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Coalition Protested Opaque Appointment Process of Judges in the High Council of Justice

30.05.2017

Lana Giorgidze

The High Council of Justice received the resignation application of Valerian Tsertsvadze, Chair of the Appeal Court, four days ago and on May 29, the HCOJ scheduled a session, which was conducted in parallel to the protest of NGOs. Part of the civil society organizations believes the resignation of Valeri Tsertsvadze four days ago was suspicious. They doubt he quitted job in favor of his successor. 

“Current corps of the HCOJ tries to pass as many decisions as possible on the one side in relation with appointing the judges and on the other hand with appointing the court chairs so that their corporative, closed system did not collapse. Inactivity of the Parliament encourages the HCOJ to carry out these illegal and unfair activities, while the Parliament is implementing the judiciary reform very slowly,” Chair of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association Ana Natsvlishvili said.

In accordance to the statement of the Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary,  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 statement of the Coalition reads.

Chairman of the Georgian Bar Association evaluated the ongoing process as the most shameful fact in the country.

“The most unacceptable person in the history of Georgia was appointed to the position of the chair of the Appeal Court. The Appeal Court is almost the final instance [of the judiciary system] and everybody is aware that the Supreme Court does not consider 90% of cassation appeals. Full Murusization and Chinchalization of the judiciary system is going on and it is the biggest shame of this country,” the chairman of the GBA Zaza Khatiashvili said.

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 statement of the Coalition reads.

Executive director of Human Rights Center Aleko Tskitishvili said there is doubt that the HCOJ tries to appoint their allies to the key administrative positions until its mandate expires.

“Our doubts were reinforced after the chair of the Tbilisi Appeal Court suddenly quitted the job on May 25 that allowed the current corps of the HCoJ to appoint its desired candidate on this position. Tbilisi Appeals Court Chair’s term was ending in four months, further strengthening the suspicion of a possible informal agreement,” Aleko Tskitishvili said.

The Coalition considers that in this situation if the HCOJ fills the chair vacancies using the 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. 

“It is important to note that the judiciary system has experience, when, after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections, the old corps of the HCoJ appointed their desired candidates on the positions of court chairs for the next 5 years in haste in opaque manner,” the statement reads.

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