Transparency International Georgia, a local watchdog, has released an analysis of alleged links between Zurab Guraspashvili, Giorgi Gzobava and Tristan Benashvili, recently elected non-judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) and the judicial “clan.” “In addition to the fact that the newly elected members of the HCoJ “do not see the main challenges in the system,” the organization, while studying their biographies, also revealed their links to the U.S.-sanctioned judges – Mikheil Chinchaladze, Levan Murusidze and Irakli Shengelaia.
“Accordingly, their election to the HCoJ will further strengthen the positions of the clan and will not contribute to the recovery of the judicial system, which is detrimental to the country’s European integration process. This process has once again shown that the ruling party continues to support the judicial clan and helps it to maintain its power”-TI Georgia noted, expressing concern that “the new members of the Council also enjoyed the support of some opposition MPs.”
Guraspashvili, who before becoming a member of the HCoJ was the head of the Investigative Division of the General Inspection of the Interior Ministry of Georgia, was the prosecutor of the Tbilisi Isani-Samgori District Prosecutor’s Office in 2006-2010. During the same period, a members of the judicial “clan” and the Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court, Giorgi Mikautadze, also worked there.
Based on the monitoring of the Facebook pages of Zurab Guraspashvili and his wife, Tamar Bliadze, TI- Georgia identified their links to the sanctioned judge of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, Irakli Shengelia, and his wife Lana Tevzadze. On the other hand, Lana Tevzadze is the sister of one of the members of the group of influential judges, Levan Tevzadze.
“It is clear from Zurab Guraspashvili’s asset declaration that until May 2022 his wife was the session secretary of the Chamber of Administrative Cases of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, and from May 2022 she was promoted to the position of assistant judge,” – the organization said, adding that Tamar Bliadze began working at the Tbilisi Court of Appeals as a courier in 2017 and became the session secretary in 2019.
In addition, the organization notes that information about the activities of the organizations that nominated Guraspashvili as a non-judge member of the HCoJ cannot be found in publicly available sources.
According to TI- Georgia, the organization Young Barristers, which nominated Gzobava for the HCoJ membership, “is often referred to as the so-called activists of the Georgian Dream.” Moreover, the organization’s founder, Tinatin Nibloshvili, has been a member of the Tbilisi City Council from the Georgian Dream since 2017 and has been the deputy chairman of the Tbilisi City Council since 2021. In addition, in 2017, the same organization nominated “former non-judge member of the High Council of Justice and supporter of the judicial clan, Shota Kadagidze.”
TI-Georgia also notes that the organization did not have the right to nominate a candidate to the Parliament because in the documentation of Gzobava’s nomination, in particular in the submitted decisions necessary for the confirmation of the representative authority, the organization represented a party in court, rather than exercising the representative authority, which is contrary to the law.
According to TI-Georgia, Benashvili, who worked at the National Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission before becoming a member of the HCoJ, worked at the Tbilisi District Court in 1999-2004 along with the U.S.- sanctioned judges – Mikheil Chinchaladze and Levan Murusidze. Like the two previous candidates, during the interview, Benashvili did not have any critical comments about the current situation in the judicial system.
17/05/2023 – Parliament Elects Three Non-Judge Members of HCoJ
18/05/2023 – CSOs Negatively Assess Election of Three Non-Judge Members of HCoJ
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