On May 10, 2019, the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) commenced the process of selection of Supreme Court judicial candidates to be nominated to the Parliament of Georgia. The process lasted for 4 months and was finalized on September 4, 2019.

 

The publicity and transparency of this process deserves a positive assessment, as it allowed a wider society to realistically perceive the state of the judiciary and the integrity and competence of both acting judges and members of the HCoJ.

 

The competition did not attract representatives of different legal professions. Very few representatives of the bar and academia participated.  This was allegedly caused by cronyism and the lack of openness of the judiciary, undesirable position of fair-minded lawyers in the court system, the lack of trust in the competition procedures (unsubstantiated decisions, secret vote) and in the selection body (HCoJ).

 

The process of selection of Supreme Court justices was based on legislative amendments adopted by the Parliament. However, the regulatory framework was itself flawed. During the drafting process, the ruling party did not demonstrate a political will to ensure competitiveness of the selection process aimed at the submission of the most qualified candidacies to the Parliament. The ruling party did not even take into account the recommendations of an important international partner, the Venice Commission. Consequently, the legislative framework allowed the formation of a list of candidates suiting the interests of the dominant group of judges and the ruling party.

 

The selection process revealed several problematic issues that were neglected by HCoJ. There were clear legal grounds for the recusal of two judge members, Tamar Oniani and Irakli Shengelia, due to the participation of their relatives in the competition. Despite this, they refused to recuse themselves. Zaza Kharebava, a non-judge member did not refrain from participation either, even though the study of several documents revealed that his candidacy was submitted to the Parliament by an unauthorized entity back in 2017. This was grounds for termination of his authority.  Nevertheless, he took part in the process. This case is even more interesting, as the recusal of these three candidates would have significantly decreased the power of the dominant group of judges in the system and would have allowed a consensus-based decision making involving non-judge members of the HCoJ. Thus, it would have decreased the chances of getting the list of candidates that was finally adopted on September 4.

 

The HCoJ made a decision about nominations without studying the information on several candidates. The university diploma of the acting Prosecutor General, Shalva Tadumadze, remains questionable. The study of papers shows that Mr. Tadumadze studied at N. Dumbadze Humanitarian Institute in the period of 1993-1998, while according to the Public Registry, the institute was established in 1994 and received a license to operate as an educational institution in the same year. The HCoJ did not express its interest in the matter and did not explore how Mr. Tadumadze had been admitted to the Institute in 1993, when it was established in 1994. Only one non-judge member of the Council raised a question regarding the diploma during the interview with the Prosecutor General.

 

The final list of 20 candidates includes 5 nominees out of 10 individuals from the initial problematic list. The Prosecutor General and his deputy also ended up on the list, which was largely predictable. The current list includes influential judges, their affiliates and candidates associated with the ruling party. Additionally, some of the judges whose previous work raises questions, including questions related to corruption allegations, were included the list. It is worth mentioning that after the first secret vote held in the Council, the Public Defender’s Office revealed a pattern which was allegedly followed by the Council members in the process of decision-making.

 

Several significant shortcomings of the selection process are discussed in greater detail below.

 

Selection Process at the HCoJ

 

Composition of the HCoJ

 

Two members of the HCoJ, Tamar Oniani and Irakli Shengelia, had a clear conflict of interest with the candidates, Zurab Aznaurashvili (Oniani’s brother-in-law) and Levan Tevzadze (Shengelia’s brother-in-law). The Organic Laws of Georgia on Common Courts and on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in the Public Service hold members of the HCoJ liable for declaring a possible conflict of interest in advance and refraining from the decision-making processes related to judicial candidates.  Nevertheless, neither Tamar Oniani nor Irakli Shengelia declared the existence of a conflict of interest in advance and refused to recuse themselves from the process. Despite several statements[1] and addresses made by the civil society organizations  , neither of the two stepped out of the process, and both participated in interviews and the secret vote.

 

It came to our attention that the candidacy of Zaza Kharebava, an acting non-judge member, had been submitted to the Parliament by an unauthorized entity. This is a severe violation of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia and the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts, and grounds for termination of powers of a HCoJ member. Even though back in May 2019 the Coalition addressed[2] the Speaker of the Parliament with a request to review this matter, the legislative body has not discussed this issue up to now.  Correspondingly, Zaza Kharebava has maintained the status of member of the HCoJ and thus participated in the selection process of Supreme Court justices. Zaza Kharebava’s participation in the Council had critical importance, as 11 nominated candidates received minimal votes from the Council (10 votes). In these cases his vote was decisive.

 

The Secretary of HCoJ, Giorgi Mikautadze (who was one of the candidates for the Supreme Court), did not preside over the sessions of the Council. However, he was still in control of the staff responsible for collecting and checking information about the candidates for Supreme Court Justice. Hence, he kept the levers for influencing the process. 

