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Judicial reform hailed but some warn still a long way to go

The supreme court

Former judges and cabinet ministers on Friday hailed the amendment of the constitution to allow for what they deemed faster and high-quality justice to prevail, but noted that this should have been done sooner and warned that the level of independence and integrity of judges is still lacking.

According to the law, which was passed by the House plenum after years of discussions and consultations, the amendment to the constitution allows for the reopening of the two supreme courts provided for in the constitution of the Republic, namely the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Justice, and the granting of additional third-degree jurisdiction to these two courts.

It is noted that the powers of the two courts were merged into one, on the basis of the law of necessity, following the withdrawal of Turkish Cypriots from the government.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) on Friday, the former Supreme Court president Myron Nicolatos said it “is indeed a historic day” and noted that reform in areas of the courts and the judiciary should have been done earlier.

Referring to the delays in the adjudication of cases, Nicolatos referred to it as the “Achilles’ heel” of Cyprus’ justice system.

“I believe, however, that with the reform that is now taking place both at the supreme court and at the intermediate stage of the court of appeal, as well as in the lower courts, both the quality of the administration of justice will improve and the speed of the administration of justice will also, I believe, improve,” he added.

Asked by CNA what the amendment of the constitution means for the ordinary citizen, Nicolatos said that Cypriot citizens will enjoy faster administration of justice, adding that there will be better quality of justice, since, as he noted, “for the first time in the history of the Republic there will be a tertiary stage of justice.”

Former Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis stressed that much remains to be done. “Much still needs to be done to ensure that citizens have easy and quick access to their justice,” she said.

Yolitis, expressed her satisfaction, because, as she said, “the first step in the reform of justice has been taken.”

In conclusion, former justice minister – Ionas Nicolaou called it a “historic day” but noted that more independence and integrity of judges is necessary.

Nicolaou explained that “the establishment and reopening of the supreme constitutional court is a separate change, which will regulate issues of democratisation, transparency, operation and rational and uniform application of constitutional provisions”, noting that this in itself “constitutes a separate and significant change”.

In addition, he referred to the implementation of the third degree of jurisdiction, as well as the establishment of the court of appeal, a body where the specialisation of judges in hearing cases by sections, already defined in the law, will be applied for the first time, referring to also “historic changes”.

“Citizens should expect from this reform a faster and higher quality administration of justice, but with more independence and integrity for the new judges. The establishment of two separate equal courts at the highest level of the judiciary will provide the opportunity to ensure in an effective manner the integrity and independence not only of the courts but also of the judges themselves,” he said.

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