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The News in Brief

Tuesday, June 6
Hotels to be monitored in coastal regions

Service monitoring of Adjara regional hotels in terms of fire safety measures is currently underway, as the tourist season is already near.

As the head of MIA Emergency Situations Management Agency, Zviad Katsashvili, has told reporters, the hotels were given particular recommendations to provide fire safety measures, otherwise, they will have to pay a fine.

“The security system should be improved in a reasonable term. Otherwise the hotels will experience fine. It is mandatory. The situation will be strictly controlled,’ Zviad Katsashvili has said.

Republika Srpska President Meets South Ossetian Leader

Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, a constituent entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, held a meeting with South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov on June 1 on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

According to Bibilov’s press service, at the meeting, Dodik spoke about the pressure that the Western countries apply against 'his republic', and the wish to develop into a self-governing state.

Dodik also expressed his readiness for cooperation with Tskhinvali. “I am glad to get to know you, and we closely watched the events in South Ossetia, we know what happened there, and we felt sympathy for you,” the head of the Republika Srpska was quoted as saying.

Bibilov responded that South Ossetia and Republika Srpska have 'similar fates'. “Our peoples have faced similar problems, we have common goals, common friends and the same faith,” he added.

According to Bibilov’s press service, the two tentatively agreed that Dodik would visit Tskhinvali on September 20, when the region marks “the Day of the Republic,” while Milorad Dodik invited Bibilov to take part in the Day of Republika Srpska celebrations on January 9.

NGOs call on the High Council of Justice not to appoint Court Chairs using opaque processes

The High Council of Justice (HCOJ) is hearing the issue of appointing Court Chairs. This means that the current corps of the HCOJ, in the final days of its mandate, may appoint the Chairs for five-year terms.

The broad discretionary mandate of Court/Chamber/Collegium Chairs and the opaque practices of their appointment have long been serious problems for the judicial system. To date there are no criteria or procedures set in the legislation for selecting the chairs. The experience of the judicial system shows that the chairs are a group of the most influential judges, and their formal and informal roles and status create possibilities for exerting control over individual judges. Because of this the chairs have for years been considered “bosses” by the judges and are the main mechanism for “managing” the judicial system.

The result is that ideas for reforming this institution have always been met with severe and irrational criticism by the influential groups within the system. For example, although the initial draft of the “Third Wave” judicial reforms package had provisions for the court chairs to be elected by the judges of respective courts and this was commended by the Venice Commission report in 2014, this provision was removed from the final draft of the legislation, likely because of the demands of this influential group. Also, the provision introducing court chair election rules was changed due to the demands of the majority of the HCOJ members in the final stages of the long-term judicial strategy development.

In the Coalition’s view, the improvement of the Chairs must start with changes in their selection rules. We believe that respective courts must be given the opportunity to elect the chairs themselves so that the HCOJ no longer retains the power to dispatch their own representative as a chair to control the courts.

The fact that the HCOJ is hearing appointment of court chairs for five-year terms while the mandates of the majority of its members’ are expiring in early June raises concern that the HCOJ’s current membership is trying to ensure that the important administrative positions are filled with their desired personnel. These questions are further strengthened by the Tbilisi Appeals Court Chair’s unexpected resignation on May 25, allowing the HCOJ to appoint its desired candidate to this position. It is worth noting that the Tbilisi Appeals Court Chair’s term was ending in four months, further strengthening the suspicion of a possible informal agreement.

The Coalition for Independent Judiciary considers that in this situation, if the HCOJ fills the chair vacancies using an opaque process and ignoring merit, this will further significantly undermine public trust in the judiciary, boost the informal influences within the judicial system, and the independence of individual judges will come under significant doubt.