 

The first secret vote

 

On June 20, 2019, the first secret vote was held at the HCoJ. Each member had to select no more than 20 candidates out of 137 registered individuals. As a result, the 50  top candidates were allowed to the next stage of the process — the interviews. After observing the voting procedure, the Public Defender’s Office identified a specific pattern, according to which, a part of ballots was marked, raising a reasonable doubt that several members of the Council had colluded[3] with each other.

 

Refusal of HCoJ to issue public information on candidates

 

In order to ensure greater transparency of the process, certain guarantees were included in the Organic Law, including the obligation of a candidate to allow the disclosure of information concerning his/her candidacy (including personal information other than the medical records). The day after the first secret vote, several civil society organizations requested information on candidates from the Council. The Coalition was interested in collecting and processing information on candidates before commencement of interviews in order to inform the public about individuals interested in taking seats at the Supreme Court. However, HCoJ first refused to disclose information about candidates, citing the obligation to protect their personal data. The refusal was based on an incorrect interpretation of the law, according to which the applicant’s consent only referred to handing over his/her information (including personal data) to the Parliament of Georgia, rather than making this information public.

 

Following the statements made by representatives of the Public Defender’s and State Inspector’s offices, who emphasized the importance of publishing information on candidates for the selection process, the Council decided to issue the data on candidates shortlisted for the next stage of the competition, the interviews. The decision was made 5 days prior to the commencement of interviews, leaving insufficient time for processing data on 50 candidates and eventually diminishing the importance of making this information public.  

 

 

The interviews

 

Interviews were held from July 17 to August 15, 2019. 49[4] candidates were interviewed.

 

  • Duration of the interviews

 

At the beginning of the interviews, the Council aimed to hold 5 interviews per day, with a duration of 45 minutes to an hour. However, the interview of the first candidate and the number of questions raised by the members demonstrated that it was impossible to hold more than two interviews a day during the working hours.  Despite this, at first the timeframe of interviews was kept irregular, lasting for 10-11 hours without a break. The non-judge members objected to this kind of work schedule. Ana Dolidze and Nazi Janezashvili stepped out of the interviews held after the working hours several times. The Coalition concluded that irregular working hours were damaging the process of selection and violating the rights[5] of candidates, the Council staff and monitors.

 

The judge members of the Council rejected the non-judge members’ proposition  to decrease the number of interviews per day. Consequently, the interviews were held beyond any reasonable timeframe, until July 26. These circumstances supported the doubts that the majority of the Council members aimed to finalize the process as quickly as possible. However, since July 26, in response to one of the judge member’s initiative, the Council decided to decrease the number of interviews to two per day. This has to be assessed as a positive development.

 

  • Verbal attacks against the non-judge members

 

The interviews were held in a non-constructive manner. There were several instances when colleagues addressed each other in an unethical or impolite manner. The judge members of the Council interrupted and verbally attacked Ana Dolidze and Nazi Janezashvili during the interviews because of the critical nature of questions. They became particularly hostile when questions concerning the problems of judiciary, Mikheil Chinchaladze and Levan Murusidze, existence of the clan-based governance in the system and the judges’ dissenting opinions were asked.  The judge members of the Council accused Ana Dolidze and Nazi Janezashvili of an attempt to destabilize the process and turn it into an “interrogation” of candidates.  

 

  • The questions asked

The transparency of interviews and their TV broadcast were highly important aspects of the process of selection of Supreme Court candidates. The idea was to familiarize the public with the candidates and ensure credibility and legitimacy of the process. Transparency of the process allowed the wider public to observe the professional qualifications and integrity of judges deciding cases in the court. It also revealed the level of their general education, values, argumentation and analytical skills, and attitudes to important and topical issues.

Prior to the interviews, the members of the Council agreed that they would not ask questions about specific statutory norms. Instead, the questions had to assess the candidates’ analytical skills and their values. However, monitors observed several instances, when such norm-specific questions were asked, especially during interviews of non-judge candidates or candidates with critical opinions about the problems of the judiciary.

The statistics collected by the Coalition during interviews revealed that non-judge members of the Council, Nazi Janezashvili and Ana Dolidze, asked more questions than other members of the Council. The tone of questions posed by judge members of Council to the candidates, who openly talked about problems in the court system, was aggressive and ironic. This created an impression that the judge members were trying to create a perception that these candidates were incompetent, thereby putting psychological pressure on them.

  • The candidates’ answers and their assistance by Council members

During interviews the majority of candidates revealed a lack of in-depth knowledge of the European Court of Human Rights case law. Unfortunately, most of them demonstrated a superficial understanding of fundamental human rights. Notably, there were cases when the majority of Council members (judge members particularly) asked directed questions (mostly while “following up” with a question). Also there were cases when they gave hints or suggested answers to questions asked by other members of the Council.

