PACE Monitors on April 19 Deal, Judicial Reform, Local Elections

Welcoming the EU-brokered April 19 agreement, the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlăţean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), called on remaining political parties to sign the deal “without delay” and join its implementation efforts. The United National Movement is the only major opposition party in the Parliament that has refrained from signing.

“Georgia is at a crossroads,” the co-rapporteurs stated, urging all stakeholders to “place the national interest, and the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration project, above the interest and strategies of their parties and personalities.”

“If implemented fully, and in good faith, this agreement could signify a considerable step forward in the country’s democratic consolidation,” the June 8 statement highlighted.

The co-rapporteurs highlighted the importance of implementing “the remaining unaddressed recommendations of the Venice Commission concerning the judiciary especially as regards the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), whose functioning and low level of public trust remain an obstacle for a genuinely independent judiciary.”

Continuing about the Council, the body that oversees Georgia’s judiciary, the co-rapporteurs called on the Georgian Parliament to ensure candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant non-judge positions at the HCoJ are “selected in an inclusive, transparent, consensual and merit-based” process, with wide support from relevant stakeholders and public trust.

Regarding the selection of Supreme Court Judges, the co-rapporteurs welcomed that “practically all recommendations of the Venice Commission with regard to the selection process have now been adopted,” though expressed regret that the selection process commenced before the said amendments were endorsed.

According to the statement, it is now up to the HCoJ to ensure the quality of the selection process for the Supreme Court justices. “The candidates should be selected by a broad consensus and have the full trust of the relevant stakeholders. This is essential for judicial independence,” the co-rapporteurs said.

Touching upon the recent controversial amendments to the Administrative Offenses Code, the PACE monitors recommended drafting entirely new legislation in consultation with the Venice Commission, to replace the existing “highly deficient Soviet-era code.”

With the local self-government elections nearing, the PACE monitors called on “all political forces to ensure that these elections are conducted in a genuinely democratic manner,” especially given the “increased importance” placed on the 2021 polls with the April 19 deal.

The co-rapporteurs also underscored that they intend to visit Georgia following the elections, “with a view to presenting their report on Georgia’s honoring of its Council of Europe obligations and commitments to the Parliamentary Assembly in the spring of 2022.”

Expressing deep concern over the humanitarian and human rights situation in the Russian-occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the PACE monitors reiterated their call on the Kremlin-backed authorities, and Russia, “as the country exercising effective control,” to lift the imposed movement-related restrictions.

The extensive statement followed the PACE monitors’ June 1-3 visit to Georgia, where they held a wide range of meetings with ruling Georgian Dream and opposition parties’ lawmakers.

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