After the meeting on March 6, Supreme Court Chairman Kote Kublashvili (right) shows exhibits displayed in the museum of justice in the Supreme Court to PM Bidzina Ivanishvili. Photo: PM’s press office
PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, who arrived on March 6 at the Supreme Court to meet with its chairman Kote Kublashvili, said the judiciary should “definitely be independent both from new and previous” governments.
The meeting came amid allegations from some government members and Georgian Dream parliamentarians that the judiciary remains loyal to UNM and the previous government; Supreme Court Chairman Kote Kublashvili is the main target of these allegations with one of the GD lawmakers Eka Beselia even suggesting on possible launch of procedures for impeaching Kublashvili. Meanwhile, President Saakashvili and his UNM party are accusing new government of trying to mount pressure on the judiciary.
Although prior to the meeting it was announced that Ivanishvili and Kublashvili were planning to make statements for the press separately, the two appeared jointly before media after the meeting.
PM Ivanishvili said that he’s “well aware” of Kublashvili’s background and added: “I think that he has all the reasons to complete in dignity his term in office as Chairman of [Supreme Court] and to leave behind maximally objective and independent judiciary.”
Kublashvili became Chairman of the Supreme Court for a ten-year term in February 2005.
“We know – and batoni [a Georgian polite form of addressing a man] Kote also agrees – that there is certain skepticism and question marks in respect of the judiciary in the society, but lot [positive] has also been done in this system and he [Kublashvili] has also contributed to those positive things that have been done in the judiciary system,” the Prime Minister said.
Ivanishvili said that although both share the view that there was “skepticism” towards the judiciary in the society, the two also disagreed on scale of complaint existing towards the system within the society. “I think question marks about the judiciary are more than batoni Kote thinks,” Ivanishvili said.
“We noted that the judiciary should definitely be independent both from new and previous [governments] and what is the most important it is the society which should have confidence that the judiciary is fair,” he said.
“The court should become maximally independent and on my part I gave him a guarantee and I can reiterate that there are no attempts whatsoever on my part, or on the part of the [Georgian Dream] coalition members [to meddle with the judiciary], and if I hear about such attempts, and if anyone dares it and tries to influence the court I will intervene [to eradicate] such attempts,” Ivanishvili said.
The Supreme Court Chairman welcomed that this meeting was held up on the PM’s initiative.
“It is very good that our meeting has taken place,” Kublashvili said. “I want to reiterate what [the PM] has just said that we talked about all those issues, which are essential to ensure that the judiciary is more independent, objective and impartial.”
“Of course, we have not discussed very concrete issues, but we have discussed all those directions which will foster further strengthening of the judiciary,” he said and added it was promising that the authorities made step towards assessing judiciary “objectively”.
Kublashvili also said that “everyone, including the authorities and the opposition” should keep the judiciary free from any political meddling.
The Prime Minister said that the Justice Ministry-proposed reform of the High Council of Justice, a body overseeing judicial system.
The proposed reform has been passed with its first reading by the Parliament, but the new authorities agreed to suspend its final approval before Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs tables its recommendations about the bill, expected this month. Among many other changes, the bill offers to exclude the President from the process of appointing members of the High Council of Justice; excludes parliamentarians from taking seat in this judicial council and reducing Supreme Court Chairman’s role in electing judges as members of the council.
PM Ivanishvili said that the Supreme Court Chairman “agrees” that reforms are needed.
“Although it has been proposed by the Justice Ministry and the new authorities, he [Kublashvili] agrees with more than 80% of proposed reforms; he has some objective question marks as well,” Ivanishvili said.
President Saakashvili’s administration welcomed PM Ivanishvili’s “positive remarks” made after the meeting with Supreme Court Chairman and expressed hope that the statement would also be followed by concrete steps.