MPs must vote through bills on judicial reform tabled by the justice ministry or risk a total collapse of the judicial system, officials said on Wednesday as the House legal affairs committee wrapped discussions on the three bills.
The bills are expected to reach the House plenum in late April or early May.
At the moment, there is a steadily growing backlog of 5,000 cases pending in the Supreme Court and 42,000 cases in courts of first instance, Justice Minister Stephie Dracos said.
Based on comments heard during her talks with the committee, Dracos said she was optimistic that “our ultimate effort to save our justice system will come to a positive end”.
She added that the subject has been exhausted during the lengthy deliberations, calling on the House to attend to the matter urgently and save the justice system.
Cyprus Bar Association head Christos Clerides expressed similar sentiments, saying that it’s time to move from discussion to action.
He said he was feeling more optimistic after the committee’s latest session, saying reforms will be a great help in dealing with the backlog at courts which will benefit everyone involved.
Clerides added that this has also impacted people’s trust in the justice system, as “justice that comes too late is hardly justice”.
With the passage of the bills, a new Court of Appeal, a second instance and an appellate body will be created, consisting of the Supreme Constitutional Court, and the new Supreme Court, he explained.
This will also entail 19 new judges that, added to the existing 13 will solve the backlog issue, he added. “This is a satisfactory number and I believe that we will cover the gap within three years”.
“Today we are reaching the end of years of discussions, and it is my wish and hope that we are about to open a new, optimistic chapter for our justice system,” committee chair Nicos Tornaritis said.
Everyone is saying justice is on a precipice, but “we are here to save the state of affairs – a state of affairs which all parties and institutions, without exception, agree upon”.
The committee chair said that at the next session, “all parties will be asked to comment on the bills that have been debated, consulted, judged and criticised extensively”.
This is a critical moment, he said, calling on “all of us, without exception, to rise to the circumstances and save the rule of law in the Republic of Cyprus and secure our reputation, away from petty partisanship and calculations.”
Tornaritis said that the next steps are parties’ opinions on the bills, which will be followed by a consultation on the amendments, after which the bills will be forwarded to the House plenum.
“From then on, it is up to each of us to take responsibility”.