The Venice Commission has published its preliminary assessment of changes to the Constitutional Court of Georgia, which the country’s Parliament approved on May 14.
The Commission said the amendments outlined in the bill "bring about a number of very positive changes, which are welcome”.
These "positive changes” included:
- A new election system for president of the Court, which ensures a real choice for judges electing their president;
- The systematic publication of dissenting and concurring opinions;
- The introduction of an automatic case-distribution system; and
- The entry into force of acts of the Constitutional Court upon their publication on the website of the Court.
The Commission added there were other provisions that need to be amended so the Constitutional Court risks being prevented from exercising its constitutional task. These included:
- A strict limitation of the term of the judges should be only introduced together with a constitutional amendment providing that the outgoing judge continues in office until the new judge enter into office and the provision which reduces the powers of the judges during the last three months of their term should be removed;
- The requirement of a minimum of six votes for the taking of decisions in the plenary session should be lowered; and
- The provision enabling a single judge to refer a case to the plenary session should be amended. The requirement of a motivated decision should be removed and a simple majority of the judges of the plenary session should be able to reject such a request.
The Venice Commission added that "in view of the short deadline”, this urgent preliminary opinion could only deal with certain aspects of the amendments to the Organic Law on the Constitutional Court and to the Law on Constitutional Legal Proceedings of Georgia.
"This opinion therefore examines in the light of European standards whether these amendments are detrimental to the proper functioning of the Constitutional Court which is essential for the separation of powers in a democratic State,” the Commission said.
"The Venice Commission remains at the disposal of the Georgian authorities for further assistance in this matter.”