On 2 July, 2019, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) published the Fourth Evaluation Round compliance report for Georgia. The compliance report assessesthe country’s compliance with the recommendations issued in 2016.
In the Fourth Evaluation Round, GRECO examined whether the corruption prevention legislation and practice were in compliance with the CoE standards in three different areas: the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Prosecution Service. Georgia received 16 recommendations for preventing corruption in 2016 based on the information provided by the Government of Georgia, IDFI and other civil society representatives. Under the GRECO procedures, the Government of Georgia had to implement the recommendations within the next two years and provide information to the GRECO Secretariat. Based on the information received from the Government of Georgia in early 2019, GRECO, in the Compliance Report, assessed the implementation of the recommendations issued in 2016 and published the document on its official website on July 2. According to the report, from 16 Recommendations on corruption prevention, Georgia has implemented satisfactorily only five of them, three recommendations have not been implemented and eight recommendations – partly implemented.
IDFI has been discussing issues mentioned by the GRECO recommendations of 2016 within different platforms such as the Anti-Corruption Inter-Agency Council, Open Government Forum, Public Administration Reform Council and others. One of the 16 recommendations set out by the GRECO Fourth Round Evaluation Report - Improvement of the Monitoring Mechanism for Asset Declarations - was related to all three evaluated agencies: the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Prosecutor's Office and it was considered to be fulfilled. Three out of the 15 recommendations were related solely to the Parliament:
1. Ensure transparency of the legislative process and the uniform practice of public consultation in this process;
2. Ensure adoption of the Code of Ethics of the Member of Parliament and enforcement of the code;
3. Ensure the obligation of the Members of Parliament to make ad hoc declaration on the conflict of interests.
From the three recommendations with regards the Parliament GRECO did not consider any recommendation to have been fully implemented. Despite the fact that GRECO saw progress in all three recommendations, it highlighted important flawsof the legislation. More specifically, according to GRECO the rules and procedure of public consultation in the legislative process is not regulated and therefore, the practice is not uniform, which might cause some important legislative acts or amendments to be adopted without consulting the public. Regarding the Code of Ethics of the Member of Parliament, GRECO noted that simply adopting the Code cannot be considered as the implementation of the norms of ethics in practice and it is necessary to develop explanatory document, trainings and confidential consultation mechanism, which has not taken place yet. Another reason for non-compliance with the recommendations is the ambiguity of the legislative norms in respect of the obligation to declare the ad hoc conflict of interests by the Member of Parliament.
The six GRECO fourth round recommendations regarding prevention of corruption were directed towards judiciary. Out of these six recommendations two were considered to be implemented satisfactorily, one of the recommendations was considered as not implemented and three recommendations were partially implemented. The GRECO recommendations on the Judiciary implies the following obligations by the Government of Georgia:
- Reform of the appointment and promotion of judges for the purpose of ensuring the reasonability, objectivity and transparency of the decisions in this process;
- Upgrading legislation on the transfer of judges in such a manner which enables the transfer from one court to another without the consent of the judge only in exceptional circumstances;
- Improvement of the system of case distribution within the court in order to ensure objectivity and transparency of the process;
- Adoption of the norms of judicial ethics and their implementation in practice;
- Ensure efficiency, transparency and objectivity of disciplinary proceedings of judges;
- Limitation of absolute immunity of judges to the functional immunity.
It should be emphasized that IDFI has been talking about the need to improve the appointment and promotion procedures of judges, norms of ethics and disciplinary liability, as well as to ensure the objective case distribution in the court. IDFI has been urging the government at all possible platforms to eradicate existing shortcomings. This is the result of active advocacy of IDFI and other civil society organizations as well as international organizations, that in most cases, GRECO has acknowledged the progress in implementing recommendations by the Judiciary. In particular, GRECO considered the recommendations regarding the transfer of judges and the case distribution to be implemented in a satisfactory manner.
It considered unimplemented the recommendation regarding the absolute immunity of judges. As regards the partially implemented recommendations, the shortcomings found by GRECO in the implementation of the recommendations are related to the following issues: the obscurity of the judicial promotion process on which the Georgian authorities have not taken measures; the need for renewal and adoption of judicial norms on ethics, which has not been implemented yet; the need for a clear definition of the grounds of disciplinary liability of judges and the necessity of introduction of the right to appeal the decision on disciplinary proceedings; introducing a simple majority (instead of 2/3) of the High Council of Judges to adopt a disciplinary decision. IDFI will continue to actively monitor judicial reforms in order to ensure the full implementation of GRECO recommendations within the reform.
From the six of GRECO's recommendations on corruption prevention within the Prosecution Service two recommendations were considered to be implemented satisfactorily, two recommendations - partially, and two – not implemented. The GRECO recommendations in respect of the Prosecution Service include the following obligations undertaken by the Georgian authorities:
- Carrying out the monitoring of the reform of the Prosecution Service implemented in 2015-2016 and elimination of possible deficiencies;
- Regulation of the appointment and promotion of prosecutors with the purpose of ensuring the reasonability, objectivity and transparency of the decisions in this process;
- Ensuring objectivity and transparency in the distribution of cases among prosecutors and issuing of reasoned directives by the supervising prosecutor in a written form;
- Continuous updating of the norms of ethics of the Prosecution Service and implementation in practice;
- Enlargement of the circle of subjects (covering all prosecutors) regulated by the asset declaration norms;
- Improving the disciplinary liability of prosecutors and ensuring proportionality of sanctions.
It should be noted that IDFI with the support of the EU is implementing the project to promote independence of the Prosecutor's Office, in which, among other issues, IDFI has examined whether the Prosecution Action Plan included measures necessary for the implementation of the GRECO recommendations and standards set by other relevant organizations. Within the framework of the project, IDFI experts are monitoring the implementation of the Action Plan of the Prosecution Service, including of those obligations which are necessary to implement GRECO recommendations. IDFI will complete the monitoring report of the Action Plan of Prosecution Service for 2017-2018 in the nearest future and introduce the results to the public.
From six recommendations set out in the GRECO's recommendation in respect with the Prosecutor's Office, one recommendation was fully implemented (since the constitutional amendments entered into force in 2018 after which the Prosecution Service was detached from the Government and became a fully independent agency). The recommendations with regard to the distribution of cases among the prosecutors, the improvement of the issuance of directives/instructions were considered to be implemented as well. As for the unfulfilled recommendations, the progress of the performance has not been observed in the expansion of the circle of subjects bound by the norms on assets declarations, as the present legislative requirements do not apply to all prosecutors. The recommendation was also considered not to be implemented regarding the clear provisions of disciplinary liability and the proportionality of sanctions. As for the two partially implemented recommendations, GRECO determined the following shortcomings: regulatory norms of appointment and promotion of prosecutors are still quite vague and envisages too large discretionary powers to the General Prosecutor; notwithstanding the adoption of the Code of Ethics of the Prosecution Service, no explanatory guidelines have been introduced to ensure their implementation in practice.
Under the GRECO procedures, within the next 18 months, the Georgian authorities have to take additional measures to fully implement recommendations. IDFI calls on the Government of Georgia to actively cooperate with civil society and take all necessary measures for implementing GRECO recommendations. In parallel, IDFI will continue to actively advocate relevant reforms and amendments to ensure the prevention of corruption in the legislative, judicial and prosecutorial processes.
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