President and the Parliament has been called by a group of civil society and legal advocacy organizations to ensure “transparent and inclusive” process of selecting, nominating and appointing of new chairperson of the Supreme Court.
Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting dozens of non-governmental organizations said in a statement on January 12 that the process should be carried out “with full political neutrality.”
10-year term in office of incumbent chairman of Supreme Court, Kote Kublashvili, will expire in late February, 2015.
The President has to nominate a candidate, which will then require endorsement by the Parliament; support of at least 76 MPs is needed for a candidate to be approved as chairperson of the Supreme Court.
President Margvelashvili, who was called by Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani in late December to launch consultations with government and political groups in the Parliament to select “acceptable” nomination, has yet to nominate the candidate.
“The selection of the nominee must be protected from the influence of political groups,” Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary said in the statement. “The nominee must be of high legal qualification, with a distinguished and lengthy service in the field of justice, as well as high commitment and integrity for the protection of justice and human rights.”
“To ensure distancing from the narrow party interests, it is important that Parliamentary fractions’ and individual MPs’ positions and arguments regarding the nominees be made and explained to the public,” it said. “It is important that the process be held in reasonable time, without undue delay, so that the public does not get an impression that the process is artificially protracted.”
“We call on all sides to the process to implement the nomination and appointment of chief justice in accordance with democratic principles. This will be of paramount importance for the effective continuation and implementation of the ongoing reforms in the judicial system,” the coalition said.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili said in an interview with Tbilisi-based Imedi TV on December 26 that when selecting candidates, be it for vacant seats in the Central Election Commission (CEC) or judges in the Supreme Court, he always makes his choice based on criteria of professionalism and independence of nominees.
Asked if he expects that his nomination for chairperson of Supreme Court will meet obstacles in the Parliament, President Margvelashvili recalled a recent case of filling one vacant seat in CEC, when the Parliament rejected his nominations, as he put it, “without any arguments”, but later approved another candidate for the same post nominated by the President. He also recalled when his nominations for Supreme Court judges were at first rejected by the Parliament, but then, after the same candidates were re-nominated, the Parliament approved them.
“I think that a democratic dialogue between us will help to gradually strengthen understanding in our political spectrum and the legislative body that I am not playing any political game and I am not either confronting or supporting any political group, and that I am simply performing my duties to ensure that people are elected in such important institutions like the Central Election Commission and judiciary based on their professionalism and not on political party affiliations,” President Margvelashvili said.
“I can guarantee that as a result of steps, which have already been taken and will be taken in the future in respect of the Supreme Court, will help to put an end to talks about previous or current authorities having [influence over the judiciary]. After these steps, there will be only talk about independent judiciary, which will ensure protection of human rights and where proceedings will be free from political motives,” President Margvelashvili said.