Appeal of NGOs to the Parliament of Georgia regarding the approval of candidate for the position of the Chief Prosecutor - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

Appeal of NGOs to the Parliament of Georgia regarding the approval of candidate for the position of the Chief Prosecutor

25 November, 2015

 

With the aim of ensuring the independence of the Prosecutor’s Office, this year the Government of Georgia has launched a reform of the prosecution system. The Ministry of Justice prepared a concept for reforming the prosecution system, followed by a draft law on amendments to the Law of Georgia on the Prosecutor’s Office. As is known, the Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary gave a negative assessment to both the reform concept [f1] and the draft amendments[f2] , as the reform failed to ensure the depoliticization and independence of the prosecution system. The remarks expressed by the NGOs were not taken into account in the process of the reform, while the recommendations of the Venice Commission were only reflected in the draft law in a fragmentary manner, which was not sufficient for ensuring genuine independence of the prosecution system at the legislative level.

In the view of the Coalition, the process of practical implementation of the aforementioned legislative amendments was fraught with deficiencies. In particular, the process of election of members of the Prosecutors’ Council by the Prosecutors’ Conference and of selection of candidates for the position of the Chief Prosecutor by the Prosecutors’ Council were not open and transparent, which raised questions regarding the ongoing process.

The Prosecutors’ Conference held a session to elect eight prosecutor members of the Prosecutors’ Council. Despite the fact that the session itself was open to external observers, the most important part of the process – nomination of candidates for membership by initiative groups – was conducted behind closed doors; accordingly, it remains unknown to the observers under what circumstances and on the basis of what motivation the candidates for the positions of members of the Prosecutors’ Council were nominated and how fair the internal procedures were. The Coalition has already responded [f3] to the foregoing and given a negative assessment to this process.  

In addition to the fact that the law didn’t provide for safeguards of genuine independence of the Prosecutors’ Council, at the very beginning of the process, the MPs in the parliamentary minority refused to use the quota that the law allocates for them (one member of the Council), which considerably diminished the degree of representation of the Prosecutors’ Council. Several NGOs also refused to nominate candidates for the position of the Chief Prosecutor. Such position of the organizations was caused by incorrect legislative regulation of the process of selection of the Chief Prosecutor and by a number of deficiencies which rendered participation in the process meaningless.

The deficiencies revealed at each stage of the process cast a significant shadow on the process of election of members of the Prosecutor’s Council in an open and free environment and, accordingly, on the legitimacy of the Council.

On November 19, 2015, the Prosecutors’ Council held a session at which the Council members discussed the issue of election of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia. The process of election, including the stages of nomination of candidates by the Minister of Justice and the interviews with the candidates, was not open and transparent. A statement released by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia before the said session of the Prosecutors’ Council said that the process of election of the Chief Prosecutor would be open and all interested persons would be able to observe the said process. In spite of this, the Prosecutor’s Council only opened the part of the November 19 session when the procedure of secret casting of lots was conducted, while the process of the interviews with the candidates remained closed to observation. It should be noted that holding closed sessions is provided for in the Council’s regulation, which was approved by an order of the Minister of Justice. We believe that holding closed sessions of the Prosecutors’ Counci, an independent and collegial body, contradicts the statutory principle of openness of sessions of collegial bodies, which is provided for by Article 32 of the General Administrative Code of Georgia.

In addition, the violation of the principle of openness contradicts the declared goals of the reform itself: introduction of a new procedure of election of the Chief Prosecutor, creation of an independent collegial body – the Prosecutors’ Council, and giving the Prosecutor’s Council the right to take part in the selection of the Chief Prosecutor were supposed to result in the election of the Chief Prosecutor through open and transparent procedures and, consequently, in the depoliticization of the process of election of the Chief Prosecutor. Considering these arguments, and due to the importance of this issue and the high public interest in it, we consider it unjustified that the most important stages of the process of election of the Chief Prosecutor were closed to the public.

It should also be said that the public has questions about the effectiveness of the past activity of the Prosecutor’s Office, on the one hand, and about its political neutrality, on the other. A number of high-profile cases still await effective legal response and results. At the same time, a number of cases give rise to doubts regarding selective justice, the responsibility for which lies on the current management of the Prosecutor’s Office, among other actors.

Considering all the foregoing, we call upon members of the Parliament of Georgia to take into account a number of deficiencies which accompanied the nomination and selection of candidates and due to which a number of groups refused to take part in this process when it examines candidates for the position of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia. The Parliament must share the political responsibility for the decision they are going to make. It is also important that the Parliament plan and ensure the implementation of a genuine reform of the prosecution system based on the experience obtained as a result of this fact and that it take necessary steps for ensuring the independence of the prosecution system.

Successful implementation of any reform requires broad public support for and confidence in the reform, which we don’t see in this case. The process of the reform of the Prosecutor’s Office – both the ineffective reform at the legislative level and the deficiencies in its implementation in practice – has cast a significant shadow on the success of the reform and on the emergence of public confidence in this process.

 

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA)

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)

Transparency International Georgia

Human Rights Center

Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)

Article 42 of the Constitution

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)

 
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