Statement regarding the recent events surrounding the Constitutional Court
The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary wants to respond to the recent developments surrounding the Constitutional Court and to the statement of February 29, 2016 of George Papuashvili the President of the Court. Mr. Papuashvili talked about a deal offered by the Minister of Justice, pointing out that the Minister had promised that he and one more member of the Constitutional Court would have their membership in the Venice Commission extended in return for close cooperation with the authorities. The Coalition notes that such communication, if it really took place, poses a threat to independent functioning of the country’s major constitutional institutions and to independent and impartial administration of justice.
Mr. Papuashvili’s statement about a possible deal was preceded by protests of organized groups against judges, including manifestations in front of judges’ residential houses, which obviously contained elements of an offence. However, these facts were not followed by any response of law enforcement bodies, while the Speaker of the Parliament and other political officials assessed the said acts as protected by freedom of expression.
In addition, high-profile judgments of the Constitutional Court were accompanied by a statement of the Minister of Justice regarding the necessity to reform the Constitutional Court. It should be noted that the government has yet to present its vision on concrete directions of this reform. Obviously, the idea of reforming the judiciary, including the Constitutional Court, is not an object of our criticism, though the chronology of events that took place both before and after the statement raises well-founded doubts that the Minister’s statement was a negative response of the ruling political team to the judgments of the Constitutional Court.
It should be emphasized once more that particularly important factors for real independence of the judiciary are independence and safety of all judges, creation of safeguards against interference with their activity, and respect for court decisions. This does not rule out healthy and well-argued discussions or even criticism regarding problems in the justice system. However, it is important to ensure that the judiciary and its individual members feel protected from threats and/or unlawful activities, that the political system is committed to institutional strengthening of the judiciary, and that its rhetoric in relation to reforming the judiciary is not a rough response to the Court’s past or expected decisions.
In view of the aforementioned, the Coalition believes it important that:
- the heads of the executive and legislative branches of government take an interest in the possible communication of the Minister of Justice with the President of the Constitutional Court;
- the relevant bodies respond to the offences that took place at the time of the protests against judges;
the government present a concrete vision in connection with reforming the Constitutional Court, if such a vision exists.