NGOs respond to information disseminated in connection with a report of the Venice Commission - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

NGOs respond to information disseminated in connection with a report of the Venice Commission

11 March, 2013

For immediate release

March 11, Tbilisi – TI Georgia, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, and Georgian Lawyers for Independent Profession welcome the views of the Venice Commission regarding a draft law prepared by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia which is aimed at reforming the judicial system in Georgia.

Although the official version of the report of the Venice Commission is yet to be released, the information that has been disseminated enables us to say that the essence and principles of the aforementioned draft law have been approved.

As far as is known to the public, a large part of the draft law elaborated by the Ministry of Justice reflects the recommendations that NGOs have accumulated as a result of years-long studies of serious problems in the judicial system. As a result of taking these recommendations into account, the law will increase the role of individual judges; journalists will be allowed to broadcast trials that are interesting for them; important steps will be taken for the depoliticization of the High Council of Justice, as neither the President will have the right to appoint members and nor MPs will be entitled to become members of the Council; the role the judges’ self-government will increase, and the President of the Supreme Court will no longer have the exclusive powers to nominate candidates for membership of the High Council of Justice – this right will be held by each judge and the Conference of Judges will elect candidates of them choosing through secret ballot; etc.

Apparently, the Venice Commission has given a positive assessment to all the said novelties. In addition, there is an issue that has caused a controversy and become an object of political discussions in Georgia. In particular, should the powers of all the current members of the High Council of Justice be terminated early? According to the said draft law, the powers of all members should be terminated early. The parliamentary minority had a different attitude to the issue and didn’t support the termination of the powers of any members of the Council. We think that, according to disseminated information, the Venice Commission offers Georgia a model which is closest to the position of the non-governmental sector and which we are stating once again: It will be better to terminate the powers of those members of the High Council of Justice who have been elected by the Conference of Judges and don’t perform administrative functions.

We believe that, considering the positions of the Venice Commission and the local non-governmental sector, it is necessary to find the resources for ensuring the adoption of the aforementioned draft law by means of reaching an agreement as much as possible among the positions of the judiciary branch, the government, and the parliamentary majority and minority rather than in the mode of severe confrontation. It is a welcome fact that there are certain positive trends in this regard, and we, in our turn, express our readiness to contribute to this process as much as we can.