  • The second secret vote and nomination of candidates

During two weeks after completion of the process of interviews, the members of the High Council of Justice scored the candidates[6].  The scores assessing the candidates’ integrity are not clear, because the lowest scores were given to candidates who openly talked about the problematic past of the court system, while highest assessment was given to candidates who did not admit that there are or have been systemic problems in the court system.

On September 4, 2019, the Council carried out the second secret vote to reveal the Supreme Court nominees for the Parliament of Georgia. The top 20 candidates were identified. Afterwards, the Council members voted for each candidate individually. All of them received the number of votes required for nomination (2/3 of the Council members). The list of nominees did not coincide with the 20 candidates who received the highest scores.

Notably the list of nominees included the judges who were included in the list of 10 candidates submitted to the Parliament in December 2018.[7]  The list excluded candidates whose biography, and knowledge and experience, revealed in the process of interviews, created a positive impression, while the qualification and integrity of several candidates who ended up on the list raise significant doubts.

The statistics related to interviews:

Duration of interviews: 3:08 minutes.

The longest interview: Merab Gabinashvili, 5:55 minutes.

The shortest interview: Shota Laitadze, 1:34 minutes.

The biggest number of questions, 160 was posed during Zurab Aznaurishvili’s interview.

The smallest number of questions, 37 questions, was posed in Shota Laitadze’s interview.

Nazi Janezashvili, a Council member asked the biggest number of questions, 1384 (including 408 legal questions, 65 questions about work experience, 911 questions of general nature).

Shota Kadagidze, a Council member, asked the smallest number of questions: 109 (including 92 legal questions and 17 questions of general nature).

The Council members asked a total of 4101 questions (including 2224 legal questions, 130 questions about work experience, and 1747 questions of general nature).

To sum the points raised above, it is clear that in the process of developing the legislation, the ruling party did not demonstrate a political will to ensure selection the most competent candidates for the Supreme Court. The confirmation of 20 nominees submitted to the Parliament will increase the influence of the ruling party and dominant judges in the Supreme Court, thereby undermining prospects for the creation of a proper justice sector.

It needs to be reiterated that the analysis of developments related to this issue and the nomination of predictable candidates make us believe that the process was mostly formalistic and was not directed at solving the problems of the justice system. The legal framework created by the Parliament allowed the High Council of Justice to enforce the interests of the dominant group of judges and the ruling party, thereby  exacerbating the state of the justice sector. 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] 17 July, 2019 Statement of the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary - http://coalition.ge/index.php?article_id=213&clang=1

 

[2] 14 May, 2019 Statement of the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary -

http://www.coalition.ge/index.php?article_id=208&clang=1

[3] 28 June, 2018 Statement of the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) - https://bit.ly/2kHlPZE

 

[4] One candidate - Amiran Dzabunidze - withdrew his candidacy a day prior to the interview.

[5] 24 July, 2019 Statement of the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary - http://coalition.ge/index.php?article_id=214&clang=1

 

[6] Assessment of judicial candidates http://bit.ly/2lWr8od

[7] Tamar Alania, Merab Gabinashvili, Giorgi Mikautadze, Nino Kadagidze, and Paata Silagadze.


There are many legitimate concerns in the society about Giorgi Gakharia’s activities. These include the cases of Khorava Street, of poet Zviad Ratiani, special operations in Tbilisi clubs and Pankisi Gorge. At the moment, however, we are focusing on the issue of the violent dispersal of the June 20-21 rally. As it is known, more than 200 citizens and dozens of journalists were badly injured during the dispersal of the rally, while several people sustained irreparable physical as well as psychological damage. Public protest against the violent dispersal of the June 20-21 rally is ongoing up to date.
 
For the past three months, the Georgian government and the parliamentary majority have been assuring public that respective authorities were investigating the cases of excessive use of force by the police. According to Gakharia himself, in case systemic errors committed by the police during the dispersal of the rally were discovered, he would not only resign but would bear legal responsibility along with the political one.
 
The promised investigation of June 20-21 rallies has not been completed yet, and the responsibility of the head of the Ministry has yet to be established. Under these circumstances, the nomination of Giorgi Gakharia as a Prime Minister fails to deliver on the political promise and disregards critical public sentiment. Such an approach would undermine the already weak and fragile public trust in state institutions and in fact, would make it impossible to proceed with the ongoing investigation in an objective and fair manner.
 
The situation underscores the role of the Parliament, country’s top political body overseeing the government, in fairly assessing the results of Gakharia’s activities. We believe that the Parliament should refrain from appointing him on the leading position of the executive government until the nature and scope of his responsibility for the violent dispersal of the June 20-21 rally is established. Assumption of this responsibility by the Parliament will give an extra impetus to the governing political force to select a candidate for the Prime Minister’s post in consensus with the public opinion, and to ensure the peaceful conduct of the proportional parliamentary elections of 2020. Otherwise, the Parliament will be promoting increased polarization in the country and create a risk of civil confrontation.
 
