODUCED IN PARLIAMENT


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2. (C) Georgian officials admit privately that judicial
reform was not high on the list of reform projects
immediately following the Rose Revolution in 2003. Although
there was some internal debate, those supporting immediate
reform of the judiciary lost to those supporting prioritizing
reform of the patrol police, educational system, and fighting
corruption. As a result, this important reform was slow to
get started. Still, starting last year, the Government began
a comprehensive effort to reform the judiciary to increase
its independence (reftels B and C). The biggest change was
the constitutional amendment passed at the end of 2006 that
removed the President from the High Council of Justice, the
judicial disciplinary body. Other reforms included:
prosecuting corrupt judges, improving the court system's
efficiency, and introducing jury trial legislation.



3. (C) Still, progress on some key issues lagged, including
an ex parte communications ban (reftel D). After pressure
from the Embassy, Department and international officials,
however, the Georgians now understand the importance of
undertaking concrete judicial reforms expeditiously to
increase the independence of the judiciary. On June 8,
Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee Giga
Bokeria said that the draft law barring ex parte
communications was introduced in Parliament the week of June


4. It will include sanctions on judges, lawyers and third
parties who violate the law. He expects it to pass this year
as part of a judicial reform package that will also repeal
Soviet-era laws that punished judges, both criminally and
administratively, for making an "incorrect ruling." Removing
the threat of sanctions against judges for their decisions
should, we believe, increase judicial independence.



--------------------------



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MAGISTRATE SYSTEM, HIGH SCHOOL OF JUSTICE ON TRACK


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--------------------------





4. (C) In a separate meeting on June 5, Eka Tkeshelashvili,
Chief of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, confirmed to Poloff
that the magistrate system was on track to improve court
efficiency and administration of justice. She clarified,
however, while magistrates could determine whether an
individual should e held in pre-trial detention or released
on bail, they still lack authority to dispose of criminal
matters. Thus, while the number of people detained in
pre-trial detention pending release may be diminished, the
time necessary to resolve the criminal matter may not be
reduced. Similarly, she confirmed that the High School of
Justice had completed its curriculum for training new judges
(reftel E). It is now under review with the High Council of
Justice, of which she is a member. She said the curriculum
was well done and believed it would be ready by October, when
the High School would accept its first group of judges.



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MORE DETAIL ON BATIASHVILI CASE


--------------------------





5. (C) Tkeshelashvili also responded to questions about the

TBILISI 00001479 002 OF 002


trial of Irakli Batiashvili, who was recently convicted for
providing assistance to rebel warlord Emzar Kvitsiani (reftel
A). When asked why the judge and the prosecutor - according
to press reporting - had not listened to the primary evidence
during the trial, she said that under current Georgian law,
neither the judge nor the lawyer are required to listen to
primary evidence. She noted, however, that she was not
familiar with the details of the case. Tkeshelashvili said
the new Criminal Procedure Code and other reforms will
require a more rigid evidential review. (Note: When asked
about this on June 8, Bokeria claimed that the tapes were
played in court and heard by both the judge and the lawyers.
He offered to check and confirmed this again the next day
after consulting with the Ministry of Justice. End note.)



6. (C) When asked why the judge did not explain of the
verdict, Tkeshelashvili said that Georgian law does not
require a judge to explain the ruling when entering a
judgment. Instead, judges have fourteen days to draft a
publicly available explanation. Judges routinely do not
provide explanations when entering a judgment for the Court
of First Instance in the interests of time and according to
this rule. Tkeshelashvili noted that the Court of Appeals is
building a website to disseminate the explanations more
widely. Ultimately, a similar website will be created for
the Court of First Instance.



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COMMENT


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7. (C) Comment. There is no doubt still a long way to go
before Georgia has an independent judiciary, but these steps
are encouraging indicators that the Georgians have both
received our message and are starting to move in the right
direction. Indeed, we heard that President Saakashvili
canceled a planned trip to the U.S. by Bokeria so that
Bokeria could get the draft law on ex parte communication
introduced into Parliament. On the Batiashvili case,
although this information from Government and Parliament
sources indicates that the case was tried in accordance to
Georgian law, it is impossible for us to determine, as the
opposition claim, that the evidence against him did not merit
the ruling. We will continue to follow the case. Upon our
request, Deputy Prosecutor General Nona Tsotsoria said she
would ensure we received a copy of the explanation of
verdict. End comment.
TEFFT