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Justice minister seeking agreement on vital judicial reform

Υπουργός Δικαιοσύνης – Κοινοβουλε
Justice Minister Stephie Dracou

Parties involved were trying to find common ground Monday to overcome certain sticking points delaying the much-needed justice reform, as Justice Minister Stephie Dracou reiterated that the current system could not remain in place any longer.

The issue was discussed on Monday at a meeting chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades. Participants discussed certain objections to the proposed reforms but also the ageing infrastructure, especially in Nicosia, where some courtrooms are still housed in buildings that were used as barracks in colonial years.

The justice minister said views were exchanged and alternative solutions were tabled to overcome problems in a bid for the bills to be put to the vote as soon as possible.

“I am optimistic, given that we all agree that justice must be reformed, that problems will be overcome, and a solution will be found,” Dracou said.

The minister did not say whether a specific deadline had been set for the parties to respond on the alternative proposals, but the Supreme Court and the Bar Association have pledged to reply soon.

“Our effort is to find common ground so that the bills go to plenum and approved as soon as possible because there is no question of the current system remaining, with parties needing 15 years to get justice,” Dracou said.

The Supreme Court has expressed disagreement on two matters: the creation of a constitutional court, and the establishment of commercial and admiralty courts.

Last week, the Supreme Court said it would be legally and practically proper for the commercial and admiralty courts to be established by separate legislation and exist as distinct judicial entities, each one exercising its own authority.

Instead, the bill currently being discussed by the House legal affairs committee provides for one court comprising five judges that will adjudicate in two divisions.

More importantly, the Supreme Court expressed concern earlier this year over the proposal to set up a supreme third-level court and a supreme constitutional court.

The president of the Supreme Court, Persefoni Panayi said it would lead to the creation of a court consisting of judges with a different explicit division of jurisdiction, devoid of its key power of self-regulation.

This structure involved the risk of interference in the independence of the justice system and undermining the principle of rule of law.

“In addition, the expected new structure … of the supreme judiciary, constitutes a hybrid model that is not met anywhere in common law, neither in any other modern justice system.”

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

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos, whose ministry is responsible for infrastructure, said the plan was to complete the tendering process for the new Nicosia district court by the end of 2022.

Construction will be divided in two phases, the first one will include the district court while the other entails other courts, related infrastructure and car parking.

The new facilities will be located at the same location as the existing court.

It will span 16,600 square metres. Five other courts with an area of 4,000 square metres are also on the cards.

The parking lot will have a capacity for 950 vehicles.

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