Parliament Appoints Six Supreme Court Judges Despite Int’l Condemnation

The ruling Georgian Dream party has pushed through six judicial appointments for the Supreme Court in today’s extraordinary session at the Parliament, despite international warnings the move would contradict the April 19 EU-brokered deal.

Georgian lawmakers appointed six justices, Gocha Abuseridze, Giorgi Gogiashvili, Levan Tevzadze, Revaz Nadaraia, Bidzina Sturua and Lasha Kochiashvili for a lifetime tenure at the top court. They turned down three candidates, Eka Zarnadze, Ketevan Meskhishvili and Giorgi Shavliashvili.

Nika Simonishvili, Head of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), told that the Georgian Dream “rushed” the appointments in an attempt to “staff the Supreme Court with as many loyal judges as possible,” a move that would have been otherwise rendered impossible by the forthcoming “fundamental reforms” in the judiciary.

ODIHR said earlier on July 9 the selection process of the Supreme Court justices did not meet the commitments taken under the EU-brokered deal. But the ruling party lawmakers, including Chair Irakli Kobakhidze, had argued that amendments to Common Courts legislation, passed in April before signing the agreement, were in line with Venice Commission recommendationsmeaning that GD had already fulfilled its obligations for reforms and could move on with appointments.  

The High Council of Justice submitted the candidates to the legislature on June 17. The hearings for the nominees began on July 6.

Public Defender’s Office had announced it would not participate in the process “given the acute unresolved institutional problems in the judiciary” and until “the fundamental reform of the High Council of Justice is not carried out and the management of the judiciary by an influential group of judges is not over.” 

Later, on July 2, the Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting some 40 local CSOs, stated it had turned down the offer to participate in the working group for the selection process, arguing that individual organizations would decide whether or not to get involved. GYLA was the only CSO from the Coalition to partake.

The appointments coincided with a tense day at the Georgian Parliament as the opposition demands the resignation of the Government, following the death of Aleksandre Lashkarava, a TV Pirveli cameraman brutally assaulted by far-right radicals a week ago.

By the time it got to voting, major opposition groups, the United National Movement and the Lelo-led Partnership for Georgia faction had already left the plenary hall. UNM’s Khatia Dekanoidze was cited as saying the party will no longer participate in any legislative work besides constitutional amendments and a vote of confidence.

The day was also marred by a skirmish that broke out between the ruling party and opposition lawmakers at the Parliament.

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