Public defender urges court to declare rule on selection of Supreme Court judges unlawful

Public Defender Nino Lomjaria says that her office appealed to the Georgian Constitutional Court on November 1. Photo: Public Defender’s press office., 11 Nov 2019 - 17:11, Tbilisi,Georgia

 The Georgian Public Defender’s office has appealed to the Constitutional Court to declare the rule on the selection of Supreme Court judges unlawful as the current regulation “violates the right of a Georgian citizen to hold public office, to have access to a fair trial and it violates the principle of an independent and impartial trial.”

The statement by Ombudsperson Nino Lomjaria comes amid hearings of 20 candidates for the Supreme Court judge in parliament who had been selected by the High Council of Justice [the body responsible for selection and appointment of judges in Georgia] after the adoption of the new bill back in May 2019.

The new law, which was drafted by Georgian Dream ruling party MPs earlier this year, included recommendations of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Lomjaria says that her office addressed the court on November 1 2019 and the “constitutional lawsuit is based on the findings of the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), as well as the factual circumstances identified as a result of monitoring the selection process (by the Public Defender of Georgia, OSCE/ODIHR).”

Lomjaria says that the existing law on the selection of judges allows 15 members of the High Council of Justice to select judges through secret ballot. 

Georgian parliament must approve the judges for the Georgian Supreme Court. Photo: Georgian Supreme Court. 

Thus, the council members are not obliged to explain why they voted for one candidate and did not vote for another candidate. Candidates are also deprived of the right to appeal the decision of the High Council of Justice in court if they think that the council had made unfair decisions,” Lomjaria said.

A non-judge member of the High Council of Justice, Anna Dolidze, who has been critical of the new law and the judge members of the High Council of Justice, has stated that the Public Defender’s Office is late and its recent appeal to the court will make no influence on the 20-person list of judges which is on the verge of voting in the legislative body.

The Public Defender should have made statements against the law earlier and taken the step. However, if the constitutional court declares the rule unconstitutional the decision will influence the selection process of judges in the future.” Dolidze said.

Members of the ruling party say that the law on the selection of Supreme Court judges is mostly in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.

The Georgian Dream MPs offered the new bill after the presentation of the list of 10 judges for the Supreme Court by the High Council of Justice back in December 2018.

The list was criticized by many as it included several judges “connected with biased judiciary under the former, United National Movement state leadership.”

The Georgian Dream appealed to the Venice Commission to write its recommendations regarding its bill so that the bill to include the interests of all the parties involved.

Judges for the Supreme Court of Georgia must be selected by the High Council of Justice and then approved by parliament.

Currently there are 11 judges in the Supreme Court, while their number should be 28.