Georgia’s partners criticise Supreme Court changes

The Georgian parliament’s decision to approve 14 new appointments to the country’s Supreme Court are regrettable, disappointing and against the recommendations of the international community, Titus Corlatean and Claude Kern, the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have said.

“The [Georgian] parliament has appointed 14 out of 19 candidates, without proper reasoning and reportedly including persons who have not demonstrated during the selection process that they have the legal knowledge and independence required for such an important position. This can only be deplored,” Mr Corlatean and Mr Kern said in a statement, adding that they previously advised the Georgian parliament to appoint only the minimum number of judges needed to ensure the functioning of the Supreme Court.

The two PACE co-rapporteurs on Georgia stressed that it was now important to adopt the recommendations of the Venice Commission on not just the selection of Supreme Court judges, but the selection of all judges in general in Georgia to restore the trust of the public.

“The selection procedure did not adhere to all recommendations made by the Venice Commission and was characterised by key shortcomings, including a lack of transparency that undermines a genuinely merit-based nomination process. A number of the appointed candidates do not enjoy broad public trust, as was obvious in the course of the selection process,” Peter Stano, the lead spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, noting that while the hearings carried out in the Georgian parliament were transparent, “more efforts should have been devoted to justify the choice of candidates ahead of the final vote.”

In a statement published on December 13, the US Embassy in Georgia said that the Georgian parliament’s vote had resulted “in a slate of nominees that did not fully represent the best qualified candidates” while some of the approved candidates “were unable to demonstrate sufficiently their legal expertise or a commitment to impartiality.”

On December 12, Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party (GD) voted to approve 14 candidates to serve at the Supreme Court for life which Georgian opposition parties and rights groups say will cement the influence of the ruling party in a key institution of the country’s legal system.

Speaking at a pro-government rally celebrating Georgia’s PACE chairmanship on December 15, Georgian justice minister Thea Tsulukiani called on Europe to respect the independent decision of Georgia’s lawmakers.