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Georgian Dream targets judicial independence

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, May 7
The Georgian Parliament received new amendments to the court system which limits the rights of the president to interfere in the activities of the court system. Although President Mikheil Saakashvili vetoed this amendment, the parliament managed to overcome the veto 91 votes to 26. Saakashvili has two weeks to sign the bill, but if he refuses to do so, Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili, will sign it and the proposed changes will be implemented.

The Georgian Dream coalition promises that after introducing these amendments, the Georgian court system will no longer be controlled by the ruling elite of the country.

In the post-Soviet period, the independence of the court system was established via the state constitution. However, in reality, the courts were subordinate to the orders of the ruling elite. This is what the court system was like during Eduard Shevardnadze’s presidency. Although the new Rose administration fired these people and brought in new judges, they were devoted to the United National Movement (UNM). What’s more, these judges blindly obeyed decisions made in the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Saakashvili created a solid system which was difficult to change, as it was reinforced with various legislative and constitutional formulas.

After the victory in the Parliamentary Elections on October 1, 2012, the Georgian Dream tried to change the situation. However, the UNM managed to retain its position and according to the popular saying– the “courts were nationals.”

The UNM claims that the courts are independent and the Georgian Dream wants to subordinate it to the coalition. In response, the Georgian Dream says they are making serious efforts to free the courts from the control of the former government.

The amendments are targeted at the independence of the court system. The president will not be able to appoint his supporters in the High Council of Justice. The president and the chairman of the Supreme Court will have no right to interfere and influence the decisions made by the judges. So far, these public figures were able to appoint, promote and fire the judges. This obviously had an influence on their roles; the judges depended on the approval or disapproval of the President and Chairman of the Supreme Court. Now they will be deprived of this right so that the Council of Justice will be elected by judges themselves through secret ballots.

They will not be selected and appointed by someone and therefore will not fulfill any dictates given from above. These proposed changes were supported by the Venice Commission. The country’s new leadership wants these amendments to be immediately implemented so that the changes should be adopted immediately.

The former leadership wants to maintain the current status quo until the terms of the previously selected judges expire. However, the parliament decided to apply the new amendments immediately.

So, currently, the balance of forces is as such: the Georgian Dream wants to free the court system; whereas the UNM wants to exercise control over the court system, blaming the Georgian Dream for the desire to control the system.