Loading

On 17 September 2014, the Parliament of Georgia discussed the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia providing for the postponement of the full enactment of the jury trials system. Parliamentary Minority MP, Akaki Minashvili, stated:  “The United National Movement was not given the opportunity to nominate members of the High Council of Justice of Georgia as provided by the Venice Commission Report.”

FactCheck

took interest in Mr Minashvili’s statement and verified its accuracy.

The High Council of Justice of Georgia is a body created based upon the Constitution of Georgia and its main functions include the appointment and dismissal of judges and the fulfilment of other tasks as well. The rules for composing the High Council of Justice are provided for by the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts. According to the current version of the law, the High Council of Justice consists of 15 members.  Eight of these members are selected by the conference of judges, five – by the Parliament of Georgia, one is appointed by the President of Georgia and the last one is the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia. The candidate is considered selected by the Parliament of Georgia if he/she receives two-thirds of the votes of the MPs during the first vote. If the first vote proves unable to determine the final composition of the High Council of Justice, a second vote with a simple majority rule is conducted. In addition, at least one of the five selected members must receive two-thirds of the votes. If none of the candidates manages to gather these two-thirds, one position remains vacant and the procedure is restarted.

Mr Minashvili’s statement concerned the Venice Commission Report and the selection of the High Council members by the Parliament of Georgia. In order to assess the accuracy of the MP’s statement, it is necessary to examine the changes in the corresponding law from the very first amendment and to look into the selection procedure of the members of the High Council of Justice by the Parliament of Georgia.

On 29 November 2012, the bill providing for the selection of the six High Council members by simple majority was registered in the Parliament of Georgia. On 3 December 2012, the Permanent Representative of Georgia in the Council of Europe addressed the Venice Commission by letter requesting a report on the aforementioned bill. On 20 December 2012, before the Venice Commission Report was published, the Parliament of Georgia passed the bill by the first hearing.

Later, on 11 March 2013, the Venice Commission Report on the amendments to the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts was published. The Report strictly criticised the dissolution of the acting High Council of Justice. FactCheck also wrote

about this issue earlier. Concerning the selection of the High Council members by the Parliament, the Venice Commission Report says:  “The Venice Commission believes that the Parliamentary component of the Council should be chosen by a qualified majority vote (two-thirds of the votes) with mechanisms for avoiding possible risks or by proportional vote, ensuring the influence of the opposition on the selection of the members. It is the authority of the Government of Georgia to decide which of these methods is more acceptable; however, the risk reduction mechanism must not become an obstacle to reaching an agreement by a qualified majority vote.” Thus, the Commission recommended that the opposition members were included in the selection of the Council members and that at least two-thirds of the votes be necessary for the selection. In addition, the Commission urged the Government to find a way by which the qualified majority vote would not hinder the selection of the Council members.

After the Report was published, the new version of the bill was discussed by the Parliament by a second hearing. The new version provided for the selection of the High Council members by a qualified majority vote. If the first vote proved unable to determine the final composition of the High Council of Justice, a second vote with simple majority rule would be conducted. In addition, it would be necessary that at least two of the selected members received two-thirds of the votes. If this criterion were not met, the procedure would be restarted for the selection of the two remaining members. Finally, on 5 April 2014, the Parliament passed the bill by a third hearing. The then President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, vetoed the bill. The President’s veto was overcome by the Parliament on 1 May 2013. The amendment to the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts was enacted on 20 May 2013.

The Parliamentary Minority had several reasons for not supporting the final version of the bill. First of all, the opposition criticised the dissolution of the acting High Council of Justice. Another issue of confrontation were the rules of selection of the members and the limitations to the candidates. During the discussions of the bill, the United National Movement MPs were insisting that the Parliament was neglecting the recommendations of the Venice Commission.

