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NGOs Say Justice Minister Mustn’t Get Involved in Selection of Chief Prosecutor

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, June 25
39 non-governmental organizations, united under the coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, call for changing the chief prosecutor selection rule, adding the Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani, key player of the process, should no longer be involved.

The post became vacant after the former Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze resigned on May 31, amid large-scale public protests regarding the murder case of two teenage boys this winter.

The member organizations of the Coalition believe that the current rules for selecting a chief prosecutor and composition of the Prosecutorial Council have significant shortcomings and fail to ensure protection of the institution and chief prosecutor’s selection process from undue political interests.

“Under the current system, the Prosecution is structurally dependent on the Minister of Justice. Therefore the Minister of Justice has a major role in selection of a chief prosecutor and also in directing the Prosecutorial Council…This is reflected in the levels of public trust towards this institution,” the statement of the coalition reads.

The NGOs claim since 2012, when the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party came to power, not a single candidate for chief prosecutor out of the four, nominated by Tsulukiani, was politically neutral, casting doubt on impartiality of a chief prosecutor.

“All of the above reinforce our belief that the Justice Minister’s heading of the process for selecting a chief prosecutor will once again fail to deliver on the public demand for having an independent, impartial and effective manager in the position of the chief prosecutor,” said the organizations.

The statement also reads that back in 2015, the Venice Commission noted the dominance of political elements in the acting model for selection of a new chief prosecutor and called for the reduction of the Justice Minister’s role and the degree of political participation in this process.

The coalition reminded that according to the constitutional amendments that will enter into force the moment the new president is elected this October, the Prosecution will be established as an entity separate from the Cabinet, including the Ministry of Justice. However, the NGOs say if changes are not made in the current rules for a chief prosecutor’s selection now, by the moment of the new Constitution’s entry into force, Georgia will already have a chief prosecutor appointed for a six-year term, selected under “flawed rules.”

“Hence, the selection of a new chief prosecutor must be conducted using reformed rules in line with the new Constitutional standard,” the statement reads.

The coalition recommended the government to stop the selection of a chief prosecutor using the current rules and to implement fundamental reform in the rules for selecting the chief prosecutor.

“Distance the Minister of Justice from the process. She should not be a member or chair of the Prosecutorial Council and should not have the authority to nominate candidates for a chief prosecutor,” the NGOs claim.

Earlier this month, a number of NGOs refused to participate in the selection process of a new chief prosecutor unless the justice minister resigns. The NGOs claimed Tsulukiani cannot ensure selection of an unbiased candidate.