Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis has proposed the setting up of a working group, comprised of representatives from political parties and the bar association, to speed up the passing of the justice reform bills.
Observers have pointed to the irony in which the bills aimed at speeding up justice in Cyprus are themselves facing delays.
It is not uncommon to spend five to seven years before the district court and the same, if not more, on appeal before the supreme court.
In an effort to tackle the issue, the proposal was made at the House legal committee on Wednesday after the House unanimously decided on July 24 to return three of the five justice reform bills.
“My suggestion is for one person from each party to be nominated, set up a working group and move forward as soon as possible,” Yiolitis said.
She noted that there had already been two years for consultations, modifications were made to the bills and it appeared the issues had been dealt with – only for them to be sent back to the justice ministry in an “unorthodox manner”.
Yiolitis reiterated Cyprus’ poor rankings in its ability to deliver swift justice.
“I also do not want to sacrifice on the altar of speed, the quality of the laws that will form the backbone of the administration of justice,” she commented, but said the work must go ahead.
But others are scouting a more cautious path ahead, such as the outgoing president of the Pancyprian Bar Association, Doros Ioannidis
He noted that it is likely to be the biggest overhaul of the justice system since 1964.
Specifically, the justice ministry is working on initiatives aimed at speeding up the administering of justice and decongesting of the courts. Permission for an appeal by the court would be based on criteria while the second initiative envisages the setting up of a small claims court at which procedures would be simpler and decisions issued faster.
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.
The justice reform package is likely to feature prominently in the upcoming months, as Yiolitis warns that events in the year ahead could further snag the five bills.
“We must all realise that consultations cannot be perpetual,” she told state radio on Tuesday. “In our view the procedure must start immediately.”
She said that the aim was to complete the procedure during autumn or else other matters like the budget will take priority.
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.”