Signatory organizations:
 
Open Society Georgia Foundation
Human Rights Centre
Green Alternative Georgia
EU Georgia Info
Union Sapari
Article 42 of the Constitution
Georgian Democratic Initiative
Democracy Research Institute
Atlantic Council of Georgia
Economic Policy Research Centre
Georgian Young Lawyers Association
Georgian Reforms Association
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies

Tbilisi – 21 August 2019 – The Georgian Coalition for International Criminal Court (GCICC) condemns the continual expansion of the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) inside Georgia’s territory by Russian and de facto South Ossetian authorities, an illegal process which involves mass human rights violations.

 

Soon after the end of the 2008 August War, the government of the Russian Federation started a so-called “borderization” process in Georgia’s territory, in gross violation of the rights of the local population. The Russian border guards and representatives of the de facto administrations of South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region and Abkhazia are arbitrarily installing border markers, fences and barbed wire alongside the occupation line. These illegal actions aim to physically separate territories administered by the de facto Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities, from the rest of Georgia. By 30 November 2017, over 30 incidents of borderization were observed in Georgia which impacted 33 villages alongside the dividing line of South Ossetia and seven villages alongside the dividing line of Abkhazia.

 

On 7 August 2019, the arbitrary installation of artificial barriers resumed along the Administrative Boundary Line in the village Gugutiantkari, a process which is still ongoing. As a result, houses of two families and their agricultural plots, which represented their main source of income, became occupied. The families were forced to dismantle their own houses in the strict time limit set by the occupying forces and bring the parts to the territory controlled by Georgia. The local population fears that as a result of the continual erection of barriers, other houses will also be captured in the occupied territories. According to the information provided by the local population, the irrigation system might fall into the occupied territories and the population may lose access to water as a result[1].

 

The illegal detention of Georgian citizens by the representatives of the border forces of the Russian Federation are continuing as well. On 17 August 2019, in the village Akhalubani in Gori municipality, the representatives of military forces of the Russian Federation abducted seven local residents under the charges of the so-called illegal crossing of border. According to various media sources, they were detained at the church located along the ABL and are now detained in Tskhinvali temporary detention facilities. The family members do not have information when they will be released. According to the information provided by the local population, there are no warning and so-called border signs in the villages. Therefore, the local residents may be taken from anywhere. The representatives of the border forces of Russian Federation abducted one more local resident from the village Artsevi in Gori municipality on 18 August, charged with illegally crossing the border.

 

Restriction of freedom of movement and illegal detention along the Administrative Boundary Line have been ongoing for several years. According to the Public Defender of Georgia, between 2011 and 2018, 2,706 individuals were victims of illegal detention/abduction along the ABL of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region. These individuals, subsequently detained in facilities in the occupied territories, frequently face ill-treatment and are deprived the right to contact their families. 

 

The continuing systematic and severe violations of fundamental human rights by Russia and de facto governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region may be qualified as persecution of ethnic Georgian civilians. These unlawful acts by occupying forces directed against the civilians living along the dividing line are organised and regular, and may amount to crimes against humanity.

 

In light of the situation described above, we call on:

 

Government of Georgia:

 

·        Use every diplomatic and international legal mechanism in order to end occupation of Georgia’s territory by the Russian Federation and stop severe violations of fundamental human rights of Georgian citizens;

·        Instate patrolling in the villages situated along the dividing lines of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region where illegal detention and borderization take place;

·        Ensure human security in the highest-risk, most dangerous places through relevant informational and educational work.

 

Russian authorities:

 

·        Stop occupation of Georgia’s territory and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia;

·        Stop illegal borderization and mass human rights violations, including the illegal detention of citizens of Georgia and restriction of their freedom of movement.

 

International community:

 

·         Take measures against the mass human rights violations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region and secure access for their representatives to conduct monitoring in the occupied territories.

 

International Criminal Court:

 

·         Observe ongoing processes, analyse the crimes and react accordingly.

 

·         Holding the individuals responsible for international crimes committed during the 2008 August War accountable may have a preventive effect on the ongoing violations. Therefore, the ICC must ensure the completion of ongoing investigation in a timely manner and issue arrest warrants against those who bare the greatest responsibility for these crimes.

 

Member Organizations of Georgian Coalition for ICC:

 

Article 42 of Constitution

 

Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)

 

Georgian Young Lawyers Association

 

Human Rights Center

 

International Center on Conflict and Negotiation

 

Justice International

 

 

International Organizations:

 

Norwegian Helsinki Committee



[1]
                [1] For more information on the consequences of this illegal process of creeping borders, see FIDH-HRIDC 2018 report “Living on the edge”: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/international-justice/international-criminal-court-icc/the-russia-georgia-war-the-forgotten-victims-10-years-on

For several weeks now, the Central Criminal Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been investigating the incident that took place during the rally held outside Parliament on 20-21 June 2019 on the grounds of organisation of and participation in group violence. As of today, the following persons have been charged: Georgian MP Nika Melia, whose pre-trial restrictions include bail and a number of other measures; politician Irakli Okruashvili and 17 people who have been placed in pre-trial detention.[1] According to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, an investigation is also under way into concrete instances of the use of excessive force by the police during the rally dispersal, although only two police officers have been charged so far.

