'Important recommendations not yet taken into account' - Venice Commission on judicial reform in Georgia
On judicial reform in Georgia
The Venice Commission has published a new opinion on the amendments to the Organic Law on Courts of General Jurisdiction in Georgia, noting that important recommendations have not been taken into account.
Conclusions of the Venice Commission:
● The Commission wishes to emphasize the priority of the first key recommendation, which concerns the comprehensive reform of the High Council of Justice. A similar requirement was set by the EU Commission in its opinion on Georgia’s application for EU accession. This recommendation is not included in either the June 2023 or September 2023 amendments.
● Comprehensive reform of the High Council of Justice means effectively responding to persistent allegations of dishonesty of the High Council of Justice, revising its powers, functions, decision-making procedures and the manner in which members are elected.
● Minor or technical amendments to the law will not satisfy this recommendation. The reform process should be thorough and inclusive, involving all relevant stakeholders.
● The second key recommendation was to limit the broad powers of the High Council of Justice when judges are transferred or seconded to another court – this recommendation also remains unaddressed.
● The third recommendation was to revise the procedure for dismissal of judges. The Commission welcomes the changes and considers that this recommendation has been implemented.
● The fourth recommendation was to limit the grounds for disciplinary liability of a judge in relation to a judge’s violation of the principle of “political neutrality”. This recommendation has been partially implemented. However, if the proposals included in the draft amendments of September 2023 are adopted, these recommendations will be fairly consistent.
● The fifth recommendation was to strengthen the binding nature of Supreme Court decisions. This recommendation has been partially implemented, and an additional amendment may be made to explicitly provide that the High Council of Justice must abide by Supreme Court decisions rendered after appeal.
“The Commission welcomes some of the amendments adopted in June 2023 as well as those of September 2023, but notes that important previous recommendations have not yet been addressed. The Commission calls on the authorities to pursue the reform strategy without undue delay,” the opinion reads.
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Comment from a lawyer
Guram Imnadze, Center for Social Justice: “The Venice Commission has published a very important assessment summarizing the legislative changes made in Georgian justice over the past year.
Before going directly to the content of the evaluation, I will say in general that the “language” of the Commission is becoming more and more clear, which minimizes the room for double interpretation or unfair reading of the text.
As for the content of the document, the Venice Commission actually shares all the criticism that local civil organizations have been voicing for years.
But for me, it is the language of the document that is most important. This assessment is so subtle and critical that if I were our legislators, I would be very ashamed of the statements in which we have been led to believe that they have done everything they could, that justice is all right and now only “bonus reforms” remain to be done.”