Building confidence in the justice systems

Judicial reform is progressing well in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Contributing to this process on behalf of BMZ, GIZ provides policy advice to the justice ministries and the courts, initiates dialogues on the rule of law, and facilitates international conferences on the independence of the judiciary as the ‘third power’ within the state.

Legal reforms in the South Caucasus

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the successor states had to establish their political, economic and social systems on a new footing. This was also the case in the republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus. In the early 1990s, these countries’ judicial systems were in a parlous state, characterised by legal instability, arbitrary justice, corruption, poorly functioning administrations and lengthy procedures.

Since then, with Germany’s support, all three countries have made substantial progress on judicial reform.

This was borne out by two international conferences facilitated by GIZ and its partners on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 2011. The Caucasus judges’ conference took place in Tbilisi in early 2011, while an international seminar on current administrative justice was held in Baku in mid 2011. Both these events sent out the same message: the separation of powers under the rule of law, and also the independence of the judiciary, cannot be guaranteed solely by the three countries’ constitutions but must also be actively practised to an increasing degree within the judicial system. By providing policy advice to the three countries’ justice ministries and the courts, GIZ had undertaken valuable preparatory work here via a number of projects implemented for over a decade.

Since 2001, the German Federal Government’s Caucasus Initiative has provided a framework for all Germany’s activities relating to legal and judicial reform. Among other things, it initiates dialogue on the rule of law, develops regional networks to promote the exchange of experience among legal experts, and recommends cross-border measures to combat corruption.

So is the constitutional separation of powers now functioning properly in the everyday administration of justice? That question can only be answered with reference to the level of independence actually enjoyed by judges. They must be willing and able to pass judgment independently. As just some of the prerequisites, however, judges’ salaries must be commensurate with the judicial office held and their training must be in line with international standards – something which GIZ has been supporting for many years. Independent administrative courts also have a key role to play in building citizens’ confidence in the justice system, enabling citizens to lodge complaints against the state and its authorities. In this area too, exemplary progress has been made in all three countries of the South Caucasus. GIZ and its partners utilise a variety of media to inform the general public on a regular basis about the progress of the reforms in order to boost public confidence in this process.

On behalf of


Dr. Thomas Meyer

'Professional exchange among practitioners is a more productive process than a theoretical academic debate about the problems these countries face.'
Rudolf Mellinghoff, from 2001 to 2011 President of Germany’s Federal Fiscal Court