Unfortunately, the steps that the state has taken to date have failed to gain public trust with regard to impartiality and objectivity of the investigation, namely:

1.      The requests for pre-trial detention submitted by the Prosecutor’s Office are mainly formulaic and based on nothing but general reasoning.

2.      As of today, 19 protesters and only two police officers have been indicted.

3.      The steps taken by the investigative agencies, in some cases, create a perception that, rather than serving a full and objective examination of the issue, they work to form a negative public opinion about the accused. For example, the video related to Bezhan Lortkipanidze’s case which was disseminated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and then the uncut video of the same incident disseminated by the media cause objective viewers to have different perceptions about what had happened.

It is clear that political or legal responsibility of all groups that participated in the events that unfolded on the night of 20-21 June should be established and assessed appropriately. There is no doubt that everyone is equal before the law, and legal response to all violations (whether committed by the protesters or the police) is necessary. However, such response must be based on strict adherence to the Constitution and the law, high standard of substantiation and maximum degree of public awareness. Against the background of the ongoing crisis, submitting formulaic requests and using pre-trial detention against the rally participants en masse based on unsubstantiated decisions – all that in parallel with the large-scale protest by independent groups of the public – rather points to the wish to exact vengeance on the part of the government. This assessment is made harsher by the fact that, to this day, with the exception of two cases, the public has not received a comprehensive response concerning real measures carried out against police officers who acted violently on 20-21 June; specifically, all the police officers who violated the law have not yet been identified and indicted. In addition, the minister of internal affairs has not assumed political responsibility and the systemic problems that surfaced during the dispersal of the rally have not been analysed and understood either.

Transparency International Georgia
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Human Rights Center
Article 42 of the Constitution
Centre “Empathy”
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy
Media Development Foundation
Center for Research Journalism and Economic Analysis
Human Rights and Monitoring Center
GRASS


[1] On 10 August, pre-trial detention was replaced by bail for one of the detainees, Bezhan Lortkipanidze, due to deterioration of health.

Human Rights House Tbilisi and its member organizations express concern about the frequent arrests and prosecutions following the anti-occupation protests in Tbilisi since June 20, raising reasonable questions among society. Human Rights House Tbilisi together with its member organizations recommends Georgian authorities to refrain from violating human rights and repressing people critical of the government.

The government has demonstrated excessive force against protesters on June 20. In response to a small group of citizens attempting to enter the parliament building, law enforcers have used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon without warning, regardless the status of those close to the parliament. Due to the use of disproportionate force, 240 people have been transferred to health facilities; at least 2 people have lost their eye; several protesters have become severely harmed and more than 30 journalists and media representatives have been injured. The most severe injuries were caused by the rubber bullets used by police officers.

Human Rights House Tbilisi member organizations urge the Georgian government to investigate the facts regarding the law enforcers using excessive force on June 20 and raise the matter of political and criminal liability of the relevant persons.

June 20 developments were followed by the obvious oppressive methods used by the government: More than 10 persons participating in the anti-occupation demonstration on June 20-21 have been charged with group violence (Criminal Code of Georgia, Article 225, part 2). Nikanor Melia, opposition MP, Bezhan Lortkipanidze, biologist and the employee of Nekresi species conservation center and the nephew of the father of Temirlan Machalikashvili – 19-year-old boy killed within a special operation in Pankisi –are also among the accused ones. Publicly reported allegations against them are extremely vague and unconvincing. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the intense investigation of the incidents close to the parliament on June 20-21 is still on, under Article 225 and 315 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.

It is also alarming that in the wake of the mentioned ongoing processes, after Mamuka Khazaradze announced about the establishment of a civil movement, Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia has charged the founders of TBC Bank – Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze – with money laundering, under the Article 194 of Criminal Code of Georgia.

Recent cases of pressure on media, as well as the presumed politically motivated prosecutions, is also worth to be mentioned:

Irakli Okruashvili, the leader of the political party Victorious Georgia has been detained referring June 20 developments, under the Article 225 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (organizing, heading and participating in group violence). It is also important to highlight that the investigation on June 20 developments began on July 23, suspiciously coinciding with Irakli Okruashvili’s announcement on July 19 – claiming ownership of Rustavi 2 and requesting the seizure of the shares of Kibar Khalvashi and Panorama Tbilisi.

Nika Gvaramia, former Director-General of Rustavi 2 TV channel has also been charged after he announced to launch a new TV channel.

