“Provision of respective progress in legal aid sphere is the top priority for us, which is the integral part of the reforms we undertake in terms of democratic development of the country”, - the Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze stated at the 3rd International Conference “Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems”.
Hosting the international conference in Tbilisi indicates to the fact that Georgia is recognized as one of the leading reformer countries in the region and beyond.
The Speaker spoke about the progress and democratic reforms in the country: “Georgia, during the recent years has achieved the fundamental progress in various directions. We are the leader country in the region as in terms of democratic, so in terms of economic and social reforms. And naturally, the reforms in the judicial and penitentiary system are the integral part of the reforming. We have undertaken the number of the reforms for more independent and effective judicial system. We held three waves of the reform to ensure independent justice and the results of this reforming are tangible. The Court statistic data proves that thousands of Georgian citizens are the direct beneficiaries of this reform, the rights of which are better protected today than ever”.
Currently, the 4th wave of the judicial system is under development. “We have set-up the ad hoc working group within which the representatives of the Parliament and the executive authorities, cooperate with the international organizations and NGOs and we believe that the 4th wave will be as successful as preceding 3”.
Still young institution – Legal Aid Service has been established as an independent structure with facilitation by the Parliament. “It is the integral part of the reforms as well we undertake in terms of democratic development. It is noteworthy that despite that LAS is still a young institution – 12 years – it is formulated already as a successful, authoritative and independent structure with our efforts. We know the special and leading role of the Parliament in this regards”.
He emphasized the Constitutional reform playing the key role in enhancement of democratic system. “The Constitutional reform is as well important for better realization of the functions of the Legal Aid Service. Other than formation of the improved power separation system on the basis of the Constitutional reform, which directly is reflected on independence of the judicial system, we shall also underline creation of the number of new guarantees for independence, efficiency of judicial system, for efficiency of the Prosecutor’s Office etc. The Chapter IV of the Constitution was also improved regulating the fundamental human rights and freedoms. The fundamental procedural rights have been further enhanced on the Constitutional level and Georgia is one of the rare countries where the right of self-organization of the lawyers is guaranteed on the Constitutional level. Naturally, these Constitutional changes facilitate to development of the judicial system and further development of the legal aid system in Georgia”.
He underlined that the judicial protection guarantees and realization of the fundamental rights shall not depend on financial resources of the people. The state shall create the certain conditions for effective realization of the Constitutional guarantees.
“There are the people with scarce financial resources not enough to ensure legal aid and so, the state shall render support. The state shall create the certain conditions for effective realization of the Constitutional guarantees. It requires respective legal basis, its regular improvement and the legal basis concerning the Legal Aid Service. It has been mentioned that Georgia is one of the rare countries where Legal Aid Service is an independent agency. It is not subordinated to any of the state institutions and is accountable to the Parliament solely and I believe that it is the best model. The Parliament also defines the mandate of the LAS. We have extended the LAS mandate and today, it covers the wider range of the beneficiaries. It includes juveniles, convicts, persons with disabilities, IDPs, victims of domestic violence etc. It is not the complete list of the categories of the citizens eligible for legal aid services. The clear evidence of extension of the list of the beneficiaries is the legal change of 2018 envisaging free legal aid by LAS to not only the victims of domestic violence but the victims of violence against women. It is a very important change on the basis of which domestic violence and violence against women have been subject to the competence of the LAS. Besides, the LAS services apply to the juveniles, which was yet another important change by the Parliament. It is also noteworthy that the Juvenile Justice Code since 2015 establishes the brand new standard for juvenile justice and in terms of effective realization of their rights. Currently, the legal aid service is available for the citizens – 0.5 ml people which demonstrates that LAS is a very effective institution”.
The Speaker underlined that the direct duties of the Parliament and Government are to ensure due finances for the LAS. “Last year, the Parliament has issued the recommendation to the LAS about quality assessment system and restructuring of the service to allow the LAS meeting the modern challenges”.
The Speaker thanked the LAS Head, Council members, employees and partner organizations and wished good luck to the international conference delegates.