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Irakli Gharibashvili: “Unfortunately, I have not heard any criticism from America or Europe about the judiciary until 2012.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement is a LIE.

Resume: Georgia’s European and American partners have pointed out problems related to Georgia’s judiciary system in different ways both before and after 2012. There were critical remarks made vis-à-vis challenges in the judiciary system both under the incumbent and previous governments.

Therefore, Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement implies that American and European structures have not voiced criticism in regard to the Georgian judiciary before 2012 which FactCheck concludes is a LIE.

Analysis

Despite urging from the diplomatic corps to stop the process of the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and undertake comprehensive judicial reforms, the Parliament of Georgia appointed six judges to the Supreme Court on 12 July 2021.

The appointment of the judges was followed by harsh criticism from the US. Both the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the US Department of State offered harshly critical remarks.

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, rebuked the critique from the US and stated that until 2012, he has not heard any critical remarks either from the USA or from Europe about the judiciary system.

FactCheck verified the accuracy of Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement.

The problems related to Georgia’s judiciary system were discussed both in the USA and Europe before and after 2012.

Country reports on human rights practices are among the most important documents published by the US Department of State which offer an overview of the state of human rights in different countries. Negative assessments about Georgia’s judiciary system can be found in human rights reports published by the US Department of State both before and after 2012.

FactCheck offers a brief overview of two reports published prior to 2012 which highlight problems in Georgia’s judiciary system.


2010 Human Rights Report on Georgia – US Department of State

Since the very beginning of the report, there are allegations of government pressure on the judiciary and individuals remaining in prison for politically motivated reasons.

The document refers to the reports of the Public Defender and NGOs which underline problems related to the judiciary system: lack of independence, acting in favour of the ruling party, lack of due process, unsubstantiated decisions, etc. The human rights report also includes concern expressed by NGOs on the lack of experience and adequate training for those appointed to courts. In particular, the document reads: “During the year, NGOs and observers continued to criticise the lack of transparency in the selection, appointment and disciplining of judges.”

In addition, the report says that much of the public viewed the judiciary as one of the country's most corrupt institutions.


2011 Human Rights Report on Georgia – US Department of State

According to the 2011 report, shortfalls in the rule of law, such the independence and the impartiality of the judiciary, were one of the most important problems at the time. The report highlights that the judiciary’s lack of professionalism and independence made it unresponsive to allegations of mistreatment. The document reads: “Whilst the constitution and the law provide for an independent judiciary, outside influence on the judiciary remained a problem.”

The same report again said that judicial authorities continued to act in favor of the ruling party if there was a perceived government interest in the case.

Similar to the previous year, the 2011 report also makes emphasis that NGOs and observers continued to criticise the lack of transparency in the selection and appointment of judges.

The report also pays attention to politically motivated detentions and criminal cases.

Of note is that the former US Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, responded to Prime Minister Gharibashvili’s reproach and reminded him of the critique which was voiced from the USA vis-à-vis the courts and the judiciary system. Ambassador Kelly tweeted: “Not true. Look at the Human Rights Report — there was always criticism of the UNM-era judiciary. Take 2011: False, politically motivated charges, abuse of prisoners by govt [sic] officials, judicial authorities continued to act in favour of the ruling party.”

In regard to criticism from Europe, FactCheck offers a short overview from the 2011 report of Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. In the document, the Commissioner welcomes reforms implemented in the field of the judiciary, although he also speaks about a myriad of challenges. The report says that further efforts are needed to safeguard the judiciary from undue interference. The document also highlights political influences and the unsubstantiated decisions of the courts which were vigorously underlined by NGOs.

The report includes information about violations from prosecutors. In particular, it reads: “The reports that prosecutors have commenced or proceeded with prosecutions, despite procedural violations in investigations conducted by the police, merit serious reflection.”

The report speaks about instances of harassment, abusive prosecutions and other forms of pressure on lawyers. According to the Commissioner’s assessment, these seriously impair defence rights and prevent lawyers from effectively serving the cause of justice.

The Commissioner expresses concern over politically motivated persecutions. The document reads: “The information obtained was indicative of serious deficiencies marring the criminal investigation and judicial processes in a number of criminal cases against opposition activists which cast doubts on the charges and the final convictions of individuals concerned.”

Conclusion

Georgia’s European and American partners have pointed out problems related to Georgia’s judiciary system in different forms both before and after 2012. Depending on the needs, critical assessments were made on the challenges in the judiciary system both under the incumbent and previous governments and numerous reports, including ones in this article, attest to this.

Of note is that despite criticism about the lack of the independence of the judiciary before 2012, both inside the country and from international partners, those judges whose names are associated with the unfair court prior to 2012 and to the so-called clan of today still remain in the judiciary system. One of the examples here is Levan Murusidze whose three cases, including the Sandro Girgvliani case, were ruled against by the European Court of Human Rights.

Therefore, Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement implies that American and European structures have not voiced criticism in regard to the Georgian judiciary before 2012 which FactCheck concludes is a LIE.


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