Vato Tsereteli, the founder of TV Pirveli critical of the government was also summoned for questioning. Tsereteli supposes his father to be accused of manipulating over him.

The chain of mentioned developments portrays that the government seeks to suppress civil protests by grossly violating human rights and opposing the idea of democratic rule of law.

Human Rights House Tbilisi and its member organizations urge the government authorities and ruling political party to:

  • Conduct a transparent investigation on using disproportionate and forceful methods against protesters on June 20 and start prosecution only in case of the existence of sufficient pieces of evidence;
  • End suspicious arrests of political opponents and allow the citizens to freely express legitimate protest and opinions;
  • Provide security of broadcasting and editorial independence of the media critical of the government, including by initiating dubious criminal cases.
  • Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to uphold the rule of law and conduct the investigations of criminal cases not based on selective justice but considering the importance and severity of the issue, as well as counting on the interests and demands of those affected by the alleged crime.

Eleven years passed since the 2008 August War between Russia and Georgia which brought devastating consequences. However, the justice has yet to be served – the perpetrators are so far enjoying impunity, while the victims are still waiting for the restoration of their rights.

Hundreds of people were killed during the 2008 August War, numerous civilians were victimized and their fundamental rights were violated. The crimes committed against them were serious and took place on a mass scale. They included ethnic cleansing of Georgian population living in the conflict region, intentional murder, disappearance, destruction of property, forced displacement, illegal detention and captivity, torture and inhuman treatment.

These acts which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity are currently investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The investigation is followed by significant challenges, including the lack of active information campaign for victims’ communities and wider public, passing of long period since the war and Russia’s refusal to cooperate. These challenges may become obstacles for conducting comprehensive investigation, as well as ensuring effective inclusion of victims in the ongoing process and restoring justice. These issues are examined in detail in the recent report of the member organizations of the Georgian Coalition for International Criminal Court – 10 Years after the August War – Victims of the Situation in Georgia.

Eleven years since the August War the victims are coming across numerous problems in their daily life. The services offered by the state are insufficient for the improvement of their conditions. The socio-economic problems are especially grave in the IDP settlements, including unbearable living conditions, lack of employment opportunities, impossibility of agricultural work, nonexistence of the medical services, lack of sources of income and access to education.

Since the August War, the situation has become grave in the villages located along the dividing lines of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The local population is facing fear on a daily basis as a result of the illegal detentions and kidnapping from the side of the Russian and so-called South Ossetian and Abkhazian border guards. The facts of illegal detentions along the occupation line take place on a mass scale in recent years. The facts of killing of ethnic Georgians in recent years in the occupied territories and along the occupation line are especially alarming.

Considering the above mentioned, the bodies of Georgian government must:

-      Conduct effective investigation on national level and inform the public regarding the progress of the investigation. Considering the gravity and scale of the crimes committed by the Russian Federation during the August War, all necessary measures must be taken so that the acts committed by Russia do not stay unexamined and unpunished;

-          Take relevant measures for the improvement of socio-economic situation of the IDPs, considering the individual needs of each IDP settlement.

At the same time, the Trust Fund for Victims must implement assistance programs in order to support the victims, as for the International Criminal Court, it must:

-        Intensify awareness raising campaigns in order to better inform the victims’ communities and wider society regarding the work of the Court and ongoing investigation;

-          Develop strategy in order tackle the challenges related to ongoing investigation and ensure the effective implementation of its mandate for the restoration of justice for the victims.

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing in response to the statement released by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia in relation to the charges filed against Nika Gvaramia, the former Director-General of Rustavi 2 TV.

At this point, it is not possible to thoroughly assesses the information presented by the Prosecutor’s Office. Nevertheless, the developments over the last couple of months have shown that the investigative bodies have become noticeably active against the opponents of the government, as well as towards individuals that have a direct or indirect link with media outlets running a critical editorial policy. As a rule, the actions of the law enforcement go hand in hand with the aggressive rhetoric of the government. 

It is obvious that the Prosecutor’s office is working the case against Nika Gvaramia in an accelerated manner; they have filed charges against him on the basis of a statement that was made a month ago. The accelerated manner of investigation for Gvaramia’s case is noteworthy as there are many other cases of high public interest that are not investigated as promptly and quickly. Moreover, the Prosecutor’s Office decision to become active against Gvaramia coincided with the latter’s announcement of the intention to create a new TV company.

Due to the aforementioned circumstances, we have reasonable grounds to believe that this case may be politically motivated and is aimed at persecuting opponents and critical media.

We call on the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to present the specific hard evidence of the case and to act within the interests of the law rather than through the interests of the ruling party.

