Venice Commission publishes view on already adopted Georgian court law

The Georgian Parliament requested the Venice Commission to present its view on the Georgian court law. Photo: CoE., 09 Oct 2020 - 16:17, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe has released its opinion on the Georgian amendments to the court system which were adopted in September 2020, expressing worries that the Georgian parliament did not wait for its assessments. 

The Georgian parliament requested the Venice Commission to provide its views on the court bill on September 22, while the bill was adopted in its third and final reading on September 30. 

The Venice Commission was willing to assist the Georgian authorities in reforming the system of the appointment of Supreme Court judges in line with European standards and meeting the domestic calendar. However, owing to the extremely limited amount of time it disposed as a result of the belated opinion request, the commission could not but limit the scope of its analysis of the draft amendments to the examination of whether its previous recommendations had been met in the draft amendments under consideration,” said the Venice Commission. 

Ruling party MP, former Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze has stated that the adoption of changes was important for the proper continuation of the court reform. 

We have informed the Venice Commission, our partners that the current parliament of Georgia was completing its work (as there are parliamentary elections on October 31). We would have no other time to adopt the changes. It was stated initially that the Venice Commission would be able to present the assessment in a week-time. However, this did not happen, Kobakhidze said, adding that the  recommendations of the Venice Commission were reflected the amendments. 

The previous recommendations of the Venice Commission on the selection process of Georgian Supreme Court Judges included the abolishment of secret balloting of candidates in the High Council of Justice of Georgia, making the information on the qualification of candidates public  and ensuring objective criteria in the selection process of judges. 

The ruling party MPs says that the parliament which will be elected at the end of the month will consider the recommendations.

The recently released opinion of the Venice Commission reads that the candidates should be ranked according to the scores they have obtained during the evaluation procedure.

 This will allow a list of the best candidates to be presented to parliament (for the final vote) and the recommendation that ‘reasoned decisions regarding the selection and exclusion of candidates must be produced’, the draft amendments go in the right direction by removing the vote by secret ballot and by providing that each vote must be accompanied by written reasoning which is made public,” said the Venice Commission. 

Venice Commission says that to provide for a judicial appeal against the decisions by the High Council of Justice of Georgia (which is responsible for the selection of candidates) not to select a candidate judge, it is further necessary: - to provide for the disclosure, together with the vote and the reasoning, the identity of the member of the HCoJ who cast the vote. 

Venice Commission says that the requirement for non-judge candidates to have passed the judicial qualification examination should be reconsidered.

The commission says that only “the specialist of distinguished qualification in the field of law” may be non-judge candidates for the Supreme Court. 

Persons with such qualifications should not be forced to sit an examination to prove that they are capable of dealing with points of law, which is the essence of the work of a Supreme Court,” says the commission. 

See the full recommendations here.