On January 30, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on the progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure between January and December 2019, among others, on Georgia.
The resolution, based on the report of Roger Gale (United Kingdom, EC/DA), was adopted with 49 votes in favor, 17 against and three abstention, at the PACE winter session, held in Strasbourg on January 27-31. Noteworthy, those, who voted against included ruling Georgian Dream party member Irakli Beraia along with nine Russian and seven Turkish MPs.
According to the resolution, PACE welcomes the positive developments and the progress made during the reporting period in “the adoption of a new set of rules of procedure for the Georgian Parliament with a view to reinforce parliamentary oversight and political accountability of the executive,” as well as “the broad agreement with all stakeholders about the adopted fourth wave of judicial reforms with the aim of further strengthening the independence of the judiciary and efficiency of the administration of justice.”
At the same time, PACE “expresses its concern” about Georgia’s “failure to pass the required constitutional amendments to introduce a fully proportional election system by 2020; the lack of investigation and follow up given to alleged incidents and violations of the electoral code during the 2018 presidential election; the shortcomings in the functioning of the High Council of Justice, including the lack of a clear and uniform selection criteria, the excessive use of discretion failure to give full and reasoned decisions with regard to the selection of Supreme Court judges.”
- Georgian President Zurabishvili’s Q&A Session at PACE
- President Zurabishvili Addresses PACE Winter Session
It further calls on the Georgian ruling majority “to ensure the introduction of an election system that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders in time before the 2020 elections; to fully implement all the recommendations of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) formulated in the opinion on the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges; to promptly implement the fourth wave of reform of the judiciary and for all political forces in the country to work to overcome the continuing polarization in the political environment.”
In the resolution, PACE also expressed its concern over “the continuing borderization and creeping annexation of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by the Russian Federation,” calling it “to end and reverse the ongoing borderization and creeping annexations” of these regions.
In his remarks, Giorgi Kandelaki raised the issue of upcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia and appointment of Supreme Court judges for lifetime tenure.
He said, in June 2019 when “the Georgian society displayed its anger at Russian communist MP Mr. [Sergei] Gavrilov sitting in the chair of the Speaker and being invited by the Georgian Dream [chairman] Mr. [Bidzina] Ivanishvili, the oligarch – it’s another problem that he runs the country – committed to switching to proportional system, which really has been the hallmark of what the Council of Europe has been asking from Georgia for years and years.”
He then said that “unfortunately in November, Georgian Dream staged a fake rebellion of majoritarian MPs.” “Now, we have under international pressure dialogue between government and opposition, and it is so important that the draft resolution says that whatever the outcome of this dialogue, it should have trust of all parties,” Kandelaki said. He added that “indeed, that’s key and crucial factor for credibility and legitimacy of the upcoming elections.”
The big question for Georgia is really this: whether it is capable of changing governments through elections in a civilized way more than once,” Kandelaki said.
He then spoke of the judiciary as well, saying that there is a consensus among “all credible players” that the appointment of 14 judges to the Supreme Court for lifetime tenure “was marred with serous deficiencies, what they call in legal jargon: court stucking.” “This is something that requires further attention, so that the remaining posts are not filled in the same way with candidates without any credibility, whose only qualification is being political allies of Georgian Dream,” Kandelaki concluded.
On her part, Sophio Kiladze stated that “free, fair, and competitive election” is Georgia’s “paramount objective.” She said, “consolidation of the public and the political spectrum, conduct of 2020 parliamentary election based on the high democratic standard[s] and consistent transition towards the proportional system for the 2024 electoral cycle is necessary for strengthening and irreversibility of the democracy building process in Georgia.”
Speaking of the judiciary, Kiladze said that “for the first time in Georgian history we had very transparent and open procedure for selection and appointment of judges.”
In her remarks, the ruling party MP also spoke of Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, saying that during the ongoing session, the representatives of Russian delegation have been trying “to persuade” the Assembly that “they are not responsible for gravest human rights violations” on the occupied territories of Ukraine and Georgia.
But as we are all very well aware, they know the truth, they know that ethnic Georgians are victims of gravest violation of human rights: killings, torturing, kidnapping, unlawful persecution; they know that Russia is responsible of all these violations,” Kiladze said.
According to her, the “murder of Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili is the real face of the occupation.” Noting that Georgia “will further strengthen its dedication for human rights reforms,” Kiladze stated that Georgia needs the Assembly’s “strong support to protect individuals in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, without which we cannot succeed in protection of value, which unites all members of this organization – human rights.”