 

Transparency International Georgia

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy

Georgia's Reforms Associates

Sapari

Society and Banks

Georgian Democracy Initiative

Atlantic Council of Georgia

In Depth Reporting and Economic analysis Center

Economic Policy Research Center

Open Society Georgia Foundation

Institute for Development of Freedom of Information

UN Association of Georgia

Media Development Foundation

Article 42

On the eleventh anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, the Russian Federation continues to occupy Georgian territory and grossly violate the ceasefire agreement signed by the two countries. Construction of barbed wire fences and fortifications, restriction of free movement of civilians, their abduction, torture and killings continue along the occupation line.

Despite these circumstances, representatives of the government of Georgia continue to place their party interests above those of the state by issuing statements accusing Georgia's previous government of starting the war. In this way, they share the position held by Putin, president of the occupying state, and strengthen Russian disinformation.

According to the Tagliavini Report, prior to the official launch of the Russian military operation, Russian troops had already entered the Tskhinvali region without the mandate of a peacekeeping force. The Russian Federation also deployed railway troops to Abkhazia as early as May 2008. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the plan of war against Georgia was drafted by the Russian General Staff in 2006.

We, members of the civil society Coalition for a Euro-Atlantic Georgia, strongly condemn the statements made by Georgian government representatives regarding the eleventh anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war. We call on them to refrain from voicing positions that serve Russia's interests and threaten Georgia's statehood, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

Open Society Georgia Foundation

Atlantic Council of Georgia

The Economic Policy Research Center

Society and Banks

The Human Rights Centre

Empathy

Article 42 of the Constitution

Georgia’s Reforms Associates

The Georgian Institute of Politics

Transparency International Georgia

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy

The Coalition is responding to the act of protest by Ana Dolidze and Nazi Janezashvili, non-judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), expressed in temporarily leaving the interviews of judicial candidates for the Supreme Court on  the 22nd and 23rd of July.  The non-judge members of the HCoJ explained the protest as a reaction to gender-based discrimination in relation to them. In their joint statement, they emphasized that the decision of the HCoJ about holding interviews after working hours neglects their parental obligations. Nazi Janezashvili stated that her 9-month year old child requires her attention and interaction, which are limited by the inappropriate schedule introduced by the HCoJ.  This practice has become regular, leading us to believe that the HCoJ plans to continue the process in the same format and timeframe.  

The Coalition believes that creating working conditions depriving women of the opportunity to take care of their children and fulfill their parental obligations is essentially a form of indirect gender discrimination. Moreover, holding the interviews after working hours damages the quality of the selection process. Holding the interviews without consideration of any fixed working hours excludes the possibility of comprehensive and proper evaluation of candidates and goes against their interest, as well as the interests of the members and staff of the HCoJ, as well as the observers of the process. Such practice can be considered as an attempt of the HCoJ to accelerate the process at the expense of its quality.

The 11th Article of the Constitution of Georgia provides guarantees of essential equality between men and women. These guarantees differ from the formal equality by taking special measures to address the historically unequal treatment of women.  

The Law of Georgia on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination prohibits indirect discrimination, defined as a formally neutral and essentially discriminatory practice that puts certain people in a disadvantageous position compared to others or treats individuals in essentially unequal conditions identically. 

As the collection of gender-based statistics is problematic in Georgia, we can refer to the recent European Commission (EC)[1] statistics to support the argument that women are put in disadvantageous conditions when unfixed working hours are introduced. The statistics supporting the existence of indirect discrimination indicate that the employment rate of women in Europe (65.3%) lags behind the employment rate of men (76.8%), while higher education is more prevalent among women compared to men in the majority of age groups. Thus, it is clear that the low employment rate among women cannot be caused by the lack of their qualifications. According to the statistics from Eurostat, the EC indicates that factors such as parental role and family care obligations have a negative impact on the level of employment among women. More specifically, the statistics show that in the 25-49 year age group more than 50% of women are unemployed only because they have to take care of a child or a vulnerable family member.

Unfixed working hours and impossibility to adapt working schedules to the needs of a child force most women to refrain from work and career development. Therefore, such factors influence women disproportionally more harshly than men. Additionally, in most cases, indirect discriminatory decisions are made by men in leadership positions who have not experienced a disproportionally heavy burden of childcare due to culturally affirmed gender roles and stereotypes. 

Unfortunately the neglect of women’s obligations related to care is not a novelty in the Georgian court system. The Coalition’s 2016 research[2] revealed the same problem. In interviews, former and acting female judges indicated that promotions were achieved at the expense of familial and parental obligations. Maintaining such values and attitudes in the court system excludes the possibility of reaching gender equality in the future. Gender equality significantly differs from gender balance and means not only having female judges in the system but also providing them with promotion opportunities comparable to men.

