Ambassador Norland supports continued criminal justice system reform at NGO Coalition Forum (February 9)

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On February 9, the NGO Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary organized its 11th Public Forum in cooperation with Georgian civil society organizations, discussing reforms to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia.  The participants discussed possible legal and structural reforms that would increase the independence, effectiveness, accountability and transparency of the two agencies.

In his remarks at the forum, Ambassador Norland praised Georgia’s progress in the development of its democracy.  He supported continued reform of the criminal justice system, saying “Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili launched discussions on reforming the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He subsequently announced government’s intention to reform the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. We think now it is a good time to move forward and increase independence and accountability of these institutions.”  Ambassador Norland also stressed the importance of civil society’s contribution to reforms.  He said, “Engagement of civil society is crucial to conduct these reforms transparently. The Prosecutor’s Office and Interior Ministry must constantly seek a balance in order to ensure the protection of human rights.”

The Public Forum is a response to the Georgian Government’s plan to restructure the justice system agencies, which Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili announced in December 2014.  The Public Forum was funded through USAID’s Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project (JILEP) is a four-year, $19 million program to increase the independence of the judiciary, strengthen the institutional capacity of legal professional associations, improve the quality of legal education, and develop commercial law practice in Georgia.