Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's address at a swearing in ceremony of new judges


First of all I would like to congratulate you - I am glad that a very qualified team has joined the ranks of Georgian judges.

Since the law changed and it became possible to appoint young people as judges, the judicial corps has grown much more diverse. We are counting on those who did not get "spoiled" by the corrupt practices of the old system. The judicial corps has indeed changed in terms of experience, level of education and ethnic origin.

This is very important for us and for Georgian society as a whole.

The people might be able to tolerate economic problems and other difficulties, but they will never stand for a judiciary that treats them unfairly.

You are truly arbiters of justice.

Let me remind you that a major constitutional reform has been implemented in Georgia - one according to which the president is no longer a member of the High Council of Justice. The chair of the Supreme Court is now the chair of the council as well. The majority of members of the High Council of Justice are judges themselves.

We have implemented the kind of reform that even European countries have not managed to implement. We did this not because someone called on us to do it, but rather because I firmly believe that the public's involvement in governing must increase as Georgia continues to develop. Also, society should be given more mechanisms by which to regulate itself, because the source of the government's effectiveness is not how much authority the president or members of the government have, but rather how much trust the people have in them and, accordingly, how much power the people give them.

In conditions where we prevailed in the last elections by a landslide, we have decided to devolve much of our power to local self-government bodies.

One the one had, the authority of the president and his government are decreased and on the other hand, we have increased the autonomy of judges and reduced the powers of the president and executive branch over the judiciary. This was a conscious choice made with deference to strategic factors and aimed at ensuring our country's future.

Let us also keep in mind the fact that our country is developing democratically at a time when it is facing great challenges, a time when most governments would demand that democratic freedoms be rolled back.

However, I believe that the people will be better equipped to overcome these challenges and complications when they come to understand that they themselves - not several people occupying high-level positions - are the head of the government.

At the same time, I want you to comprehend the great responsibility that you have as judges. Over the past two years we have imprisoned several dozen judges for taking bribes. We are absolute record holders in terms of arresting judges.

This means that we are very serious about combating corruption in this sphere.

As judges in Georgia, you will have the highest salaries in the former Soviet Union and we will also help you build your houses. You will have the best buildings in all of Eastern Europe. They will be in full compliance with international standards. All of this is being done so that you are able to work effectively and not engage in corrupt activities.

Georgian businessmen and all other citizens must be confident in the knowledge that they will find justice in our court system. Before, we had cases where our judges would literally rob people and the system. This must never be repeated in Georgia.

We still have cases where judges violate people's human rights, much as we have absurd rulings being handed down as a result of corrupt deals.

One judge recently sentenced a person convicted of killing his mother and father to eight years in prison. Afterwards, his sentence was reduced because he was an orphan.

Let no one entertain the illusion that such a judge will be able to escape justice. The mechanism for carrying out your responsibilities, however, is up to you to create.

Georgia is not a country where the president or a group of two or three people makes a decision, but nonetheless, I can tell you that any judge who does such a thing will be punished according to the mechanisms at our disposal.

The recent constitutional amendment has made judges more authoritative figures.

We want you to be authoritative figures in the eyes of society. You know that in this respect there are still problems.

We are counting on you.

A new generation has come along, one with much more effective and modern experience, one more idealistic. We intend to build and unite this country together with them.

You are the people who came to power with us in order to strengthen our country and most importantly, to assure society that Georgia belongs to us all.

We are the people who must do all this in a country where democracy, the supremacy of law and the highest standards of business freedom are the most important thing. We have a good group of judges in our Supreme Court and in city courts and I am glad that specialists like you are joining their ranks.

In 1996, when we began the process of reforming the judiciary, there was little choice - we had to choose between bad and worse. Now each one of you is better than the next.

I am sure that this tendency will become irreversible. This means that we have already formed a state that will have enormous prospects in the near future.

Your appointment today is also significant because you is the last group of judges appointed according to the old constitutional model. The new constitutional amendments have already entered into force. They will greatly elevate the status of judges and the judicial system and endow them with greater authority. I am deeply convinced of this. We must all manage together to put this amendment into action.

I want to congratulate you on this day and wish you all success in establishing justice and building a better future for our country.

Press Office
of the President of Georgia

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