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Greece: Draft Bill on Fair and Speedy Trials

(Feb. 8, 2012) On January 30, 2012, the Greek Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights submitted to Parliament a bill designed to expedite the administration of justice and guarantee speedier and fairer trials for individuals. (Draft Bill on Fair and Speedy Trial [in Greek], Hellenic Parliament website (last visited Feb. 8, 2012).)

The impetus behind the proposed bill is Greece's abysmal record on delayed administration of justice, resulting in denial of justice and due process rights. Greece ranks fourth among the 47 members of the Council of Europe for violations of the right to speedy administration of justice. Specifically, the European Court of Human Rights has found against Greece in 360 cases for unjustified delays in trials. In one case, a court decision was issued after 27 years. Greece has paid approximately €8.5 million for compensation and moral satisfaction arising from cases of denial of justice. (Id.)

Some highlights of the proposed bill include the following:

· Divorce proceedings and marriage disputes will be under the competence of single-member district courts, rather than multi-member courts;

· Judicial mediation will be introduced as a method of settling private disputes, without resorting to courts. Senior judges will exercise mediation duties;

· There will be electronic submission of all court documents. An implementing decree will provide more details;

· Decisions will be prepared in electronic form, then printed in hard copy, signed, and published;

· Labor disputes and disputes related to spouse support, child care, and visitation rights will be decided within 60 days;

· Foreign decisions will be enforced by a simple order of the judge and not a court decision. This will expedite enforcement of foreign judgments by 18 months;

· Establishment of single-member criminal courts, especially for felonies, composed of a senior judge; to date felonies have been tried by multi-member ordinary criminal courts. The single-member courts' subject matter jurisdiction will include offenses related to guns, taxation, customs, narcotics, forest arson, armed robbery, and other crimes. (Id.)