23 July 2021,   23:23
The High Council of Justice continues taking damaging steps for the judiciary - NGOs

Seven non-governmental organizations released a statement and decried the High Council of Justice’s HCJ) decision to present 9 Supreme Court Judge nominees to the Georgian Parliament for selection.

“Even though the lack of number of judges in the judiciary has been a challenging reality, the appointing process of new judges has been taking place under the conditions of so-called clan authority. Neither the government nor the so-called clan, despite many calls (including from our international partners) have shown the willingness for real and substantive judicial reforms. Among other things, the rules for appointing non-judicial members of the HCJ as well as decision making rules itself have not been changed. These changes would have ensured the appointment of the most qualified and impartial candidates.

Nowadays, there are about 300 judges in the judiciary. The appointment of an additional 100 independent judges would have significantly improved the quality of justice. However, most vacancies are usually filled by clan affiliates. Subsequently, if the current appointing process takes place, the perspective of strengthening the judiciary will be postponed once again.

By filling the major part of these vacancies, it becomes even more improbable to appoint new, qualified and professional judges. Without the substantial reform of the HCJ, the adoption of such large-scale and significant decisions further undermines the best interests of the judiciary.

The opinion of the Venice Commission states the need to restart the appointment process of the judges of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the HCJ is attempting to make vital decisions unilaterally, in a forced manner, with the previous composition of the council.

The Agreement of April 19 between indubitably asserts the need for an ambitious judicial reform. The document also covers the utter importance of systemic reform of the HCJ and cancelling the appointment process of the Supreme Court justices.

Making decisions on such paramount matters in a forceful manner, without systemic reform of the judiciary, utterly jeopardizes the interests of justice. We consider that the actions undertaken by the HCJ establish grounds to jeopardize the legitimacy of the judges appointed in such a manner.

It is clear that the so-called clan and the HCJ would not risk taking such drastic measures without unconditional support of the government. Continued ignorance of the presence of the clan, as well as announcement of superficial and cosmetic reforms of the judiciary, once again displays the unwillingness of the ruling party to substantively reform the judiciary and fulfil the obligations stemming from the aforementioned agreement brokered with the assistance of the Western partners.

We call on the HCJ: To cease the process of forcefully packing the judiciary;

Additionally, we call on the Parliament of Georgia: To commence working on a substantive reform of the judiciary in a timely manner and to form an appropriate working format to allow participation of relevant civil organisations, professional and academic groups, the Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia and international partners;
To make a decision on the appointment of the Supreme Court justices on the basis of political consensus with the opposition parties. If unfeasible, to postpone the appointment process until the substantive reform of the judiciary is undertaken”, - reads the statement.