Roland Akhalaia was found guilty
The Supreme Court found guilty the member of the Parliament of Georgia Roland Akhalaia. It comes to the period when Akhalaia was Head of Regional Prosecutors Office.
According to the statement by the Supreme Court, Supreme Court ruled that Roland Akhalaia exceeded his official authority, causing substantial damage to the legitimate interest of the state and the rights of citizens.
Georgia: Statement by the Spokesperson on the appointment of Supreme Court judges
On Wednesday, the Parliament of Georgia appointed four Supreme Court judges for a life-long term. Such appointments, made before the existing shortcomings in the nomination process were addressed, are not in line with the recommendations of the OSCE/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.
These latest appointments contradict the commitment to ambitious judicial reform made by Georgia’s leaders in the political agreement of 19 April this year, and restated on 28 July. This included addressing issues in the Supreme Court nomination process before proceeding with appointments of the judges. These actions risks further undermining judicial independence and public trust in the Georgian justice system.
The European Union reiterates its calls on the Georgian authorities to strengthen the independence, accountability, and quality of the judicial system, including of the High Council of Justice, through a broad, inclusive and cross party reform process. The European Union reminds that, while it remains fully committed to support Georgia’s reforms in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, the EU’s assistance to Georgia remains conditional on progress on key reforms, including on judiciary.
Statement by the EU Spokesperson
U.S. Embassy Statement on Supreme Court Appointments
The U.S. Embassy is disappointed 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.
US Embassy in Tbilisi
U.S. Embassy Statement on the Appointment of Judges
Parliament’s July 12 decision to approve six Supreme Court judicial nominations, despite an explicit agreement by Georgia’s political leaders in the April 19 Agreement to “refrain from making appointments to the Supreme Court under existing rules”, is extremely disappointing. Unfortunately, this nomination and appointment process, and the failure to undertake inclusive, comprehensive judicial reform, fell short of the commitment Georgia’s leaders, including the ruling party, made to implement the April 19 Agreement in good faith.
The parties agreed to conduct ambitious judicial reform through a broad, transparent process that includes legal experts, civil society, and opposition parties. Unilateral legislative changes, including those adopted against the advice of international partners while the April 19 Agreement was being negotiated, are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Agreement. In particular, the early April amendments to the Organic Law on Common Courts failed to fully address Venice Commission recommendations, including a key recommendation related to staggering judicial appointments.
The failure to pause the appointment process until after comprehensive judicial reform could take place has real consequences. Legal experts and civil society organizations have highlighted that Parliament’s flawed process did not advance the most qualified nominees, resulting in less-qualified judges receiving lifetime appointments on the court. As a July 9 report by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) found, this nomination process, “took place in an environment where there is a lack of public trust in the independence of the judiciary,” and “applications, background checks, and interviews established by the High Council of Justice for these nominations fell short of international standards.” Given this context, it was imperative that Parliament pause the appointment process to allow for inclusive, comprehensive reform reflecting the input of legal experts, civil society, and opposition. Parliament had the authority to do so and a pause would not have unduly burdened the judiciary’s operation. The decision not to do so is therefore very concerning and constitutes a significant missed opportunity to strengthen confidence in Georgia’s judiciary and advance its democratic development.
The United States stands ready to continue our efforts to support Parliament and the people of Georgia in credible efforts to strengthen the judicial system and the rule of law in Georgia.
Statement by the Spokesperson on the appointments of Supreme Court judgesThe Georgian Parliament endorsed six Supreme Court judges on Monday, despite calls by the European Union to pause and revise the appointment process to bring it in line with European standards. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) recently expressed concerns over the fairness and equality of the nomination process in its interim report.The appointments go against key provisions of the 19 April Agreement to pause all ongoing appointments, comply fully with all recommendations made by the Venice Commission, and overall to increase the independence, accountability and quality of the justice system in a broad, inclusive and cross-party reform process.Revising the selection process of Supreme Court judges in line with Venice Commission recommendations before proceeding with appointments, is also a mutually agreed condition for the disbursement of the second tranche of EU macro-financial assistance to Georgia under its current programme, which could be negatively affected by this step.The vote is therefore a missed opportunity for the Georgian authorities to prove their commitment to a genuine and comprehensive reform of the judiciary. These developments carry a risk of damaging judicial independence and public trust.The EU is open to further talks at the highest levels to discuss justice reform and the way ahead following these developments, notably in the context of the 19 April Agreement and decisions regarding EU macro-financial assistance to Georgia.
Venice Commission on Georgian draft Constitution
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (the “Venice Commission”) published today its new draft opinion on the draft Constitution of Georgia as adopted in the second reading in June 2017, as well as on the letter submitted by the Georgian authorities to the Venice Commission on 20 September 2017, in which they committed themselves to consider new amendments.
The Venice Commission in its draft opinion reiterated its previous positive assessment of the draft Constitution, but once again underlined that any major constitutional reform must reach the widest possible consensus.
A major obstacle to reaching consensus, the report says, is the postponement to October 2024 of the entry into force of the proportional system for election of the Parliament. The Venice Commission called it “undoubtedly highly regrettable” as the passage to the proportional system is “the most important aspect of the reform”. “However, the commitment of the parliamentary majority in the letter of 20 September 2017 to consider allowing party blocks, together with the reduction of the election threshold to 3% at the 2020 elections is to be welcomed, since those amendments aim to alleviate the negative effects of the postponement.”
The new complex system for the distribution of unallocated mandates adopted in the second reading reduces the effects of the bonus for the winning party, but still very much favours the strongest party in the country. The bonus system is also a main obstacle to the acceptance of the Constitution by opposition parties and civil society, and the Venice Commission therefore strongly welcomes the commitment of the parliamentary majority to consider abandoning the bonus system altogether and adopting the full proportional distribution system as from 2024. “Such a system would favour pluralism in parliament and be fully in line with European standards. The Venice Commission expects that this step will not only be considered but immediately adopted,” the document says.
The Venice Commission has also welcomed, inter alia, the introduction of the requirement of a qualified majority of 2/3 of the votes of the Election Board in a presidential election; the lifetime appointment for the judges of the Supreme Court; the abolition of probationary periods for judges as from 31 December 2024; and the election of the Public Defender for a longer term (6 years instead of 5) by a qualified majority in parliament.
Additional recommendations provided by the Venice Commission include removing the prohibition of “creation of political parties on territorial grounds”, reconsidering the rules limiting the role of the Constitutional Court in reviewing electoral legislation; and modifying the process of the appointment of Supreme Court judges to better guarantee their independence.