Levan Murusidze and Dimitri Gvritishvili, two newly elected judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), addressed the criticism leveled at their return to the Council by civil society organizations, declaring that they are moving “from the defensive to the offensive”.
According to Murusidze, nowhere is there “more objectivity” than when “the conference of judges meets and they vote for a candidate by secret ballot.” “Has a more democratic rule been proposed by anyone anywhere in the world?” he asked journalists.
Murusidze’s claimed civil society organizations are “irresponsible,” “rude,” and offend judges with “all manner of insults.” “Non-governmental organizations came out and criticized us regarding the Rustavi 2 case, but later it turned out that the Rustavi 2 case was correctly and legally resolved. Has anyone apologized?” he asked rhetorically.
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“Actually, [they] are interested in the judicial system not being independent, [in it] being controlled, [and] filled with personnel that they can control themselves, and therefore, they have complaints against me, Gvritishvili, and the Court as a whole,” Murusidze asserted.
Directly addressing civil society organizations, Murusidze told them that if they are sincerely interested in the courts’ independence, he is ready to cooperate, “but if you are not ready and there will be cursing, swearing, and bullying of judges again, of course, we will not only protect ourselves [but] we will call out everything by its name.”
“The judicial power is no longer so weak to be afraid of the outbursts of non-governmental organizations and some politicians,” he emphasized.
Murusidze also disagreed with the civil society organizations’ assessment that he and Gvritishvili’s return to the HCoJ hinder Georgia’s EU aspirations. “I think this topic is so absurd that it is impossible to even comment on it,” Murusidze claimed.
On his part, Gvritishvili also explained that the judicial authority will be on the offensive and “evidence will be provided to expose all those entities, which, periodically, [and] deliberately plan to try to neutralize the High Council of Justice […] and cause division in the judicial corps by establishing an unhealthy dialogue with individual judges.”
He also labeled the civil society organizations “a group of absolutely politicized subjects”, “based on the clannish principles.” CSOs have often referred to the group of influence around Murusidze as “a clan”.
In that context, Gvritishvili claimed that the executive director of Transparency International – Georgia, Eka Gigauri, is the “guru” of the CSOs, who agree with everything she says. “Now I ask you, where is the clan? Is the clan in the Court or in the non-governmental sector?”
Civil Society Responds
According to Eduard Marikashvili, Chairperson of the Georgian Democracy Initiative, Georgian Dream and representatives of other branches of power under their influence, in this case, Murusidze, have launched a campaign to “neutralize public oversight” and discredit the civil sector. “They can continue all this, they just need to know that this is the last phase when authoritarianism tries to destroy democratic institutions,” he emphasized.
“When they say that we don’t have any evidence that there is a clan in the court and they are connected to the government, [such comments] are the best evidence that these people are directly connected to the government,” remarked Nika Simonishvili, Chairperson of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA).
According to Gia Gilava, a program manager for Transparency International – Georgia, Murusidze and Gvritishvili are not happy when representatives of the non-governmental sector talk about the fact that “the root of the problems is the policy carried out by the government and the people which control the judicial system.” “We interfere with their power and naturally they feel uncomfortable and try to respond aggressively, but it will not change anything,” he said.
Guram Imnadze, director of the Social Justice Center, found Murusidze and Gvritishvili’s tendency to speak on behalf of the courts problematic, “as if they decide, [and] they determine when the court will be in a defensive position and when it will be in an offensive position.” “These people no longer hide that they themselves decided to become the members of the Council, and that because of this decision [already former] members had to leave their position early,” he added.