OSCE/ODIHR: Nomination of judges to Georgia’s highest court still marked by shortcomings despite recent improvements

  • ODIHR continues to follow the appointment process, and will sum up its overall findings and recommendations in a final report. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge

Agenda.ge, 10 Jul 2021 - 13:06, Tbilisi,Georgia

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) says the shortcomings in the process of judicial nominations to Georgia’s Supreme Court put the independence of the judiciary in the country at further risk, despite some recent improvements to the transparency and accountability of the process.

ODIHR, which is monitoring the nomination and appointment of 11 Supreme Court judges upon the request of Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, issued its third report yesterday.

A transparent, fair and credible system for selecting judges is fundamental to judicial independence in every country… There was a lack of clear standards and guidelines during this selection process, negatively impacting the equal opportunity of all candidates to succeed”, ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci says.

The report identifies a number of weaknesses in the nomination process over the last six months, noting that legislative changes made during three overlapping appointment processes for 11 seats on the Supreme Court have called their fairness and equality into question.

It says that the hearings continued to be held ‘even after parliament failed to provide a formal legal basis’ for the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) - an independent body responsible for unbiased judiciary - ‘to halt its nomination process for pending vacancies in line with a political agreement reached earlier this year’. 

The assessment notes concerns both about the effectiveness of the procedures and equal treatment that arose during the nomination process. 

Although national legislation provides clear mechanisms to avoid conflicts of interest in the appointment of Supreme Court judges, ODIHR also reports on ‘significant breaches of standards that could undermine both judicial independence and public trust’.

ODIHR has been monitoring the process of nomination and appointment of Supreme Court judges since 2019 to support the national authorities’ efforts to strengthen judicial independence and the rule of law in Georgia. 

Its monitoring assesses the compliance of the judicial nomination procedure with national legislation, as well as with international standards and good practices.

ODIHR continues to follow the appointment process, and will sum up its overall findings and recommendations in a final report.

The ruling party, which supports the election of new judges, says that the Supreme Court is in ‘desperate need’ of new judges because of ‘loads of work’ and that the state legislature adopted major court amendments prior to the EU-mediated agreement which were approved by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.