The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting over 40 Georgian local civil society organizations (CSOs), calls on the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) to suspend the competition that aims at selecting new Independent Inspector – responsible for revealing possible disciplinary misconducts of judges – until the selection procedures are improved.
In a statement released on January 20, the Coalition said that the legislation does not yet provide adequate guarantees necessary for ensuring independence of the inspector. “S/he is being elected by the majority of HCoJ’s full composition, and its non-judge members lack the ability to influence on the selection-appointment process,” the Coalition stated.
It is composed of 15 members, including Chair of the Supreme Court, eight judge members elected by the Conference of Judges, as well as six non-judge members with five elected by the Parliament and one nominated by the President of Georgia.
Independent Inspector has the authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings and conduct preliminary examination against a judge, independently from the HCoJ.
The position of Independent Inspector became vacant after Ketevan Tsintsadze was confirmed by parliament as one of 14 judges for the lifetime tenure at the Supreme Court on December 12, 2019.
The following day, the HCoJ announced a call for applications between December 17-26 to select the new inspector. According to the Coalition, the HCoJ interviewed applicants on January 14-15 behind the closed doors, without providing further information either about the interviews as a whole, or the shortlisted candidates.
The coalition stated that the names of the contestants are unknown due to close-door interviews and that “CSOs were also unable to monitor the process.” It called on the HCoJ to publish biographies of applicants as well as to hold interviews at open sessions.
The CSOs also underscored that “considering the clan’s influence in the judiciary, and the existing vicious deals between it and the ruling party, holding a competition in a non-transparent way would further decrease public trust in selected candidates.”
The Coalition had similar concerns during the selection of the previous Independent Inspector in 2017 as well.
According to recent public opinion survey released by National Democratic Institute (NDI), Georgians name the Courts and Parliament as the lowest performing national institutions. The poll says the courts enjoy 10% of positive evaluation.