CSOs Propose Judicial Reform Concept

Seven local civil society organizations on March 17 outlined a reform concept of the Georgian judiciary, addressing “institutional and functional problems which obstruct judicial independence and the ability of judges to exercise their professional authority.”

The third sector called for introducing merit-based election criteria and transparency into the appointment process of Supreme Court judges and the members of the High Council of Justice, a body overseeing the judiciary. The CSOs highlighted that the top court justices, as well as those HCoJ members who are elected through the parliamentary quota, shall receive support from both legislative majority and minority.

The CSOs also advocated for decentralizing the power concentrated in the hands of the HCoJ, to “ensure the individual independence of judges,” stressing that court chairpersons must for example be elected by its judges rather than by the Council.

To tackle “the closed nature” of the Georgian judiciary, the third sector recommended the introduction of a “clear and non-discriminatory mechanism” for the inflow of new and qualified employees into the judicial system, by detailing the admission criteria for the HCoJ in the legislation, and substantially reforming the High School of Justice.

The CSOs said case overload in the judiciary increases “the risk of negligence, mistakes and failure,” and proposed determining the optimal number of judges in common courts based on the inflow of cases, as well as improving the electronic system of case distribution, among others.

The authors of the proposed judicial reform concept include Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia), Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Human Rights Centre (HRC), and Partnership for Human Rights (PHR).

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