The existence of an independent and credible judiciary is important not only for rule of law and protection of human rights, but also for a country’s economic development. During almost 30 years since the declaration of Georgia’s independence, the country still has not managed to build an independent judiciary. Regrettably, we are still talking about political influences and corruption in the courts. The latter still do not manage to restrain and control the other branches of government, while judicial decisions do not essentially comply with human rights standards and fairness.
The public is aware of the crisis unfolding in the court system and is skeptical towards the judiciary. The waves of legislative reforms have not significantly altered the system, mainly due to the existence of the clan-based governance in judiciary. After the Georgian Dream’s arrival in power, the same group of judges (the clan), who controlled the system in the times of the United National Movement, retained their power. This group reached a settlement with the new government and continued reshuffling judiciary based on the principle of loyalty. Following the 2012 change of government, the degree of dissent gradually reduced and finally disappeared. The system has become impenetrable for open-minded people. The judicial self-governance, instead of being a mechanism for addressing the problems of the judiciary, turned into a mechanism for strengthening the clan-based governance.
The governance crisis taking place in the court system has been described in the statements and reports of local and international organizations.
The submission of the list of 10 Supreme Court judicial candidates to the Parliament and the process of selection of Supreme Court judges in the second half of 2019 revealed the problems existing in the system. On December 11, 2019, the Coalition called on the Parliament of Georgia to refrain from supporting the list of 20 Supreme Court judicial candidates, whose absolute majority did not meet the requirements established for judges. However, the legislative body confirmed 14 persons loyal to the clan as highest-instance court judges.
After gaining control over the Supreme Court, the High Council of Justice submitted the candidacy of the Chief Justice, whose selection was non-transparent and rushed. Despite the Coalition’s statement, the candidate was supported.
The clan-based governance has now spilled over from the Common Courts to the Constitutional Court of Georgia. In April-May 2020, during the state of emergency and pandemic-related crisis, The Supreme Court Plenum took advantage of the lack of public attention and selected two new Constitutional Court judges – Khvicha Kikalashvili and Vasil Ronishvili, whose qualifications and integrity raise serious concerns. Once again, they were appointed due to the loyalty to the clan.
The Coalition believes that judicial reform has reached a stalemate. The problem can be treated only if it is acknowledged and properly labeled. Therefore, the Coalition calls on the Parliament of Georgia to support the resolution on the recognition of the clan-based governance of the court system and take steps towards the eradicating it and truly reforming the judiciary.
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