The Legatum Institute hosted a panel discussion to launch a new 'Transitions Forum' case study on police and judicial reform in Georgia
. Panellists included the report's author, Peter Pomerantsev, human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, and Giorgi Badridze, Senior Fellow, Georgia
n Foundation for Strategic and International Studies. The discussion was moderated by Anne Applebaum, Director of the Legatum Institute's Transitions Forum.
With contributions from Geoffrey Robertson and Jovan Ratkovic, leader of the revolutionary Otpor movement in Yugoslavia and former advisor to President Tadjic, the report, Revolutionary Tactics: Insights from Police and Justice Reform in Georgia, analyses the sweeping reforms which took place in Georgia following the Rose Revolution of 2004; and the tactics the United National Movement (UNM) party used to achieve them.
Key themes from the discussion were: the historic perception of corruption in Georgia; the lack of judicial independence both before and after the revolution; the role of civil society; and how Ukraine could learn from Georgia’s example.
Pomerantsev opened the discussion by explaining that before the revolutionaries could change the state, they first had to change the national mind-set.
Reformers targeted the traffic police, a highly visible and thoroughly corrupt institution that was small enough to rework entirely. All of the existing traffic police were sacked, and a widely publicised process to hire new officers was held.
The new officers were younger, fitter, better paid and given new uniforms. For the first time many were female. The success of this reform built trust and allowed deeper reforms to take place, such as in the wider police force—the reform which is still seen as one of the major successes of the UNM government.
A second major area of discussion was the reform of the judiciary, and how, ultimately, the revolutionaries fell into the same practices that the previous regime used to control and manipulate it. Robertson explained how judges in the ex-Soviet space were still understood to be political workers; soviet justice meant interpreting the wishes of the government.
In this way, when the revolutionaries turned to the judiciary they used it as a political tool, rather than establishing judicial independence. After the revolution, the conviction rate in Georgian courts was 98.6%. Robertson argued for a system in which judges are held accountable to an independent body, with a judicial Code of Conduct and a public complaints system.
The panel then discussed how the EU and NATO could be most constructive in supporting democratic reform in Ukraine.
Pomerantsev explained that the West had been almost blind in its support for the Saakashvili government, but ignored the critical voices coming from civil society.
Ukraine has a mature and motivated civil society ready to work with outside bodies, and it should not be neglected as in Georgia. Pomerantsev suggested the West work with civil society in a sort of ‘pincer movement’ to press the new Ukrainian government from both sides into making required reforms.
On this point Applebaum warned that many reforms undertaken in Georgia and which may be undertaken in Ukraine have been made only to fulfil membership criteria of bodies such as the EU and NATO. Although many promises of support were made by these institutions, full-membership is unrealistic. Applebaum was concerned about what would happen if these institutions stopped being a driver of reform and the potential for democratic backsliding.
Badridze responded by saying that even if membership isn’t on offer, undertaking pro-Western reforms will make countries such as Ukraine more stable and prosperous.
In concluding remarks, Robertson stressed that the independence of judges must be assured. Building institutions with integrity takes time, and to achieve this right people must be appointed and the culture must change. He argued that the technical assistance used to support judges might be better spent on teaching journalists, politicians, and civil society why an independent judiciary is a good thing in the first place.
Pomerantsev said that the fact that there is a discussion about what can be learnt from the Georgian example is a testament to what the Georgian reformers have achieved, despite how far there is left to go. He also picked up on the importance of changing the political culture—once the culture changes, you are able to break public pessimism and undertake challenging reforms.
Join the conversation on Twitter: @LegatumInst #cleanGeorgia or see Storify for a summary of the live discussion.
About the Paper
Revolutionary Tactics: Insights from Police and Justice Reform in Georgia is the product of a unique, international team put together by the Legatum Institute, who visited Georgia in early 2014 to meet with senior officials in both past and present governments, local civil society groups, international observers and other key players. The research team included Geoffrey Robertson QC, one of Britain’s foremost legal experts; Jovan Ratkovic, a leader of the revolutionary Otpor movement in Yugoslavia which unseated Milosevic’s regime, and an advisor to President Tadjic between 2004-2012; Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer-winning historian of the Soviet period and Director of the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum; and the lead-writer of the report Peter Pomerantsev, journalist and author of the forthcoming book Nothing is True and Everything is Possible about working at the heart of Putin’s post-modern dictatorship.
About the Speakers
Peter Pomerantsev is a British author and documentary producer. He recently wrote Russia: A Postmodern Dictatorship?- a joint publication between the Legatum Institute and the Institute of Modern Russia. His writing on Russia features regularly in the London Review of Books, Newsweek/Daily Beast, openDemocracy, Le Monde Diplomatique, Financial Times, The New Yorker and other European and US publications. He has also worked as a consultant on EU and World Bank development projects in the former USSR. He is the winner of the SOPA (Society of Press in Asia) award for writing about Mongolia and was a fellow of the 'Russia in Global Dialogue' programme at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM) in Vienna. His book about working at the heart of Putin's post-modern dictatorship, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, is coming out in November in the US and January in the UK.
Geoffrey Robertson QC is founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers and has argued many landmark human rights cases in British and Commonwealth Courts and the European Court of Human Rights. He has served as first President of the UN's Special Court for Sierra Leone and is one of the three "distinguished jurists" on the United Nations internal justice council. He has argued hundreds of death sentence appeals, prosecuted Hastings Banda, defended Salman Rushdie, Mike Tyson and Julian Assange and acted for Human Rights Watch in the proceedings against General Pinochet. Recently, he has acted for Yulia Tymoshenko and for the government of Armenia in cases in the European Court of Human Rights, and appeared against Georgia in the World Bank Court (ICSID). Robertson is a Master of the Middle Temple and author of Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice; The Case of the Pope; Mullahs without Mercy: Human Rights and Nuclear Weapons; and The Tyrannicide Brief. In 2011 he was awarded the New York Bar Association prize for achievement in international law and affairs.
Ambassador Giorgi Badridze is a Senior Fellow at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies. He has served in the Georgian diplomatic service since the restoration of the country's independence in 1991 till last year when he stepped down from the position of the Georgian Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2009-13). Previously he held the position of the Director General for the Americas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia (2004-07) as well as Minister, Deputy Head of Mission in Ankara Turkey (1999-2002). Mr Badridze studied History at the Tbilisi State University and holds MA in International Relations and European Studies from the Central European University. Giorgi Badridze has publications in Georgia, Turkey, UK, USA and Ukraine on history, diplomacy, international security and energy security.
The Transitions Forum is a series of projects dedicated to the challenges and possibilities of radical political and economic change.
Is Europe Ready to Commit? by Peter Pomerantsev, Democracy Lab, 29 June 2014
Signing Up for Europe, The Economist, 27 June 2014