On July 27 a group of civil society organizations proposed their detailed vision of necessary steps to meet the 12 recommendations put forth by the European Commission for Georgia to receive EU candidate status which they said: “can be implemented by the end of 2022 if there will be the political will to do so.”
The proposal is signed by 23 organizations including the Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International – Georgia, and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), among others.
Below are CSOs’ vision of the necessary steps to fulfill each of the recommendations issued by the European Commission:
Point 1. Political Polarization
Regarding polarization, the CSOs recommended that as per the EU-brokered April 19 agreement, in Parliament the Chairpersonship of five committees should be occupied by members of the opposition. Along this line, they said the Budget and Finance Committee and the Human Rights and Civil Integration committee must be chaired by the opposition but that the other three committees should be agreed upon by the ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition together.
Per the CSOs, one of the permanent parliamentary delegations’ chairperson should also be a member of the opposition. They denoted that they have drafted the necessary legislative initiative which is immediately available to the Parliament for consideration.
Point 2. Guarantee the Full Functioning of all State Institutions
The CSOs noted that the Constitutional amendments related to the electoral system have already been accepted by the Parliament in their first reading and the two further hearings should now promptly take place for their final approval.
Referencing the April 19 agreement, the CSOs said that changes to the electoral code must require a two-thirds majority of Parliament to elect the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and its members. Also drawing on the same agreement, they noted that the mechanism for getting out of a deadlock in the election of the chairperson or members should proceed as follows: the first two attempts should require a two-thirds majority, while a third attempt will need a three-fifths majority and a further attempts a simple majority.
They further stated that no vote should be held until at least four weeks have passed since the previous vote. Any appointments made following a deadlock (less than two-thirds) should also be temporary, limited to a six-month period, during which time the standard appointment procedure should be restarted.
Following the expiration of the term of office of the CEC chairperson or members, they will leave their post immediately and shall not retain their position until the new members are appointed.
The CSOs noted that for this they have developed a legislative initiative ready for Parliament to consider as soon as possible. They emphasized that the parliamentary majority must undertake that the next CEC chairperson and members are appointed by two-thirds majority of the Parliament in order to ensure depolarization and confidence in the electoral process.
Point 3. Judicial Reform Strategy and Action Plan
Regarding a strategy for judicial reforms, the CSOs stated that the action plan must be developed in an inclusive, multi-party format, with the involvement of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, and civil society representatives. Along these lines, they stressed that the reform strategy should have broad support from all actors, including the Public Defender.
To reform the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) the document underscored that the selection and appointment of Judges to the HCoJ should be made on the basis of the “double two-thirds” principle which requires that any selection be made with the consent of two-thirds of judicial members and two-thirds of non-judicial members of the Council.
Any appointment of Judges to the Supreme Court should also be based on political consensus by agreement between the parliamentary majority and the opposition. Towards this end, the practice should be introduced on the principle of appointment, or a high quorum is established of three-fifths of the Parliament which would preclude the formation of a Supreme Court without the consent of the opposition. They emphasized that this requires changes in the Law on Common Courts.
The CSOs stated that the non-judicial members of the HCoJ should be appointed during Parliament’s next session and based on their impartiality, integrity and competence. They underscored that an official appointed to the HCoJ must have broad societal confidence and political consensus . The CSOs explained this will significantly change the balance of power in the council and create a new center of gravity with five independent members.
The CSOs said that recently appointed Judges to the Supreme Court must also be re-evaluated and if necessary, decisions around the appointment be reconsidered.
Along these lines, they stated that a multi-party Parliamentary Commission must be created to monitor and evaluate the so-called clan of informal governance in the judiciary, which will then also adopt a resolution based on the problems it denotes.
Referencing the General Prosecutor, the CSOs said that in line with the April 19 agreement, the rule for appointing the Prosecutor must be altered and require that they be appointed by a three-fifths majority of Parliament. They noted that Parliament did not support these, already initiated changes before.
Regarding the Constitutional Court of Georgia, the CSOs said that the decision made on June 7, 2019, must be executed through the adoption of legislative changes.
They noted that the corresponding changes to the Law on Common Courts have already been initiated but that discussion of the draft law has been suspended.
Point 4. Strengthening Anti-Corruption Agency
Regarding Anti-Corruption, the CSOs declared that Parliament must pass the draft law which is already initiated, and would combine three presently scattered anti-corruption agencies into one anti-corruption institution which would also tackle high-level corruption. The current three agencies are the Anti-Corruption Agency of the State Security Service, the political finance monitoring department in the State Audit Office, and the department monitoring asset declaration within the Civil Service Bureau of Georgia.
Within this recommendation, the CSOs also said that the Special Investigation Service and the Personal Data Protection Service must be strengthened and that the appointment procedure for heads of both agencies should be changed to require broad Parliamentary consensus (perhaps with a three-fifths majority.)
Point 5. De-oligarchization
The CSOs noted in this case that completing the terms outlined in the other 12 recommendations should automatically reduce the oligarchic influence on state institutions. In this case, they emphasized it is particularly important that the appointment of a Chief Prosecutor, Supreme Court Judges and the adoption of new selection rules of CEC members take place with the involvement of the opposition. Along this line, separating the anti-corruption agency from the State Security Service and establishing it as an independent anti-corruption institution is also significant.
Point 6. Fight Against Organized Crime
For this requirement, the CSOs said that law enforcement agencies should have the necessary resources, as well as a legal framework, to effectively tackle problems related to organized crime. They noted this requires improved practices.
Point 7. Independent Media Environment
Regarding media rights, the CSOs said the government must stop investigations and trials against critical media which have been deemed to be politically motivated by CSOs and the Public Defender. Along this line, they emphasized that releasing imprisoned opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV Chief Nika Gvaramia would be an expression of goodwill. They noted that there are several legislative actions that can be taken to this end, including the President’s power to pardon.
The document also underscored that the Prosecutor must renew an independent, effective, and timely investigation into the organizers and participants of the July 5-6 homophobic pogroms on the basis of evidence collected by the civil sector and the Public Defender. They further stated that authorities must begin an investigation into new allegations of surveillance of media representatives and finish those which it started.
In their view, Parliament must also ensure that legislative practices regarding the media are brought in line with an effective self-regulatory system that CSOs and media coalitions have offered to authorities and would require ethical issues to be settled in a special council and not by the Communications Commission of Georgia, which must not exceed its current mandate.
Point 8. Human Rights Protection for Vulnerable Groups
The CSOs reiterated here that the discriminatory actions committed during the July 5-6 homophobic pogroms must be fully investigated and the organizers are held accountable for the gross violation of human rights.
They emphasized that a national plan must be created for dealing with human rights which will include creating effective policy for fighting against violent extremism, including through informational campaigns directed at reducing homophobic and xenophobic attitudes in society.
A special mechanism should also be created to increase the political representation of ethnic minorities and their involvement. Furthermore, a special mechanism should be created for regular consultations with the Georgian government and Parliament which will involve independent activists and civil society organizations from ethnic minority communities.
Point 9. Gender equality, Countering Violence Against Women
On this requirement, the CSOs said that sexual crimes, including the article concerning rape, must be brought in line with the Istanbul Convention. Along this line, they emphasized that a national plan must be drafted for dealing with gender-based violence and family violence. Access to services for being granted victim status must also be ensured.
Point 10. Involvement of Civil Society in Decision-making
CSOs recommend that the format for an Open Governance Partnership (OGP) should be made more effective. More specifically, the CSOs called on the government administration to commit to at least two important requirements made by civil society representatives during the OGP Council vote.
According to the CSOs, the government administration should ensure the involvement of CSOs in national policymaking and the process of drafting corresponding strategies.
Point 11. Georgian Courts to Proactively Consider ECHR Judgments
The CSOs stressed that the European Court of Human Rights decisions must be taken into account as part of daily practices. They noted that this requires the decision of the HCoJ.
Point 12. Nomination of the Public Defender
Regarding the selection of the Public Defender, the CSOs emphasized that it must take place with multi-party consultations and that a candidate’s final approval must have broad support from the opposition.
Read the CSOs’ full plan here.
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