The Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE), an advisory body to the Council of Europe, released a statement on 11 August that criticized the Georgian Ministry of Justice’s announcement of a new competition for selecting the Georgian member of the CCJE and stated that “the unplanned and hasty announcement of the competition, without informing the current member of the above-mentioned bodies, is a negative precedent that raises major questions regarding the independence of the judiciary and the persecution of possible dissent within the system.”
The statement was preceded by and took note of an address published by Transparency International – Georgia in which the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary reacted to the Justice Ministry’s announcement of the new competition and pointed out that Nino Bakakuri, a Supreme Court Judge and current Georgian CCJE and European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) member is slated to be in the two posts until 2024.
According to that statement, Bakakuri “was not informed regarding the competition in advance and has not requested that her membership be terminated.” The Coalition emphasized that under such circumstances the competition “raises questions and further strengthens doubts about the oppression of dissent in the Georgian court system.”
The CCJE underscored that its task is to “foster the independence, impartiality, and competence of judges,” guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and that “member states are obliged to respect that impartiality and independence.”
They noted that while a country has the right to select a new member even before its mandate has expired, the Justice Minister’s decision to change the rules for the competition on 27 July 2022, before announcing the new competition on 2 August and the deadline for submissions on 6 August, is suspect.
“… The CCJE can only share the concerns expressed by the Coalition with respect to the timing and procedural aspects of the new competition (i.e. the non-notification of the current member of the CCJE about the new competition, and the hasty character of the procedure), as this could impact on the quality of the process itself,” the CCJE added.
The CCJE praised Judge Bakakuri for her contribution to its work and her “highly professional manner” since she was appointed.
It called on the Justice Ministry to ensure that the implementation of the new selection procedures “continues to uphold high standards with respect to the selection criteria of candidates, notably their proven competence, integrity, and independence.”