Politics

Why has Irakli Garibashvili never heard Western Criticism of the UNM-era Judiciary?

20 July, 2021

On July 17th, Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia, responded to the US reaction regarding the appointment of six Supreme Court judges. Garibashvili stated that before 2012, he had never heard criticism about the Georgian judiciary system, neither from Europe nor from the United States.

 

 

Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia: “Until 2012, the court was an ordinary branch of the Prosecutor’s office. Sadly and surprisingly, I have never heard any negative remarks neither by Europe, nor by the US about the judiciary system of that time. This is sad and not fair.”

The statement of the prime minister that the Western partners did not express any criticism towards the judiciary system in Georgia before 2012 is false. During the period the United National Movement was in power, the assessments of the US Department of State regarding the independence and impartiality of the judges were often negative. The problems existing in the Georgian judiciary system were often underscored by different European bodies as well.

In the 2011 report “Administration of justice and protection of human rights in the justice system in Georgia,” Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, gives an overall positive assessment of the implemented reforms in the Judiciary system; nonetheless, stresses the necessity for further changes to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The report underscores the high level of vulnerability in the face of political interventions and the overwhelming influence of the Prosecutor’s Office.

In 2011, the European Court for Human Rights had also presented a negative assessment of the existing judiciary system. In the judgement concerning the murder of Sandro Girgvliani, Strasburg Court criticized the actions of the local Georgian courts and stressed the potential coordination with other governmental bodies to prevent justice. The concluding remarks section of the judgement highlights the following:

“Indeed, the Court is struck by how the different branches of State power – the Ministry of the Interior, as regards the initial shortcomings of the investigation, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as regards the remaining omissions of the investigation, the Prisons Department, as regards the unlawful placement of the convicts in the same cell, the domestic courts, as regards the deficient trial and the convicts’ early release, the President of Georgia, as regards the unreasonable leniency towards the convicts, and so on – all acted in concert in preventing justice from being done in this gruesome homicide case.”

 As for the criticism from the US, the Department of State annual Reports on Human Rights Practices often pointed out the problems regarding the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

Year

Assessment of the Judiciary System

 

 

 

2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

“The law provides for an independent judiciary. However, reports persisted that the executive branch continued to pressure judicial authorities. Many NGOs complained that judicial authorities continued to act as a rubber stamp for prosecutors' decisions and that the executive branch exerted undue influence. NGOs also expressed concern that recent judicial appointees lacked the experience and training to act independently.”

“Following the constitutional amendments, the authority to appoint or dismiss judges was moved from the president to the High Council of Justice, and the chairman of the Supreme Court was made chairman of the council in order to increase the transparency of the judicial appointment process. Despite the use of objective written examinations to create a pool of potential qualified appointees and publication of the names of all potential candidates for public comment, the judicial appointment process was not sufficiently transparent. Oral interviews of appointees were held behind closed doors with no public knowledge of what criteria were used for selection.”

 

 

 

 

2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

“Many NGOs complained that judicial authorities continued to act in favor of the ruling party, in some cases even without an actual directive to do so, particularly if there was a perceived government interest in the case. Some NGOs and non-parliamentary opposition alleged that in cases involving opposition activists, the courts tended to rule in favor of the government. NGOs also expressed concern that recent judicial appointees lacked the experience and training to act independently.”

“According to the PDO's report for the second half of 2009, problems continued within the judicial system including court independence, quality of investigations, parity of the sides, and substantiation of court decisions at various stages of consideration.”

“On May 18, GYLA released a report, Justice in Georgia, which asserted that individual judges sometimes received "directives" on specific cases from other higher-ranking judges.”

 

2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

“During the year NGOs and observers continued to criticize the lack of transparency in the selection, appointment, and disciplining of judges. Despite the use of objective written examinations to create a pool of potential qualified appointees and publication of the names of all potential candidates for public comment, the judicial appointment process was criticized as not sufficiently transparent, and selection criteria were not sufficiently based on merit.”

“While the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, outside influence on the judiciary remained a problem.”

 

 

2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Georgia

“In June an NGO coalition reported that the lack of checks and balances within the judiciary undermined its independence. The report noted that concentration of power within the judiciary – particularly within the High Council of Justice (HCOJ) and the Supreme Court Chairman – weakened the independence of judges.

“The OSCE found that the SAO failed to implement the law transparently, independently, impartially, and consistently, and mainly targeted the opposition.”


The statement of Prime Minister Garibashvili was addressed by Ian Kelly, former US ambassador to Georgia and Adam Kinzinger, the co-chair of the Group of Friends of Georgia at the US congress. They both labelled Garibashvili’s statement as false.

Ian Kelly, former US ambassador to Georgia: “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 government officials,” “judicial authorities continued to act in favor of the ruling party.” These are just a few examples of US criticism of Saakashvili’s judiciary. Georgians should know the truth. We Americans know the danger of a leader who makes up his own facts rather than face the truth.”

Adam Kinzinger, Congressman: “This is completely false. We were critical, and often. Now, it appears progress is slipping away and GEO govt seems to be openly violating agreements.”

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By Luka Kiliptari
Myth Detector Lab