The High Council of Justice (HCoJ) filled 47 vacant positions at Georgia’s lower instance courts on June 17, amid widespread criticism from the civil society and the opposition.
The judges were designated to city and appellate courts throughout Georgia, including those of the capital Tbilisi and western Kutaisi cities. Despite the appointments, 41 positions remain open as the HCoJ, the body that oversees the judiciary, initially opened the selection process for 88 seats.
Ahead of the HCoJ move, several Georgian civil society outfits had argued the appointments would “postpone” the perspective of strengthening the judiciary. Coming ahead of the judiciary reforms envisaged in the April 19 EU-brokered deal, filling the vacancies at Georgia’s courts makes it “improbable to appoint new, qualified and professional judges,” the key watchdogs stressed.
Meanwhile, opposition politicians had argued yesterday the appointments would serve to further the sway of a group of influential judges in the judiciary, often referred to as the “clan.” MP Giorgi Vashadze, Strategy Aghmashenebeli leader, argued that the “clan” aims to “deepen its roots” in the judiciary while the Georgian Dream remains in power.
In response to the developments, MEP Viola von Cramon (The Greens/EFA, Germany) stressed the importance of “ambitious judicial reform,” also “linked” to receiving financial assistance from the EU. “Clan system in [Georgian] judiciary erodes rule of law,” she asserted.
Read more on the controversial June 17 HCoJ session: