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Two drafts regarding selection of judges submitted to parliament

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, March 12
Two different draft projects of the selection process of the judges have been submitted to the parliament of Georgia for discussion.

One project was prepared by Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairman of Parliament and six other MPs of the majority: Archil Talakvadze, Mamuka Mdinaradze, Anri Okhanashvili, Giorgi Kakhiani, David Matikashvili and Guram Macharashvili.

As for the second project, it was prepared by MP Eka Beselia, who quit the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party after the disagreement regarding the selection criteria of the judges. Beselia was demanding suspension of the lifetime tenure of the judges, but her initiative was not supported by the sufficient number of MPs.

Co-authors of Beselia’s project are MPs: Levan Gogichaishvili, Zviad Kvachantiradze, Gedevan Popkhadze, Beka Natsvlishvili, Irma Inashvili, Giorgi Lomia, Gela Mikadze, Emzar Kvitsiani, Ada Marshania, Nato Chkheidze, Gia Zhorzholiani and Mirian Tsiklauri.

The first project envisages regulating the selection procedure by the High Council of Justice (HCOJ), the qualification requirements of judges and the procedure for nominating the candidates selected by the High Council of Justice.

The main difference between the two projects is that Kobakhidze’s draft mainly gives the authority to the judge members of the High Council of Justice to name judge candidates, while Beselia’s draft envisages equal participation of judge as well as non-judge members of the HCOJ in the selection process of candidates.

In addition, the second draft reads that a special working group will be created which will include representatives of the Public Defender, Bar Association, NGOs and scientific circles. The group will work at the second stage of the selection process, after which the process will be moved to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues.

Non-judge member of the HCOJ, Ana Dolidze disapproves both drafts, saying both projects give too much power to the HCOJ and enable functioning of the “clan of judges” within the system.

“I think that today we have the drafts of the GD 1 and GD 2 because the initiative of Irakli Kobakhidze and Eka Beselia's leave the power to the "clan" in the High Council of Justice,” she stressed.

Dolidze says these initiatives are better than the one presented initially in December 2018, but she calls for more radical changes.

The judge of the High Council of Justice, Sergo Matofishvili, criticized Dolidze for her statement.

The judge believes that it is “nonsense” that Dolidze does not like any of the projects.

“I do not even want to comment on Dolidze’s position. The main thing is that the projects did not contradict the Constitution. I would approve the project which is agreed with the HCOJ,” he added.

The issue of the selection of judges became controversial after the HCOJ nominated 10 candidate judges for the Supreme Court of Georgia for the life tenure in late December.

The list was disapproved by the non-judge members of the HCOJ, NGOs and some members of the majority, who claimed that the presented judges were working during the previous government too and have the reputation of “biased and corrupt” judges.

Parliament Speaker Kobakhidze said the discussions over the issue have been postponed until spring, adding that the Parliament will define new procedures and criteria for nominating and electing judges, followed by the HCOJ endorsing an updated list of judges based on maximally open and transparent procedures.

After the increased criticism towards the list of candidates, the judges issued a statement calling on the parliament not to consider their candidacies.

The judges claimed that “unethical and insulting” statements were made towards the nominated candidates and these statements “artificially turned into the unprecedented pressure campaign” against judicial power, where direct appeals were made regarding the dismissal of the Supreme Council of Justice and expel of the judges, including ones into the presented list.

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze stated in late January that the society should have a feeling that there are objective criteria and procedures for the selection of judges, adding everyone should be involved in determining said criteria.