Discussions over the recommendations of the Venice Commission over the Law of Georgia on the Courts of General Jurisdiction are ongoing. All the sides interested in the issue state that the commission took their suggestions into consideration. Thus, the discussion process seems controversial and has caused some kind of misunderstanding among the public.
Whose interests are reflected in the recommendations of the Venice Commission?
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 13
The Venice commission underscored that the amendments to the Organic Law of Georgia on the Courts of General Jurisdiction suggested by the new government have “improved many provisions of the organic law and will bring this law closer to European standards.” However, the commission had some remarks concerning certain issues, including the formation of the High Council of Justice. The main functions of the HCOJ is the organization of qualification exams of judges, the selection and appointment of judges of trial and appellate courts, disciplinary proceedings, legislative drafting and analytical work, quality management and the relationship with the public.
High Council of Justice consists of 14 members. Two of them were appointed by the president and 4 are members of the parliament. The Venice Commission welcomed the changes that ensure the president will no longer appoint the members. MPs will not be presented there as well. Instead, parliament will confirm the 6 members from the NGO sector. The other 8 members of the council are judges who were confirmed by the self-governing body of the Conference of Judges. However, the judges were named by the Supreme Court Chair. Venice Commission welcomed the proposed change that the Supreme Court Chair will be again presented to the council however, and he will no longer have the right to name the candidates. Instead, the candidates will be named by the judges through closed ballot system (currently it is opened) and confirmed by the Conference.
However, apart from the positives the commission delivered its remarks concerning the formation of the High Council of Justice. The commission recommended that the chairmen of courts, first deputy chairmen, deputy chairmen, chairmen of boards and chambers and any persons who have held any of the listed positions during the year preceding the elections to the High Council of Justice, should be authorized to be a candidate.
“The amendments could also provide, as an alternative or cumulative measure, that should a chairman of a court be elected in the council, he would have to resign from their position as chairman,” the commission states. It is also said that the parliament should confirm the members of the council with two-thirds of the votes. The Venice Commission recommended against the complete renewal of the council, even though the composition of the current HCoJ “seems unsatisfactory.”
The parliamentary minority claims that the Venice Commission took their remarks into consideration and the fact that the Venice Commission is against the complete dismissal of all acting members of the High Council confirm this. They also claim that the current government “is going to take into consideration only those amendments that are in their interests.”
On its behalf, the government states that the Venice Commission “switched on the green light” to the changes suggested by the government and discussions within the parliament over the issue will launch soon. The government also emphasized that there are some “technical recommendations” from the commission’s side that would be taken into consideration.
Head of Transparency International, Eka Gigauri, states that the commission did not completely take into consideration either the government’s or the opposition’s suggestions.
“The recommendations are too close to those remarks that have been expressed by the NGOs. Currently, most important is how the sides agree on the issues and how painless the process will be,” Gigauri stated.
Head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Kakha Kozhoridze, stated that a large part of the document elaborated by the Minister of Justice was approved of by the Venice Commission and this fact will result in the renewal of the High Council anyway.
“Of course the commission will not support removal of all the members. However, there will be serious changes,” Kozhoridze said.
US Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, stated that the recommendations of the Venice Commission are precious and hoped that after getting the recommendations, the Georgian political spectrum will manage to achieve a consensus over the issue.