Georgia

EU helps Georgia with "rule of law"

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European Union has deployed its first ever 'Rule of Law' mission to Georgia to help the country in reforming its one of the most challenging law enforcement, judiciary and criminal law systems.
Head of the mission, French judge Sylvie Pantz says that the human rights will be one of the main focuses of the mission, which consists total of ten civilian experts from the EU member states.

Sylvie Pantz, who after serving as a judge and prosecutor in France for 20 years gained international experience as well by heading the investigating division at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, outlined the 'Rule of Law' mission's priorities at a news briefing in Tbilisi on July 22.

"I want to say that we are not bringing money, but we are bringing something much more precious, which is our expertise, our skills and our judicial knowledge," the head of the mission said at a news briefing in Tbilisi.

"The mission will undertake the guidance for Georgia's new criminal justice reform strategy, including support in the planning of new legislation, for example the Criminal Procedure Code," Sylvie Pantz added.

She said that the mission, which will last for a year, will also support the Georgian authorities to coordinate judicial reform and anti-corruption measures, as well as will support international and regional cooperation in the area of criminal justice.

Sylvie Pantz says that the mission will try to help Georgia to set up a reformed criminal-justice system, which, as she put, "will not be my French system, it will be your Georgian system."

Legal experts from EU member states will be co-located in the Ministry of Justice, Interior Ministry, General and District Prosecutors Offices in Tbilisi, Council of Justice, Supreme Court, as well as Tbilisi District Court and Public Defender's Office to provide Georgian officials with recommendations.

The mission has already outlined the first task for the Georgian officials. Sylvie Pantz expressed hope that by the end of this year, officials from the judicial and law enforcement agencies "will draft the strategy document over the reforms.

"[The strategy document]...will included everything, including structure of judiciary, number of judges, number of courts, salaries for the judges, training of the judges, discipline for the judges and the same [provisions] in regard to the prosecutors and Ombudsman," Sylvie Pantz said.

Fact-finding visits to the Georgian regions, where the judicial-criminal system faces even more problems than in the capital city, are also scheduled by the members of 'Rule of Law' mission.

Sylvie Pantz also said that the mission will follow closely all the cases of reported abuse of human rights by the law enforcement agencies.

On the occasion of launch of the 'Rule of Law' mission to Georgia, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Tbilisi-based Human Rights Information and Documentation Center (HRIDC) sent an open letter to Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, on July 9, expressing concern over the recent evolution of human rights in Georgia.

"This evolution may reveal a gap between the declarations aroused by the [Georgia's] new authorities in favor of democracy and the reality," the open letter reads.

"The increasing number of torture, inhuman and humiliating treatments" also remains matters of concern for the FIDH and the HRIDC.

Sylvie Pantz said that the mission will try "to find keys for solution of this major issue -- the human rights."

President Mikheil Saakashvili said at the meeting with the Georgian NGO leaders on July 6 that reforms are being implemented in the law enforcement agencies and these violations, that are occurring right now, will be gradually eradicated.

Launch of the 'Rule of Law' mission follows the EU's decision to include South Caucasus countries -- Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia into the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).

The EU officials say that both, launching of the 'Rule of Law' mission and inclusion into the ENP emphasizes Georgia's and the South Caucasus importance for the European Union.

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