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U.S. Embassy Slams Top Court Appointments

The failure to pause the Supreme Court appointment process until after comprehensive judicial reform could take place “has real consequences,” said today the U.S. Embassy, expressing “extreme disappointment” over the recent election of six top court judges by the Georgian Parliament.

The nomination and appointment process as well as the “failure to undertake inclusive, comprehensive” relevant reforms “fell short of the commitment Georgia’s leaders, including the ruling party, made to implement the April 19 Agreement in good faith,” the strongly-worded statement stressed.

It noted that the EU-brokered deal explicitly contained a provision to “refrain from making appointments to the Supreme Court under existing rules.”

The U.S. Embassy cited legal experts and civil society organizations in arguing that “Parliament’s flawed process did not advance the most qualified nominees, resulting in less-qualified judges receiving lifetime appointments on the court.”

It also quoted a July 9 report by ODIHR which said the nominations “took place in an environment where there is a lack of public trust in the independence of the judiciary,” and “applications, background checks, and interviews established by the High Council of Justice for these nominations fell short of international standards.”

“It was imperative that Parliament pause the appointment process,” the U.S. Embassy stated, adding that Georgian lawmakers had the authority to do so without “unduly” burdening the judiciary’s operation.

Choosing not to suspend the process is “very concerning and constitutes a significant missed opportunity to strengthen confidence in Georgia’s judiciary and advance its democratic development,” the statement asserted.

Referring to the Common Courts legislation amendments adopted in April while the EU-brokered deal “was being negotiated,” the Embassy said “unilateral legislative changes inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Agreement.”

It added that changes had also “failed to fully address the Venice Commission recommendations.” Georgian Dream lawmakers, including Chair Irakli Kobakhidze, argued they had already fulfilled their commitments to the deal by passing the said changes when deciding to move on with top court appointments.

The U.S. pledged readiness to continue supporting Georgian legislature and people “in credible efforts to strengthen the judicial system and the rule of law.”

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