>>Cost of running juries across the country too high>>
LONDON, Sept. 24 (The Conway Bulletin) – Georgia has delayed by two years the roll out nationwide of juries in trials (Sept. 17).
In 2010, Tbilisi became the first city in former Soviet Caucasus or Central Asia to allow jury verdicts in some trials. Initially, jury trials were limited to those in which both the prosecution and defence in murder cases agreed to it.
The former Soviet Union has no legacy of jury trials and their introduction was considered a great modernising step by the administration of former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Of course introducing jury trials suited Mr Saakashvili’s vision of where Georgia was heading. Mr Saakashvili was an arch-Western reformer. He saw Georgia’s future with the European Union, the United States and NATO. Introducing jury trials was another step in this direction.
The experiment was deemed a success and rolled out to courts in Georgia’s second city of Kutaisi. There have, reports said, been eight murder cases involving juries.
And lawmakers had put forward ambitious plans to push jury trials out across the country not only for murder cases but all crimes that involve a prison sentence from Oct. 1 2014. This has now been delayed.
Poor court infrastructure, a lack of understanding on how juries operate and the extra cost and time of running jury trials were the reasons behind the delay, the civil.ge new website reported quoting the Georgian ministry of justice as saying.
Still, the ambitious plan has only been delayed for two years, rather than scrapped altogether.
This article was first published in issue 201 of the weekly Conway Bulletin, an independent newssheet covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus. For more information go to www.conway.starbit.co.uk