NGOs react to Prime Minister's comments on the judiciary
NGOs are concerned by the Prime Minister’s apparent interference in the activities of the Supreme Court. The Prime Minister stated today that the Government hopes the Chairperson of the Supreme Court will examine in the case of Rustavi Metallurgical Plant – a property injunction was applied to the Plant due to 4500 GEL of arrears. The Prime Minister stated also that the judge examining the case should appear publicly and explain his decision.
Attacks by the Head of Government and high political officials on individual judges can undermine the independence of the judiciary. Direct or indirect comments about the content of decisions that are perceived by the government to be undesirable and any other form of Government influence or interference in how justice is exercised in relation to individual cases make a dangerous precedent. Judges perform their duties independently and are only required to abide by the constitution and the law. Exercising any influence on a judge or interfering in his/her activities to affect decision-making is prohibited and punishable by law. No one, including the Supreme Court Chair, is entitled to demand from a judge the account on a concrete case. This is a constitutional guarantee, without which the judicial branch is not independent.
It is crucial that the general public and politicians comprehend the role of the Chairperson of the Supreme Court as well as the role of the judiciary. The Chairperson's powers do not include control over judges or holding them liable for their decisions. The Chairperson of the Supreme Court, acting in their capacity as the Chairperson of the High Council of Justice, may participate in disciplinary proceedings. However, an individual judge is not authorized to apply sanctions against any other judge.
Hence, we find that statements of such content discredit not only the position of the Chairperson of the Supreme Court, but of other judicial authorities and the executive authorities themselves. Further, such political messages prevent the judicial system from improving, and increase subordination between individual judges and the Supreme Court Chair.
The High Council of Justice must take disciplinary action against any judge that violates the agreed upon standards. The Council itself is obligated to launch disciplinary proceedings and examine complaints submitted against the judge, should such exist. Currently public trust in judicial review and disciplinary mechanisms is low. Timely responses with written justification by the Council in response to complaints build trust in the system.
The Council is obligated also to react to facts of alleged pressure on judges and not to allow unlawful influence over judicial processes either from the judicial authorities or other branches of government.
We call on the Head of Government, as well as other political officials, to respect the principle of judicial independence, and to refrain from making similar statements in the future.
Article 42 of the Constitution
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
Transparency International - Georgia
Georgian Young Lawyers' Association
Human Rights Center
Civil Development Agency (CiDA)
Business and Economic Center (BEC)
Open Society - Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
Georgian Bar Association
Partnership for Human Rights
Civil Integration Foundation
Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)
Institute of Civil Engagement