As pointed out earlier, the Venice Commission recommended for the Parliamentary Minority to also have an influence upon the selection of the High Council of Justice members. The first version of the bill did indeed take into account the Venice Commission recommendations; however, according to the second version, the opposition has virtually no say in the selection of four members. The bill did not include the formats of inter-party consultation which would have resolved the problems pointed out by the Commission.

As we can see, the Parliament did not fully address the recommendations and opinions of the Venice Commission and the opposition in the discussions of the bill. It is interesting to see how the actual selection procedure took place. On 12 June 2013, the first vote for the selection of the High Council members was conducted. The United National Movement MPs proposed a way of reaching consensus in the Parliament vote. According to Giorgi Vashadze’s statement, the United National Movement was ready to support any four members nominated by the Parliamentary Majority if an agreement could be reached on the selection of the remaining two members by a qualified majority vote as recommended by the Venice Commission. The Parliamentary Majority refused this offer. In response to this, the opposition MPs left the session hall. On 14 June 2013, the Parliament of Georgia selected four members of the High Council of Justice (Kakhaber Sopromadze, Gocha Mamulashvili, Vakhtang Tordia and Eva Gotsiridze) by a second hearing with a simple majority vote, without the Parliamentary Minority.

On 4 October 2013, another vote was conducted to select the remaining two members of the Council. However, it did not reach any results. On 13 November 2013, the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts was amended and the President of Georgia was given the authority to appoint one of the six members of the Council, previously selected by the Parliament. The amendment was the result of the enactment of a new version of the Constitution of Georgia which was due after the 2013 Presidential Elections and which provided for the appointment of one member of the High Council of Justice by the President of Georgia. After this amendment, on 16 January 2014, the President of Georgia appointed Vakhtang Mtchedlishvili as a member of the High Council.

After the aforementioned amendment, only one position was left vacant on the High Council. Additional votes were conducted on 19 March 2014 and 26 July 2014 to select the last member of the Council. The United National Movement and the Georgian Dream coalition were unable to reach a consensus. One position of the High Council of Georgia remains vacant to date.

It should also be noted that on 2 October 2014, a Resolution

of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was published on its website. The Assembly regrets that the Georgian Parliament could not find the consensus necessary to elect all of its six members of the High Council of Justice. It also suggests that the Parliament consider a further amendment to the Organic Law of Georgia on the Courts of General Jurisdiction that would require at least two rounds of voting, with sufficient time for negotiations in between, before lowering the threshold from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority to elect the Parliament’s appointees to the High Council of Justice. Hence, the recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also indicates the necessity of the opposition’s engagement in the selection process of the members of the High Council of Justice.

Conclusion

The new rules for selecting the High Council of Justice of Georgia were enacted on 20 May 2013. The Venice Commission recommended for the Parliamentary Minority to also have an influence upon the selection of the High Council of Justice members. The Parliament of Georgia partly adopted the recommendation of the Commission about a qualified majority vote; however, the Parliamentary Minority had almost no influence upon selecting the members of the Council by a second hearing. It should also be noted that the bill did not provide for inter-party consultation and dialogue procedures.

As a result, the Parliamentary Majority did not take the United National Movement’s offer on reaching a consensus. The Parliament selected four members of the High Council of Justice without the Parliamentary Minority. Later, the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts was amended in accordance with the new Constitution. The President of Georgia appointed one of the six members based upon his new powers. As of today, only one vacant place remains in the High Council of Justice; however, the United National Movement and the Georgian Dream coalition are still unable to reach an agreement.

In addition, the 2 October 2014 Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe once again underlined the importance of the engagement of the opposition in the selection procedures of the High Council members.

Hence, Akaki Minashvili’s statement: “The United National Movement was not given the opportunity to nominate members of the High Council of Justice of Georgia as provided by the Venice Commission Report,” is TRUE.

Persons

Similar News

3475 - Verified Facts
True
22%
Fake News
19%
Mostly True
12%
Half True
10%
Mostly False
8%

Most read