The Conference of Judges, a self-governing body of Georgian common courts, elected Levan Murusidze and Dimitri Gvritishvili of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals as two new judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), during its 31st Conference on 23 October.
The return of Murusidze and Gvritishvili to the HCoJ was met with a range of reactions from both the Georgian Dream party and the opposition, with the latter maintaining a staunchly critical view of the development.
Georgian Dream Responds
According to Irakli Kadagishvili, the Chairperson of the Procedural Issues and Rules Committee, criticism from the United National Movement (UNM) and its “affiliated political and other circles” towards the judicial system has been heard only since UNM “lost control over the Court.”
Per MP Kadagishvili’s assessment, reforming the judicial system concerns laws and the system as a whole, not names and surnames, “which someone may like or dislike, or be neutral [towards]…” He also criticized the opposition for remaining passive in implementing the European Commission’s 12 recommendations and said that instead of working on reforms, they are “still limited to making political statements.”
Meanwhile, another Georgian Dream deputy, David Sergeenko, asserted that Murusidze and Gvritishvili’s election to the HCoJ will not endanger the process of implementing those recommendations.
According to Sergeenko’s opinion, the HCoJ should be an independent institution that the opposition or the government does not influence. “I can’t say anything about the specific composition now, why they think it’s a clan or not, it’s an independent institution, although accountable to the public,” he added.
Georgian Dream MP Givi Mikanadze stated that a “dirty campaign” and “black PR” is being run against Murusidze and Gvritishvili for which “no supporting evidence has been presented to date.”
“This is a targeted campaign that the opposition is trying to use. However, if they are in favor of the fact that we should respect the independence of the court, they should accept the decision that was made yesterday by the judiciary,” MP Mikanadze underscored.
“Levan Murusidze and [Dimitri] Gvritishvili held influential positions in the judicial system until now as well, by electing them yesterday, it will be even easier for them to appoint judges like them in the judicial system, and the longer that they will stay within the judicial system, the more Levan Murusidze’s will appear in the Georgian judiciary,” UNM Chairperson Nika Melia stressed.
He also noted that their election “shows that this government, in principle, does not intend to fulfill the European Union’s recommendations, moreover, – they are doing everything to make the Russian dream come true and for Georgia to not become a member state of the European Union.”
“The Court has finally been established as an authorityless, corrupt-clan institution that only Russian oligarchs like and no one else,” the UNM Chairperson added.
Natia Mezvrishvili, a member of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party, drew attention to the problematic nature of the existing composition of the HCoJ and how it was elected. According to her assessment, the current rules for electing members to the council create risks that it will be used as a tool for personal or party interests by the “influential group” and the authorities connected with them.
“That is why the independence of the Council is critically important. Therefore, it is critically important that the reforms affect, in the first place, the Council […] [which is what] the European Union’s recommendations urge us to do. Without the Council’s independence, there is no independence of the Court, and without the independence of the Court, we will not be given candidate status,” she wrote on Facebook.
“With the facade elections carried out in the Council of Justice, the Georgian Dream continues to undermine Georgian democracy and openly attack the European integration process. Instead of complying with the European Commission’s 12 points, today, the government once again strengthened the power of the ‘judicial clan’ and strengthened its own political control over the justice system,” the Lelo for Georgia party underscored.
“On the one hand, this is an attempt by the oligarchic regime to establish total control over all institutions. On the other hand, [this] decision is a complete disregard of the criteria established by the European Union and purposefully destroys the possibility of Georgia’s candidacy for the European Union,” the party added.
According to Strategy Aghmashenebeli MP Paata Manjgaladze’s assessment, the Georgian Dream government continues to “conspire” against the Georgian state. He emphasized that against the background of the reforms required by the European Commission, the appointment of Murusidze and Gvritishvili to the HCoJ, “is a direct violation of the European recommendation” on judicial reforms.
Elene Khoshtaria, leader of the Droa party, asserted that the election is a message from the Georgian Dream to the public that “we have no European perspective” under their conditions. “Our state does not belong to the Georgian Dream, despite the fact that they have seized it… This state belongs to us, and it depends on [us] […] whether we will give up on this future to not,” she said.