Today the interviews of Supreme Court judicial candidates are observed by thousands of women, for whom it is vital to see that the court system acknowledges the historical inequality of women in the country. The essential equality of women is achievable only if their parental needs are considered. Therefore, the demands of the HCoJ non-judge members to observe working hours that are compatible with their parental obligations have to be met to convince women to address the courts in the future in cases where their rights and equality require protection.   Above all, this will not only respond to the needs of two non-judge members of the HCoJ, but rather, will protect the equal rights of all HCoJ members who have children, and have the obligation to provide care for family members. Holding interviews beyond any rational timeframe damages the selection process itself and undermines the interests of the candidates, the HCoJ staff and observers.

The Coalition urges the HCoJ to consider the statements made by the non-judge members, and uphold their right to essential equality guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and national legislation, by providing adequate and proper working conditions for women in the court system. We call on he HCoJ to hold interviews during the working hours and refrain from unfixed work schedules. 

 

 



1 European Commission, European Semester Thematic Factsheet,Women in Labour Market, 2017. Available (22.07.2019).  https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/european-semester_thematic-factsheet_labour-force-participation-women_en_0.pdf

[2]  Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, The Judicial System: Past Reforms and Future Perspectives, 2016, pp. 29-372016.გვ.29-37. Available (22.07.2019). http://coalition.ge/files/the_judicial_system.pdf

On June 7, 2019 "Article 42 of the Constitution", presented an alternative report on the execution of the judgments/decisions rendered by the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as the ECtHR) against Georgia to the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Parliament of Georgia. The report includes analysis of national legislation and practices on three thematic issues. The implementation of reforms with respect to these issues is based on the judgments/decisions of the ECtHR against Georgia. The execution of these judgments/decisions is supervised by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The first issue discussed in the report concerns the disciplinary liability of judges, which is based on applications in the ECtHR of up to ten former judges against Georgia.1 This part of the report reviews what are the obstacles the applicant judges came across in the attempt of restoration of their rights; Also, the shortcomings of the disciplinary liability grounds and mechanisms that need to be reviewed in future for the prevention of the new/same violations.

The second issue concerns the guarantees of fair trial in the case proceedings of administrative offenses. The ECtHR covered this topic when dealing with the cases concerning the dissolution of peaceful protests of June 15, 2009 by forceful methods2. This part of the report reviews only a few shortcomings of the Code of Administrative Offenses, which in all such cases result in violation of the requirements of the ECHR; namely, distribution of the burden of
proof, the importance of neutral evidence and presumption of truthfulness of the police statements.

The third issue discusses the prevention of the crime of entrapment; specifically, in connection with operative-investigative activities, that the ECtHR highlighted in the case of “Tchokhonelidze v. Georgia" (application N31536 / 07, 28/06/2018). This part of the report reviews the gaps in the national legislation that may be followed by more breaches of human rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights; also, the standards established by the ECtHR and other countries’ experience are reviewed for the purpose of preventing the crime of entrapment and for effective response to such cases.

As a result of the amendments made to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia in 2016, Parliament annually hears the reports of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia on execution of judgments/decisions rendered against Georgia by the ECtHR and the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies.

The Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia also envisage the right of interested persons to present their opinions and assessments regarding the execution of the judgments/decisions of the ECtHR and UN Treaty Bodies decisions against Georgia. Within the scope of this authority, on June 10 and 18, 2019 "Article 42 of the Constitution", along with the submission of an alternative report, made an oral presentation at the meetings with the Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration and the Committee of Legal Affairs.

The role of civil society in the process of execution of judgments/decisions rendered against the state is recognized not only nationally, but regionally and internationally. This authority of civil society has been formalized in the Council of Europe system through the amendments to relevant regulations.

It is important for the new function of the Parliament of Georgia to supervise the execution of the judgments/decisions of the ECtHR on national level not to be just formality but becomes an effective mechanism for involving interested persons and groups.

Alternative report submitted to the Parliament by "Article 42 of the Constitution" was prepared within the scope of the project: "Enhancing execution of the judgments/decisions and UN Treaty Bodies decisions through research and advocacy (concerning criminal justice and judicial system in Georgia) which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the program Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia "(PROLoG).

 

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1. See Sturua v. Georgia, application 45729/05, 28/03/2017;

Gabaidze v. Georgia, application 13723/06, 12/10/2017;

Iliashvili v. Georgia, application 22715/07, 09/10/2018

Laliashvili v. Georgia, application 8710/07, 27/11/2018;

Turava and Others v. Georgia, application 7607/07, 27/11/2018

and Alasania and Bardavelidze v. Georgia, applications 12611/08 and 25500/08, 09/10/2018

2. See Studio Maestro Ltd and others v. Georgia, case N22318/10), 30/06/2015

Giorgi Bekauri and others v. Georgia , application 312/10, 15/09/2015 and Menabde v. Georgia, application 4731/10, 13/10/2015

3. See Rules of the Committee of Ministers for the supervision of the execution of judgments and of the terms of friendly settlements, Rule 9.2; available at https://rm.coe.int/16806eebf0  last accessed on 25/072019.