Supreme Court Denounces Proposed ‘Vetting’ as Threat to Judicial Independence

The Supreme Court of Georgia denounced the initiative to check the integrity of judges through extraordinary “vetting” mechanism, arguing that it “would undermine the independence of the judiciary and the individual judges” as well as “the public trust towards judicial system”, thus “facilitating political control” over the judiciary.

In its 2023 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy, the EU Commission spoke of the need for Georgia to establish a system of extraordinary integrity checks, with the involvement of international experts, for all leading positions in the judiciary, and to establish a system of effective assets declarations. The Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Kobakhidze said he believes introducing such vetting of judges would violate the Constitution of Georgia.

In its statement, the Supreme Court said that the “external pressure against judges” creates “reasonable doubts” that the initiative aims at sending a message to the judges that refusal to submit to political control would result in them being subjected to this extraordinary vetting mechanism.

According to the Supreme Court, the existing checking mechanisms are sufficient, and “the requirement for “vetting” is a “manipulative and feigned expression of concern for the justice system by vested interests” who aim to undermine the legitimacy of the judiciary as an independent branch of government and shift the court governance mechanisms away from the courts.

The Supreme Court alleged that “the so-called “vetting” is not an international standard, flagrantly infringes upon the sovereignty of the state, as it involves the transfer of the mechanisms for staffing the court, a branch of government, into the hands of external actors.”

The Supreme Court also claimed that according to the international experience, extraordinary checks have a negative impact on the rule of law.

Earlier, in a phone interview with TV Pirveli journalist, the US-sanctioned lifetime judge and Member of the High Council of Justice of Georgia, Levan Murusidzeclaimed that the goal of the EU-proposed “vetting system” is to remove judges from the office and replace them with those candidates acceptable to non-governmental organizations. “Generally, I have no problem passing the test under the vetting system. They say that it does not apply to all judges. But in fact, it affected all judges in Ukraine and Albania,” Murusidze said in an extremely rare phone interview.

On February 27, the coalition of twelve civil society organizations presented a detailed vision for the implementation of the nine steps defined by the European Commission for Georgia to move to the next stage of the EU integration process and start accession talks. Drawing on the relevant EU Commission’s recommendation, the CSOs called on the government to create an emergency system in which international experts will play a crucial role in verifying the integrity of candidates and those already appointed/elected to leadership positions in the judiciary, including the High Council of Justice, judges of the Supreme Court and Chairs of Courts. In addition, the CSOs called for the creation of a system for permanent and periodic verification of property declarations, which will involve international experts with a supervisory and advisory mandate.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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