“Parliament’s failure to approve the Constitutional amendment aimed at ensuring broad, multi-party support for an impartial Prosecutor General is another missed opportunity to increase the independence, transparency and integrity of Georgia’s judiciary,” reads the statement issued by the US Embassy in Tbilisi.
The US Embassy says judicial reform is essential for Georgia’s European integration.
“The proposed change in the appointment process was recommended for Georgia by the Venice Commission, an international body of legal experts, in a report requested by Parliament, as well as other international experts. Equally as important, all of the political parties that signed the April 19 Agreement, including Georgian Dream, committed to make this change, to increase the public’s confidence in the independence of the Prosecutor General from political interference.
“We take note of opposition leaders’ comments that they were unable to support this important amendment to the Prosecutor General appointment process in order to retain the ruling party’s votes for the other important Constitutional amendments called for in the April 19 Agreement, which pertain to fully proportional elections, a two percent threshold, and factions. Georgian Dream’s refusal to support the Prosecutor General amendment contradicts the party’s July 28 reiteration of its commitment to implement the judicial reforms and adopt the Constitutional amendments laid out in the April 19 Agreement. This is yet another broken promise by the ruling party to make the much-needed judicial reforms that Georgian Dream and opposition party leaders have pledged, of their own accord, to adopt.
“The people of Georgia deserve an impartial, independent judiciary that is not used for political purposes. With an impartial judicial system, the public can have confidence that election results will be upheld fairly, business disputes will be resolved without favoritism, and political opponents will not be targeted unjustly for prosecution. Those qualified professionals in the Prosecutor’s Office, and the court system more broadly, should be allowed to uphold the law without political pressure. The Constitutional amendment reforming the appointment process for the Prosecutor General would have been an important step toward that goal.
“Georgian Dream and opposition parties pledged to renew their efforts to work together in Parliament in good faith to implement key reforms to the judicial system. They should follow through on their commitment to conduct an inclusive, multi-party assessment of the previous waves of judicial reform and develop initiatives that will further improve judicial transparency, impartiality, and accountability. These reforms are essential for Georgia’s European integration and, more importantly, for ensuring the people of Georgia have the impartial, professional justice system they deserve,” reads the statement.
“The European Union regrets that yet another commitment to reform the Judiciary was not upheld today,” stated Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia Carl Hartzell in connection with constitutional amendments passed in the first reading in the Georgian Parliament.
“Today, the Georgian Parliament voted in first reading on a number of important constitutional amendments that were tabled following the 19 April Agreement mediated by the European Union. Unfortunately, the key amendment on the election modalities of the Prosecutor General of Georgia was withdrawn.
“This amendment was due to address the way in which the Prosecutor General of Georgia is appointed, with the ambition to increase the required majority to a qualified majority, in order to ensure the broadest, cross-party support for appointments and to reduce the risk that one party can, alone, appoint a Prosecutor General in the future. This was another measure aimed to increase the independence, transparency and quality of the Judiciary in Georgia. The principles behind this amendment have been a long-standing Venice Commission recommendation. Following Georgian Dream’s withdrawal from the 19 April Agreement, we also took note of the Party’s renewed and public commitment on 28 July, to nevertheless implement the judicial reforms and adopt the initiated constitutional amendments.
“The European Union regrets that yet another commitment to reform the Judiciary was not upheld today. We recall that last July, further appointments to the Supreme Court, alongside those made over the past two years, were assessed by the OSCE/ODIHR “to lack integrity, objectivity and credibility”. Last week, in the context of the non-disbursement of 75 million Euro in EU macro-financial assistance, the EU noted that Georgia failed to sufficiently address the condition for this macro-financial assistance, and notably to increase the independence, accountability and quality of the judicial system. Today’s withdrawal of the amendment is therefore a third setback within only two months, in terms of Georgia’s commitments to reform its Judiciary,” Hartzell said.
On September 7, Parliament passed the planned amendments to the constitutional law with 126 votes in the first reading. At the initiative and decision of the ruling majority, the bill was put to a vote without the clause that provides for the election of the Prosecutor General by a qualified majority – three-fifths of the full membership of Parliament.
With this move, the ruling team rejected another condition provided by the agreement of the President of the European Council Charles Michel.
According to the draft, based on the next two parliamentary elections, the seats of the members of parliament will be distributed to the political parties that will receive 2% of the votes.
By Ana Dumbadze