RESTRICTED resources, antiquated infrastructure and failure to undertake responsibility are the ready-to-explode ‘ingredients’ in the Cypriot courts. The number of pending cases exceeds 80,000, while the charges against the Republic to the European Court of Human Rights have piled.
Despite the huge problems in the sector, the executive and judicial powers blame one another.
A fair state?
The condition in the Cyprus’ courts is more or less known to everybody. It is discussed by the Parliament every year and is often included in the reports of the foreign credit rating firms with the worst possible rate. Thousands of citizens wait almost three years to have their cases heard.
Those delays have referred the Republic of Cyprus to the ECHR six times. In her statements to StockWatch, Attorney Maro Tsiappa said that 9 more charges have been filed in the past year but they were subject to a compromise. Moreover, 26 cases have been heard since 2006 and the fines have been paid. “We expect that certain measures will be taken to avert future breaches in relation to the time that the cases are heard“, she said.
“This entails two things; First, the adoption of measures by the Supreme Court so as to deal with the problem of time and second, the adoption of effective treatments in Cyprus. This means that in case of a delay in the hearing of a case, Cypriots will have the opportunity to appeal to the Cypriot courts“, she said.
Ms. Tsiappa explained that the Legal Service has prepared a plan, which has been referred to the Ministry of Justice, which is competent to promote it to the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives for approval.
Lack of staff
The Supreme Court recognizes the problem and stressed that any efforts that have been made so far had no result due to a lack of resources and the antiquated infrastructure.
“Nothing has been achieved so far“, Chairman of the Supreme Court, Petros Artemis, said and blamed the executive power that controls the budget of the Judicial Service.
“It has been three years now that the Supreme Court’s request for the opening of three new posts of district judges is pending. One in the Nicosia District Court due to the large number of penal cases, one in Paphos due to the increased cases for accidents and one in Paralimni. We are still waiting for an answer“, he said.
The budget of the Judicial Service stands at €28 million and includes the judges’ salaries and the operating and development expenditure. It is almost one fourth of the CTO budget.
As for the human resources, the problems become more and more. The courts run the risk of running out of stenographers. “Unfortunately, they found better offers and working conditions in other public sectors and they decided to leave the Courts“, Mr. Artemis said.
The problems, however, do not focus on the human resources only. There problems in the infrastructure are even bigger.
For example, things are quite complicated in the introduction of the stenotypes. Although the Supreme Court decided to introduce a mixed system, there was a problem with the supplier and so as not to have further delays it was decided that the issue is handled by the IT Service Department.
More than that, the building that hosts the courts dates back to 1950.
“The problem that emerged from the transfer of the United Nations is handled by the government. We hope that it will be solved soon“, Mr. Artemis said.
According to Mr. Artemis, the legal service which has undertaken the preparation of the new institutions for the simplification of the procedures works too slowly.
Obstacle or independence?
The executive power, on the other hand, blames the Supreme Court judges. Justice Minister, Loucas Louca said that the improvement of the service lies entirely to the Supreme Court because according to the constitution, it is an independent service and has its own budget.
According to Mr. Louca, the government promotes the electronic administration of the courts.
“The Council of Ministers approved a sum of €5.5 million and will proceed with tenders for the 27 new posts. It might take up to 3 years for the procedures to be finalized“, he added.
“It’s Hadjipetris’ fault…”
Chairman of the House Legal Committee, Ionas Nicolaou said that they are probably not aware of how serious case the case is.
“The government is responsible for the stenotype system and the creation of new job posts“, he said.
“The courts do not operate properly and they need up to 3 years. This is unacceptable for a country such as Cyprus“, he said.
“The Legal Committee is in regular contact with the Supreme Court in order to improve the conditions. The efforts hit to the executive power“, he concluded.