Jury trials, a method of trying court cases that involves engagement of a non-professional jury, are standard practice in many countries around the world. Just recently, this institution was introduced in Georgia.
Introducing jury trials is a part of recent legal reforms in Georgia. The objective is to establish a criminal law system based on the adversarial trial principle.
There are many supporters and opponents of the jury trial system in Georgia. Critiques often argue that despite a global trend of limiting the practice of the jury trial system, Georgia disregarded this experience and put the mechanism into practice. Proponents stress the importance of promoting civic awareness and a wider public participation in the decision-making process, which at the end would lead to improved confidence in the judicial system.
On 3 November 2010, a public discussion was held at the Heinrich Boell Foundation on the issue of the jury trial system in Georgia. The key speakers included Gigla Agulashvili - Expert, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; Otar Kakhidze – Director of the Analytical Department of Georgia’s Ministry of Justice; Vakhtang Khmaladze – Expert, Member of the Civil Constitutional Commission; Kakha Tsikarishvili - Deputy Chief of Party, Judicial Administration and Management Reform Project, DPK Consulting and author of Jury Trial: Overview of Western Legal Systems. The debate was moderated by Mindia Ugrekhelidze, a former Judge on the European Court of Human Rights.
Gigla Agulashvili stressed the importance of the new Code of Criminal Procedure as a mechanism to support democratic developments and the promotion of human rights. As he remarked, jury members are individuals who are able to “control government and refuse the execution of unjust laws”.
The speakers summarized some of the main arguments related to the necessity of introducing the jury trial system in Georgia: first, this institute will support an establishment of the adversarial trial system; second, this mechanism will promote wider public engagement and participation in the implementation of justice, as well as getting society involved in fighting crime; and third, it will build confidence among the population on the supremacy of law and the judicial system.