Court Rules TI Georgia Study ‘Libelous,’ Watchdog Decries

CSO warns the ruling endangers freedom of speech, expression

Transparency International Georgia said yesterday that the recent verdict by the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, which ruled a part of the watchdog’s study “libelous,” “is unsubstantiated to such a degree that it raises questions with regard to the impartiality of the judiciary and threatens the high standards of the freedom of speech and expression.”

In particular, the Tbilisi Court of Appeals ruled that the opinion expressed in TI Georgia’s 2018 study over possible corruption risks in the common courts of Georgia, involving local Mercedes-Benz retailer Aka LLC case study, were “defamatory.”

The watchdog argued in the study that a renewed legal dispute in 2016 between Aka company shareholders and Davit Dzotsenidze raised questions about the independence of the judicial process and contained risks of corruption.

The partners of Aka filed a lawsuit, demanding the court to recognize as libelous the TI Georgia’s evaluation “…the renewal of the dispute due to reason of newly discovered circumstances in 2016 raises questions about the independence of the judicial process”.

TI Georgia asserted that with the ruling, the appellate court “prohibited” anyone, including international organizations, from making fact-based evaluations and expressing opinions of the court verdicts.

“Should this decision remain in force, the standard of protection of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in the country would plummet,” the watchdog warned.

The recent appellate decision came after the Tbilisi City Court dismissed in 2019 Aka shareholders’ lawsuit for “incorrectly wording” their request. Moreover, the first instance court said TI Georgia’s statements were not libelous.

The watchdog said that the Appeals Court allowed the company shareholders to modify the “incorrect” wording of the initial suit, “which is a crude violation of the law.”

Noting that the cassation court’s ruling contradicts the standard established by the Supreme Court, TI Georgia said it appealed against the decision in the top Court.

The watchdog said that two of the justices in the case, Genadi Makaridze and Merab Lomidze are currently Supreme Court justice candidates.

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


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