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Venice Commission adopts its opinion on draft amendments

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, March 11
The Venice Commission issued a resolution on the Draft Amendments to the Organic Law on the Courts of General Jurisdiction initiated by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. The resolution was adopted on the 97th plenary session on March 8.

Representatives of parliamentary majority, as well as the majority attended the discussion in Venice, Italy. According to member of the parliamentary majority Tina Khidasheli, the draft that was prepared by the Justice Ministry of Georgia, was assessed positively by the commission.

“The legislative change is assessed as extremely positive. The procedure that was used previously for the formation of the Council of Justice, is non-democratic and anti-constitutional,” Khidasheli said.

Giving an overall positive assessment to the draft, the commission still has a number of recommendations for the Georgian government, particularly with regard to the article allowing the government to dismiss the Council of Justice. The Venice Commission considered that this article should be removed from the amendments.

James Hamilton, co-author of the commission opinion on the amendments, told radio Liberty that maintaining the High Council of Justice is very important for the protection of the judiciary system and its independence. However, giving a right to the government to suspend the mandate of the council will turn it into a political tool and may be used every time a new government comes into power. This makes it very difficult to form a truly independent council. Meanwhile, the commission approves the new rule of electing and appointing the members of the Council of Justice.

According the draft amendments, the President of Georgia loses the power to appoint two members of the council, neither members of parliament will have the right to become members of the council. Also, the draft excludes the possibility for the members to join the council for a second term.

Alexander Baramidze, Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Justice, welcomes the recommendations and says that the government will consider the commissions opinion while elaborating the final draft of amendments.

Representatives of the parliamentary minority are satisfied with the recommendations issued by the Venice Commissions. According to United National Movement (UNM), MP Chiora Taktakishvili, the official document of opinion depicts all remarks the United National Movement had about the planned amendments.

UNM MP Akaki Minashvili said in his interview that the Venice Commission restricted the parliamentary Majority from placing the judicial system under their total command.

The Supreme Court of Georgia released an official statement on the the opinion of the Venice Commission, which says that the court welcomes the opinion of the commission and the fact that comments presented by the Georgian Judiciary were taken into account.

“More precisely, the Venice Commission notes that the enactment of the new rule regarding the formation of the High Council of Justice should not automatically terminate the authority of the council’s current composition. In the opinion of the commission, this would interfere with the independence of the judiciary and would “set the precedent whereby any incoming government or any new parliament, which did not approve of either the composition or the membership of the council, could terminate its existence early and replace it with a new council.”

The Supreme Court of Georgia calls on the Georgian Parliament to take into account the Venice Commission’s opinion and to abstain from interfering into the work of an independent body of the judiciary– the High Council of Justice.

The statement says, the Supreme Court expresses its readiness “to play a leading role in the process of the further reform of the Judiciary.”