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High Council of Justice Elects New Appellate Court Chairman amid Civil Society Protest

Mikheil Chinchaladze was elected as the new chairman of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals for a term of five years, the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) decided at its session on May 29.

Earlier on May 11, Mikheil Chinchaladze, who previously served as the deputy chairman of the Supreme Court and a judge of the same court, was elected as a judge of the Court of Appeals for lifetime tenure.

Shortly before the discussions on Chinchaladze’s candidacy were launched, the Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting 34 civil society organizations, released a statement criticizing the HCoJ’s forthcoming decision. Simultaneously, its representatives held a protest rally outside the High Council of Justice.

According to the statement, “the fact that the HCoJ is hearing appointment of court chairs for five-year terms while the mandates of majority of its members are to expire in early June raises concern that the HCoJ’s current composition is trying to ensure that the important administrative positions are filled with their desired personnel.”

“These doubts are further strengthened by the Tbilisi Appeals Court Chair’s unexpected resignation on May 25, allowing the HCoJ to appoint its desired candidate to this position. It is worth noting that the Tbilisi Appeals Court Chair’s term was to expire in four months, further strengthening the suspicion of a possible informal agreement,” the statement reads.

The Coalition believes that the judges should have an opportunity to elect court chairs themselves.

Similar remarks were made on May 29 by the President’s parliamentary secretary, Ana Dolidze, who noted that judges themselves should elect court chairs in order to ensure that “the levers of oversight over the judiciary do not appear in the hands of the High Council of Justice.”
    
The position became vacant after Valeri Tsertsvadze, former chairman, resigned on May 25, citing a court dispute between two companies, iPlus and Itechnic, where Tsertsvadze allegedly had personal interests.

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