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The Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia introduces changes to the Organic Law on the Courts

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, September 15
The Chairman of Parliament of Georgia Archil Talakvadze met with the representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, High Council of Justice and NGOs to introduce changes to the Organic Law on the Courts, which has been prepared according to the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The information is published by the Parliament of Georgia.

According to Talakvadze, the changes are related to two of the following key issues - the obligation of substantiation of the decisions made by the judges to be appointed for life tenure, and the opportunity to appeal the made decisions.

According to the draft law, the standard of justification of the decision, which will be carried out by the Secretary of the High Council of Justice, will be introduced at every stage of the selection process of candidates for the Supreme Court. Apart from the standards of justification, appealing the decision of the High Court of Justice to the Chamber of Board Expert will be possible at every stage of the selection of judges.

As Talakvadze noted, both issues were included in the important recommendations of Venice Commission which were related to the court, “therefore, we are committed to adopt these changes at the plenary session and thus, further enhance the judicial independence and make this process more transparent and fair,” he said.

As Talakvadze noted to the media after the meeting, the changes will be considered in the plenary session of the current week. He also noted that the judicial reform is a long-term process, however, the ruling team has a plan that is followed consistently.

US Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan assessed the meeting as ‘very beneficial and important’, she believes that the amendments are aimed at strengthening the judicial processes, and enhancement of its transparency and accountability. Ambassador Degnan stated that the process is important for reinforcement and development of the judicial system of Georgia.

The draft law has received a negative evaluation from the Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria. She believes that the amendments fragmentally focus on certain aspects of the selection of Supreme Court judicial candidates and the basic recommendations of OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission regarding the drawbacks in the process still remain unresolved. In particular, the rule of secret decision-making by the High Council of Justice during the selection of the judges is still maintained, “which poses a serious problem in terms of transparency and credibility of the selection process.”

As the statement of Public Defender reads, The draft law provides not the justification for the decision of the High Council of Justice, but “justification of the Secretary of the Council”, which according to the Public Defender, is already available information to the public. “Thus, the change does not improve the existing procedure and does not make a decision justified.”

The statement reads that the decision made in the process of selection of judges of Supreme Court can be appealed to the Qualification Chamber of the Supreme Court, which, as Lomjaria notes, is staffed with the judges that were elected by the Parliament of Georgia under the flawed procedure in December last year. The ombudsman believes that decisions made by them cannot be trusted “since there has not been reasoned decision-making during the selection of these judges and the selection process received quite negative feedback from all key actors.”

Public Defender believes that the draft law does not respond to the systemic problems in the process of selection of Supreme Court judges.