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Round Table on the Selection of Supreme Court Judges

On 16 May 2019, the Public Defender of Georgia held a round table and discussed the opinions of the OSCEOffice for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on the draft law on the selection of Supreme Court judges of Georgia.

Members of Parliament, representatives of civil society, international organizations, diplomatic corps and other stakeholders evaluated the current situation and planned further steps. The event was led by Deputy Public Defender of Georgia Giorgi Burjanadze.

The round table was opened by Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, Chairman of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze and Deputy Head of the Democratization Department of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, MeaghanFitzgerald.

OSCE/ODIHR Legislative Support Officer Anne-Lise Chatelain spoke about the reformation of the process of selection of judges in compliance with international human rights standards and OSCE commitments.

ODIHR Experts - Andras Sajo, Professor of Central European University and former judge of the European Court of Human Rights, and Michèle Rivet, Honorary Member and former Vice-President of the International Commission of Jurists and former President of the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, introduced the main findings and recommendations on the selection of Supreme Court judges of Georgia. The final part of the meeting was held in an interactive question&answer mode.

The Public Defender of Georgia addressed the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to present a legal assessment on the draft law on the selection of judges of the Supreme Court of Georgia on 27 March 2019. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights published its legal opinion on April 17. The document provides detailed assessment of the compliance of the draft law with international and regional standards, as well as with the obligations undertaken by the country within the OSCE.

The opinions of the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights were introduced by the Public Defender at the plenary sitting of the Parliament of Georgia on 19 April 2019, before the adoption of the draft law in the second reading. Part of the opinions were reflected in the draft law adopted in the third reading, including: the Supreme Court judicial candidate will no longer be required to pass a judicial qualification examination, information obtained about the candidate will be provided to the Parliament, non-members of the Legal Issues Committee of the Parliament will be able to ask questions to the candidates, the issue of conflict of interest has been partially regulated, the procedure of election of the Supreme Court Chair has been determined.

It should be noted that the law does not include the important principles recommended by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, among which we would like to emphasize the secret and unsubstantiated decision-making on the selection of candidates by the High Council of Justice, the lack of opportunity to appeal against the decisions and non-determination of criteria for electing the Supreme Court Chairperson.

The Public Defender expresses hope that today’s discussion will help to improve the legislative framework and practice relating to the selection of Supreme Court judges in the future.

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