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Yiolitis urges MPs to make judicial reform an urgent priority

Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis

Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis urged parliament to make justice reform its priority or risk delaying much-needed changes for another year.

The reform bills had been submitted to parliament by former minister Ionas Nicolaou before his resignation in May 2019 over the serial killer debacle.

His successor Giorgos Savvides pushed for the reforms during his tenure but parties said they wanted to study the bills and submit amendments.

Like her predecessor, Yiolitis has made the reform a priority and on Tuesday she urged parties to get the ball rolling immediately or risk more delays.

“We must all realise that consultations cannot be perpetual,” she told state radio. “In our view the procedure must start immediately.”

The minister said certain circles were of the view that the Bar association elections must be held first and then discuss reforms.

She added that she did not know how the two were related but she had seen media reports suggesting as much.

“To us, the aim is to complete the procedure during autumn or else other matters will take priority,” like the budget.

After that, Cyprus will enter an election period – parliamentary and local elections are scheduled in 2021 – “and the reform issue, which is so urgent so as to afford citizens a justice system they deserve, will be abandoned for another year.”

Cyprus ranks among the slowest countries in the world in terms of receiving swift justice. While the EU average required to complete a case is eight months, Cyprus needs more than 2,500 days.

According to the World Economic Forum, Cyprus came 73rd on a global basis for the amount of time it took to solve differences, the same place as Cameroon but behind Uganda, Pakistan and Egypt. However, in terms of whether a citizen can apply to court to seek justice against the state, Cyprus came in 22nd.

Some of the changes include splitting the supreme court into a supreme constitutional court and an appellate court to handle tertiary appeals.

The bills also define the criteria for recruiting, evaluating, and promoting judges, and a school for judges.

The reform includes creating an admiralty, a commercial court, and a small claims court.

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