The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has released its second monitoring report on recent appointment of Supreme Court judges in Georgia, stating that ‘while legal reforms regulating the appointment of Supreme Court judges in Georgia are an important step towards improving the independence of the judiciary, they fail to ensure an impartial process based on clearly defined and objective criteria without the influence of partisan politics'.
The report reads that the final plenary vote on the judicial appointments took place amidst a political crisis, a boycott by the opposition, and widespread calls for an adjournment.
The decision to proceed in the current political environment further calls into question the sincerity of the authorities’ stated aim to have an open, transparent process that garners wide political support and builds public confidence in the judiciary,” ODIHR says.
“We were asked to undertake an independent assessment of the judicial appointments process in Georgia at a critical period in the country’s political development,” said ODIHR Director Ingibjorg Solrun Gísladottir. “We identified numerous shortcomings on which I hope to be following up with the Georgian authorities in the near future. With our recommendations, we aim to contribute to improvements to the legal framework for judicial appointments, and above all the need for any decisions on the system to be taken in an atmosphere of collegiality and dialogue.”
A row around the candidates of the Georgian Supreme Court started at the end of 2018.
ODIHR says that following the completion of the nomination process before the High Council of Justice (HCJ) and the finalization of the first report on the appointment process, ODIHR’s monitoring team went on to observe the hearings of the 20 HCJ nominees, the committee vote, and the final plenary vote.
Despite some positive aspects, their overall assessment found that neither the HCJ nor the parliament took sufficient measures to ensure objectivity, fairness, or consistency during the selection process.
On the positive side, ODIHR says that the hearings before the HCJ and parliament were “generally open and transparent, and enabled public scrutiny of the candidates and the overall process”.
The parliament also invited representatives of key organizations involved, including the ombudsperson’s office, civil society, the legal community, and academia, all of whom positively contributed to the quality and openness of the hearings.
However, ODIHR stated that the fact that parliament played a decisive role in the judicial appointments, and likewise that the process was not safeguarded from partisan politics, was at odds with international good practice.