Ruling party Georgian Dream leaders Irakli Kobakhidze, Archil Talakvadze and Shalva Papuashvili, participants in the political dialogue relating to the selection of Supreme Court judges, have issued a statement in a response to the recent criticism by the country’s foreign partners, the EU and the US, regarding the process and complaints that this move goes against the April 19 agreement mediated by European Council President Charles Michel.
“Today, Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, our main strategic partner, released a statement saying that the election of Supreme Court judges contradicts the April 19 political agreement.
“We would like to express our deep respect for the Secretary of State and, in agreement with the party’s political team, we would like to clarify once again the motive for the relevant decision of the parliamentary majority.
“As the public is aware, in March 2021, there were active negotiations around the content of the April 19 agreement. We – Irakli Kobakhidze, Archil Talakvadze and Shalva Papuashvili personally agreed the points related to the selection of Supreme Court judges with international partners. In particular, according to the agreement, the ongoing process of selecting Supreme Court judges was to be “paused”, the selection procedure was to be revised in accordance with the key recommendations of the Venice Commission, additional candidates were to be allowed to submit applications on the basis of the amended law and only then the selection process was to be continued.
“During the negotiations, it was emphasized that in case of acting in accordance with the above agreement, the ongoing process of selection of judges would no longer be meaningless and the existing composition of the High Council of Justice would be given the opportunity to complete the procedure!
“This oral agreement was reflected in the first draft political agreement published by Christian Danielsson on March 31 and the Georgian Dream started to act in accordance of the agreement in March, even before the signing of the document, and submitted the relevant bill to the Georgian Parliament on March 24.
“On March 31, when Christian Danielsson left Georgia and published the initial draft political agreement, the Chairman of the Georgian Dream made a public statement that the party would make legislative changes related to the elections and the judiciary without signing any political agreement.
“Based on the promise and the document published by Christian Danielsson, the parliamentary majority completed the process and adopted amendments to the Organic Law on Common Courts in three readings in April.
“The law passed by the Parliament thoroughly reflects all the key recommendations of the Venice Commission: full openness and publicity of voting has been introduced; A rule for making decisions by the High Council of Justice according to the nominees’ scores has been introduced; A quadruple appeal rule relating to the decision made by the Council decisions has been introduced.
“The bill passed by the Parliament was sent to the Venice Commission, which did not submit any remarks on any of the above points.
“Although the Parliament of Georgia had already fulfilled all the conditions stipulated in the draft political agreement by April 19, the text published on March 31 remained unchanged in the agreement signed on April 19. Georgian Dream informed its international partners about these and other similar circumstances, and we requested that they sign the April 19 agreement without additional amendments, so that the amendments would not cause additional political complications, and the inaccuracies in the document would be clarified during the implementation process.
“We took the request of the partners into account. It was as a result of this oral agreement, for example, that the four-month deadlock mechanism was replaced by a four-week mechanism in the Electoral Code.
“Thus, all the conditions of the political agreement were strictly fulfilled: the government “refrained” from appointing judges of the Supreme Court in accordance with the old rules; In accordance with the recommendation agreed with international partners, the High Council of Justice “paused” the interview process; Parliament passed a law outlining all three key recommendations of the Venice Commission; The new law also allowed additional candidates to participate in the application and selection process.
“Accordingly, the procedures for nominating candidates for judges of the Supreme Court were conducted in accordance with the Constitution of Georgia, the legislation and the political agreement.
“The above-mentioned circumstance imposed an obligation on the Parliament of Georgia to act in accordance with the Constitution of Georgia and to elect judges of the Supreme Court,” reads the statement.
The authors note that the statements and assessments relating to the selection of Supreme Court judges are “surprising and disturbing.”
“It is worrying that due to the unscrupulous actions of individual officials, the structures of our main strategic partner country are being provided with distorted information about the implementation of the political agreement. Such actions threaten any dialogue that may take place in the future around various domestic issues,” they say.
Georgian Parliament approved six of nine Supreme Court judges on July 12.
Civil society and diplomats have called on the Georgian parliament not to elect judges to the Supreme Court until a judicial reform under European Council President Charles Michel’s document is carried out. Based on the April 19 agreement, “all current appointments to the Supreme Court should be suspended and applications for new candidates resumed after the new law enters into force.”