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HCoJ Holds Inaugural Session in New Composition

The High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the body overseeing the judiciary, held its inaugural session in new composition on July 3 and elected Judge Vasil Mshvenieradze as Chairman of the Tbilisi City Court for a term of five years. 
 
Eight new members were elected to the 15-member High Council of Justice in June 2017. Four of them were elected by the Conference of Judges and the remaining four vacancies allocated to non-judge members were composed by the Parliament of Georgia.
 
On June 21, the Parliament of Georgia approved Nazibrola Janezashvili, Irma Gelashvili, Levan Gzirishvili and Zaza Kharebava as non-judge members of the HCoJ. On June 24, the Conference of Judges elected Irakli Shengelia, Irakli Bondarenko, Dimitri Gvritishvili and Vasil Mshvenieradze as judge members of the HCoJ. During the same conference, Judge Giorgi Mikautadze, who joined the HCoJ in April 2017, was elected as Chairman of the HCoJ. 
 
The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, a coalition of dozens of legal advocacy and rights groups, criticized the process, saying that the entire process was marred by serious shortcomings. It, however, expressed readiness for cooperation with the HCoJ.
 
Commenting on the selection process, the Coalition stressed that the selection procedures were symbolic and noted that “unfortunately, the legislative body failed to code the procedures for discussion and assessment in the Parliamentary regulations.” 
 
“Despite high public interest, the committee [for legal affairs] members and individual stakeholders were not able to ask questions to candidates,” the Coalition said in its statement on July 3.
 
The Coalition also slammed the Conference of Judges, saying that neither had the candidates an opportunity to unveil their visions, nor did the judges ask any questions to candidates. 
 
“The Coalition has called on the Conference of Judges for multiple times to let the candidates  unveil their views on the situation in the judiciary, achievements and challenges as well as to ask them questions. Regretfully, this call was not taken into account at these elections of the HCoJ members either,” the Coalition said.
 
Amid critical remarks, the Coalition expressed readiness to cooperate with the High Council of Justice and called on it to implement the judicial reform.
 
According to the Law of Georgia on Common Courts, the High Council of Justice is the body overseeing the judiciary. It has been established to ensure the independence of courts and the quality and effectiveness of justice, to appoint and dismiss judges (except the Supreme Court chairman and its members), as well as to carry out disciplinary proceedings against judges. The HCoJ also develops proposals on judicial reform.
 
According to the same law, the High Council of Justice consists of 15 members. Eight members of the Council are elected by the Conference of Judges, five members are elected by the Parliament of Georgia and one member is appointed by the President of Georgia.
 
The Georgian Dream government introduced the current rule of HCoJ composition in 2013 as part of its judicial reform.
 
Legislative and institutional changes in the judicial system were carried out in three stages and in February 2017 the Parliament approved the package of bills known as the “third wave of judicial reforms,” overriding presidential veto on it.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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