NGOs Demand Resignation of Justice Minister

A number of Georgia-based non-governmental organizations are refusing to participate in the selection process of a new Chief Prosecutor unless Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani resigns. The NGOs claim Tsulukiani cannot ensure the selection of an unbiased candidate.

The selection of a new Chief Prosecutor became necessary after the former Chief Prosecutor, Irakli Shotadze, resigned amid last week’s large-scale protest rallies in Tbilisi held in solidarity with the families of two teenagers, Davit Saralidze and Levan Dadunashvili, who were stabbed to death in Tbilisi in December. Shotadze resigned after Tbilisi City Court released its decision on May 31 that Saralidze’s murderer was not among the two minors detained in the case. The court find one of the detained guilty of Dadunashvili’s murder, and the second was found guilty for the attempted murder of Saralidze.

14 NGOs requested Tsulukiani’s resignation after not being asked for their involvement in the process of selecting the next Chief Prosecutor.

The organizations say if the government is trying to find a way out of this crisis and make real changes, it is necessary to dismiss the Minister of Justice and conduct an inclusive and transparent process for the selection of a Chief Prosecutor.

The non-governmental sector claims Tsulukiani’s work is ineffective, as this is the fifth Chief Prosecutor to be replaced during her term.

“This is why participation in the selection of the Chief Prosecutor and involvement in consultation with the Minister of Justice is principally unacceptable for us NGOs," said Sulkhan Saladze, Head of the NGO Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association.

He added that the NGOs will be involved in the process of selecting the Chief Prosecutor only if the Minister of Justice is replaced.

Eka Gigauri, Head of Transparency International Georgia, said at a joint news conference of NGOs that Tsulukiani had failed to carry out an effective justice reform and must be dismissed.

“We urge the government to dismiss the Minister of Justice, as for years, she has been unable to deal with the important mission of implementing reforms in the justice sector,” she added.

Public Defender Nino Lomjaria stated that if the NGOs do not participate in the process of selecting the Chief Prosecutor, this process will not be trusted by society. “The government should take all steps to gain the confidence of the NGOs,” she said.

"The recent developments have been caused by serious problems in the system, gaps in investigative agencies and serious mistrust from society,” Lomjaria noted. “The government should choose a Chief Prosecutor who will not raise any questions and will be acceptable to the public,” the Ombudsman stated.

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili responded to the request of the NGOs, saying it is “unacceptable when a number of NGOs use the language of ultimatum.”

“Their statement reveals an attempt to transfer this issue into the political dimension, which is equally unacceptable. I urge them not to step over the mandate of their purview and, if the transparency of the process is truly their goal, to exercise more responsibility in making decisions,” the statement of the PM reads.

Kvirikashvili added that the request about the Justice Minister’s resignation is “absolutely absurd” and an “irrational demand.”

By Thea Morrison

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07 June 2018 16:40