The High Council of Justice, the body overseeing Georgia’s judiciary, has presented Amiran Dzabunidze for the Parliament to fill the last vacant seat at the Supreme Court.
Dzabunidze, 46, currently serves as an acting chair of the Kutaisi Appeals Court. Previously in 2019, he made the shortlist of 50 justices in the Supreme Court selection process, but the HCoJ did not nominate him then.
Civil society organizations that monitor the judiciary developments have criticized the process. Vakhushti Menabde, Director Democratic Institutions Support Program at GYLA, told Civil.ge that the selection process shows that the Georgian Dream government and the group of influential judges, the so-called clan, wish to “use every nook and cranny of the judiciary to the full.”
He reiterated concerns that the top court candidates are selected for their “loyalty to the clan and the government.”
“Whoever the [HCoJ] may present, it will be a person that will not stir problems in the Supreme Court,” Menabde argued.
Guram Imnadze, Director of Democracy and Justice Program at the Social Justice Center, told Civil.ge that lifetime seats at the top court should only be filled with a “selection process which enjoys from high public confidence and legitimacy.”
He argued that the HCoJ meanwhile lacks public confidence, going on to point out that it also currently has five vacant seats for the six of its non-judge members. He noted that thus decisions are mostly made by its nine judge members, “which is a big problem and directly harms confidence in the judiciary and the candidate.”
Imnadze also voiced doubts that the Parliament would assess the candidate’s qualifications with “professional criteria,” and pointed out that the legislation allows the ruling party to elect the candidates with a simple majority, without needing to reach a consensus with the opposition.
The top court nomination some three weeks after the ruling Georgian Dream lawmakers endorsed four other top court justices for lifetime tenure, drawing widespread criticism.
EU’s Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Peter Stano slammed the appointments on December 2 and reminded Georgia that EU assistance remained conditional on “key reforms, including on judiciary.”
He also pointed out that appointments contravened the commitments the Georgian Dream took up in the EU-mediated April 19 agreement with the opposition, and restated on July 28, after quitting the deal.
Although the deal stipulated to halt top court appointments until Georgia passes judiciary reforms, the Georgian Dream maintained it delivered on this commitment by endorsing changes common courts legislation in April, before signing the deal.
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