Nine local CSOs, including the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, and Transparency International Georgia, today warned against holding an extraordinary Conference of Judges on May 26 to elect four judge-members of the High Council of Justice, a move they said goes against the “spirit” of April 19 EU-brokered deal.
The members may not have high public confidence if elected before the Parliament endorses “ambitious reform of the judiciary” envisaged in the agreement, the watchdogs stressed. They called on the Georgian lawmakers to adopt legislation suspending any HCoJ elections until steps are taken to ensure a “transparent and fair” appointment process.
Lelo for Georgia MP Ana Natsvlishvili said today that she has initiated a bill to impose a moratorium on the appointments until the judiciary reforms are through. She argued that the ruling Georgian Dream party is attempting to “strengthen its positions” in the judiciary meanwhile.
The Republican party also delivered a statement today, warning that the GD aims to increase its influence in the judiciary through the group of influential judges often referred to as the “clan.” The Council aims to gather members who will carry out the influential group’s interests “without resistance,” so it does not wait for the Parliament to endorse the reforms, according to the statement.
Responding to the criticisms, Secretary of the HCoJ Nikoloz Marsagishvili argued that the Council is required by law to make the appointments, as there is no legal mechanism to extend the terms of the four outgoing members.
GD lawmaker Irakli Kadagishvili affirmed today that the ruling party will ensure that the EU-brokered deal is fully implemented, adding that the process can be further “accelerated” with the opposition’s “timely and constructive involvement.”
About the HCoJ
The Council consists of 15 members, including the Chairperson elected out of the judge-members for a four-year term. There are nine judge-members overall, including the Supreme Court Chair, appointed by the Conference of Judges. Meanwhile of the six non-judge members, five are elected by the Parliament, and one is named by the President.
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