The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Justice, which unites more than 40 local civil society organizations, responded to the election of Levan Murusidze and Dimitri Gvritishvili as judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) and emphasized that it “strengthens the clan rule in the Court and hinders the fundamental reform of the justice system.”
Murusidze and Gvritishvili of the Tbilisi Appeals Court were elected during the 31st Conference of Judges on 23 October. Their return to the HCoJ has been met with a range of reactions from both the Georgian Dream party and the opposition, with the latter maintaining a critical view.
According to the organizations, the Conference of Judges which elected the two judges is a clear example of “how the High Council of Justice should not be staffed.” In particular, the Coalition stated that the premature departure of one of the judge members from the HCoJ, as well as the fact that only two candidates were considered for the two vacant positions, raises questions about the selection process.
According to the coalition, the absolute majority of the 279 judges present at the conference supported the nominated candidates without taking an interest in the reasons for the departure of the old members of the Council, nor in the plans of the newly elected members.
“The process by which the Conference of Judges elected the new judges creates the feeling that two positions in the Council were vacated for Dimitri Gvritishvili and Levan Murusidze. The surnames of Murusidze and Gvritishvili are directly linked to informal influences and clan rule in the judicial system,” they stressed.
According to their assessment, their re-election is a direct message to Georgia’s international partners that there is no will to improve the judicial system and enact ambitious judicial reforms and that despite “numerous calls” on their part, the HCoJ “continues to take steps to damage justice and use all the levers to maintain power.”
“The ongoing development further reduces the possibilities of systemic reform of the Court and further harm the already damaged trust in the courts,” the organizations said and added that such decisions also contradict the European Commission’s 12 recommendations for EU candidate status.
Taking this into account, the member organizations asserted that “collaborating with influential judges and spending partners’ resources on them, under conditions when the actions of the judicial clan are aimed solely at maintaining and strengthening their power, cannot have a positive impact on the development of the system.”