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CSOs Seek Involvement in Parliamentary Group on Selection of Judges

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The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting 40 local civil society organizations, released a statement on September 17 calling on the Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee to revise the composition and mandate of the Parliament’s working group on discussing judicial candidates.

CSOs said that “the group does not involve any civil society organization, including from the Coalition, that creates an impression of leaving a critical and competent player, considering its recent engagement, beyond the ongoing processes.”

On September 4, the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) submitted a list of 20 candidates of Supreme Court judges to the Parliament of Georgia for election. On September 11 the Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee set up a working group aimed at promoting the committee members to determine the judicial candidates’ compliance with legal requirements.

The working group consists of 16 persons, including one member of the groups comprising parliamentary majority, opposition factions and independent lawmakers, also two representatives of academic community, one representative of the Public Defender’s Office, Bar Association and Legal Aid Service, each.

MP Anri Okhanashvili, chairman of the Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee, noted on September 11 that according to the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, the working group has no authority to assess judicial candidates according to their competence and honesty and prepare any conclusion.

The Coalition called on the Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee to equip the working group with the function of principal assessment of judicial candidates, also to reduce MP quotas in the group, ensure the involvement of civil society organizations and make a composition of experts more diverse.

By the decision of the Legal Issues Committee, the working group will work for 10 days. MP Anri Okhanashvili said that though invited, Georgian Public Defender and Chair of the Bar Association failed to join the group, citing “objective reasons.” He, however, added that the two will join public discussions scheduled for September 23, where individual hearings of judicial candidates will be held.

Following public discussions, the Legal Issues Committee will prepare a conclusion, which will be submitted to the parliamentary bureau. Finally, the issue will be submitted to the Parliament’s plenary session. If supported by the majority of lawmakers, each candidate will be appointed to the Supreme Court for lifetime tenure.

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