“It is puzzling why the appointments of judges continue to go forward when Georgia’s leaders have acknowledged that there is more work to be done to ensure a transparent, accountable, merit-based judicial system,” US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan told reporters.
“We are very disappointed that this continues to go forward. Georgia’s leaders have agreed that there is a need to continue the judicial reform that Georgia has been doing for the last fifteen years. They negotiated and agreed on a roadmap for judicial reform in the April 19th Agreement—that remains a very useful roadmap—every element in that is based on the recommendations of international and domestic legal experts, many of those, the Venice Commission recommendations, were requested by parliament, so these are in fact international recommendations in line with international legal standards that parliament itself requested. So, it is puzzling why these appointments continue to go forward when Georgia’s leaders have acknowledged that there is more work to be done to ensure a transparent, accountable, merit-based judicial system. That’s what the people of Georgia deserve. And we have, I think, been very clear in our statements in saying: please do the work that’s necessary to know how best to improve Georgia’s judicial system, how best to ensure that there is transparency, accountability, and merit-based, impartial decisions by Georgia’s judicial system”, she said.
According to her, a transparent and impartial judiciary is also important in terms of attracting investment to the country.
“We are working very hard at the United States Embassy to try to increase investment in Georgia, to stimulate the economy, and generate good jobs for the people of Georgia, a key element in that is a fair, impartial, transparent judicial system,” said the Ambassador.
Earlier, the US Embassy in Tbilisi released a statement, expressing disapointment due to the fact that “once again Parliament is moving forward with Supreme Court appointments before it has completed an independent assessment of the previous waves of judicial reform, as Parliament’s leaders agreed to do.”
“We are also concerned that judicial appointments are proceeding without the participation of non-judge members of the High Council of Justice. While the High Council and Parliament have rushed through appointment of judges over the past year, there has been no action on non-judge appointments despite the positions being vacant for months. The people of Georgia, through the non-judge High Council members, are supposed to have a voice in the selection of these influential and important judges, who are being appointed to lifetime positions on the Supreme Court. The exclusion of independent voices from this process adds to the impression that Supreme Court judicial appointments are being made without meaningful transparency, accountability, or impartiality.
“Before any further Supreme Court judges are appointed, we strongly encourage Parliament to prioritize the appointment of impartial, independent, non-judge members to the High Council of Justice, and complete an independent assessment of the previous waves of reform by Spring 2022. Important work has been done since independence to strengthen Georgia’s judicial branch, with the assistance of the United States and others. Georgia’s closest partners and supporters, as well as Georgia’s political leaders, are united in agreeing that judicial reform needs to continue. The goal now must be to build an impartial, transparent, merit-based judicial system that the people of Georgia can have full confidence in and that allows the full participation of the many qualified, ethical judges and lawyers who work with integrity to promote the rule of law,” reads the statement.
By Ana Dumbadze