CSO Coalition Assesses HCoJ Member Selection Process
The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, which brings together some 40 local civil society organizations, has denounced the judicial reform process as “a failed attempt at democratic transformation and improvement” and stressed the need for comprehensive reforms of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the body that oversees the judiciary.
In a statement released on January 27, the Coalition noted that although the terms of five non-judge members of the HCoJ expired in June 2021, their seats remain vacant. The CSOs also focused on the Parliament’s September 2022 decision to announce a competition to select the non-judge members and to interview them in committee hearings, saying that despite the openness of the process, the interviewing of candidates did not provide an opportunity for quality process.
“Democracy based on the rule of law is not just a formal concept of openness and transparency, where a commitment to procedures is enough. It should be based on substantive discussions, exchanges of views between the majority and the opposition, a broad consensus in line with the public interest,” the Coalition said.
CSOs also focused on the content of MPs’ questions and the equal treatment of candidates, saying that some members of the parliamentary majority had asked political questions of certain candidates, including about the expression of their political views on social media.
The Coalition emphasized that the opposition parties did not play an adequate role in the process of questioning the candidates. “Active participation in this process would make it possible, on the one hand, to ask candidates critical questions and assess their views/qualifications and, on the other hand, to conduct a substantive discussion on the problems that persist in the judiciary.”
Despite the “shortcomings” identified in the process, the Coalition believes that the Parliament has an opportunity to resolve this issue “through multi-party consensus and in line with the public interest.”
The Coalition, therefore, calls on the Parliament of Georgia to:
- Select independent, honest, competent, and politically neutral candidates who enjoy high public confidence.
- Decide on the selection of five members of the HCoJ on the basis of political consensus with the parliamentary opposition.
- Elaborate reforms for the HCoJ and the entire judicial system based on a comprehensive analysis of the persistent problems in the judiciary, with a focus on establishing a judiciary free from political and internal corporate influence.
HCoJ Member Judges, Ruling Party Decry “Attack on Courts”
Building on the statement of the sovereignist People Power faction of the parliamentary majority, Imedi TV, the ruling party mouthpiece, aired an extensive Sunday report titled “Attack on Courts” in which the ruling party, as well as People Power representatives, alongside the chair of the HJoC Levan Murusidze and Judge Dimitry Gvritishvili accused the USAID-funded program and CSOs of discrediting the courts and falsifying the data. MP Guram Macharashvili of the People Power said through amendments empowering the non-judge members of the HJoC, the U.S. was trying to “gain control” over the judiciary, naming Albania and Ukraine as two countries where such a takeover has already taken place.
- Civil Society Announces Support for 5 Non-judge Candidates for High Council of Justice
- Parliament Releases List of Non-judge Candidates for High Council of Justice
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