9 steps Georgia is expected to take to advance to the stage of negotiations with the EU: Justice System Reform - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

9 steps Georgia is expected to take to advance to the stage of negotiations with the EU: Justice System Reform

14 March, 2024

Justice reform is a vital prerequisite for Georgia's democratic progress and integration with the European Union. Recent statements from top officials suggest a reluctance within the Georgian government to implement crucial recommendations from the European Commission. Non-compliance with these recommendations can impede Georgia's integration into the EU, posing a substantial threat to the country's membership prospects.

EU Requirements

The Commission report recommends that Georgia undertake the following measures to enhance the justice system:

  • Establish a collaborative process involving all parliamentary political parties and non-governmental organizations.
  • Align the legislation with the Venice Commission's recommendations, aiming to curtail the authority of the High Council of Justice. This involves curtailing the extensive discretion of the High Council of Justice in the secondment and ensuring a balanced role for both judge and non-judge members in decision-making. Limiting the tenure of council members to a single term, along with introducing a gradual renewal of the council's composition, is also advised to promote a fair and effective system.
  • Introduce a system of extraordinary integrity checks, with the involvement of international experts with a decisive role in the process, for candidates and persons currently appointed to all leading positions in the judiciary, particularly the High Council of Justice, the Supreme Court, and court presidents.
  • Enhance the election process for the Prosecutor General by increasing the required votes from a simple majority to a qualified majority. Specifically, raising the threshold to 90 votes instead of the current 76 votes.
  • Ensure full compliance of Georgia's Law on Prosecutor's Office with recommendations from the Venice Commission, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument (TAIEX) of the European Commission. These changes should transfer decision-making authority on career matters to the Prosecutor's Council, fostering a more balanced representation between prosecutor and non-prosecutor members within the council.

Georgian Government Approach

In response to the European Union's recommendations, the Government of Georgia approved an action plan on November 27, 2023. However, the plan lacks specificity, particularly in justice reform, as only three activities are outlined. Among these, one involves the establishment of a working group, while the other two provide only a broad reference to legislative changes. The document's vagueness renders it challenging to discern the concrete steps that Georgian authorities intend to take in implementing the EU's recommendations. There is a discernibly negative stance from both the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament, specifically regarding one aspect of the European Commission's recommendations - the integrity-check mechanism for judges. This divergence in views raises concerns about the government's commitment to the comprehensive implementation of the EU's suggestions.

It has recently come to light that the Parliament is commencing the review of a draft law introduced by members of the parliamentary majority in October 2023, a draft that received a negative evaluation from the Venice Commission. The Commission's conclusion emphasizes that addressing the issue of corporatism in the judicial system demands a nuanced and comprehensive reform, a goal that the bill introduced by the deputies in October cannot achieve.

TI Georgia’s Vision

In alignment with the stipulations of the European Commission and the recommendations from the Venice Commission, we propose that the Government of Georgia undertake the following measures:

  • Assess the prevailing issues within the judicial system and acknowledge the necessity for institutional reforms.
  • Formulate a comprehensive strategy and action plan for strengthening the judicial system, addressing concerns raised by the European Commission, and proposing effective solutions.
  • Establish a system of extraordinary integrity checks for judges.
  • Institute a decision-making process that ensures a balance of power between judge and non-judge members in the HCJ. Specifically, major decisions should adhere to the principle of a two-thirds majority, with equal representation from both judicial and non-judicial members.
  • The Parliament of Georgia should complete the adoption of the constitutional law, which aims to raise the threshold for electing the Prosecutor General from a simple majority (76 votes) to a qualified majority (90 votes).