Venice Commission: Proposed Bill “Does Not Provide for Holistic Reform of the Judiciary”

The Venice Commission has assessed a set of draft amendments proposed by the Georgian authorities as part of the ongoing reform of the judiciary in Georgia and said they are “of limited scope” and do not “provide for a holistic reform of the judiciary.” The request for assessment was made by Shalva Papuashvili, the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia in November 2022. The Draft Amendments are part of legislative measures required by the European Union in the context of Georgia’s application for EU membership.

The Venice Commission has issued four opinions between 2019 and 2022 on the ongoing reform of the judiciary in Georgia. The present follow-up opinion assesses the draft amendments against the background of the Commission’s previous recommendations concerning the Organic Law on the Common Courts of Georgia.

The Venice Commission reiterated the importance of achieving an independent, impartial, and well-functioning judiciary. Only an independent judiciary can render justice impartially based on the law and prevent the abuse of power. There must be public trust in the proficiency of the judiciary to operate independently and impartially.

The Commission noted that several key recommendations it has previously made remain to be addressed. These include addressing the issues of “judicial corporatism and self-interest in the High Council of Justice,” circumscribing the wide powers of the HCoJ to second or transfer judges without their consent, revising the procedure for suspension of judges from office, etc.

The Commission recommends that the draft provisions on access to court decisions be shortened and simplified and that access be provided for past and future judgments. The Venice Commission welcomed the statement of the Georgian authorities that they wish to take its recommendations into account and recommends that they do so without any unjustified delay.

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