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President Reluctantly Signs Prosecutor’s Office Reform Bill into Law
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 28 Sep.'15 / 16:41

Although it fails to provide “real reform” of the Prosecutor’s Office, President Giorgi Margvelashvili has signed a bill into law introducing new rule of selecting and electing chief prosecutor, his parliamentary secretary said.

“The President is signing proposed amendments into law… and expects that a real reform of the prosecutorial system will be launched and implemented in the near future,” Giorgi Kverenchkhiladze, president’s parliamentary secretary, told journalists on September 28.

“The president has stated multiple times about the need for a comprehensive reform of law enforcement agencies, as well as the importance of the prosecutor’s office being free from political influence,” he said. “Undoubtedly there is a full consensus within society about the need of carrying out comprehensive and real reform of the prosecutorial system.”

“The president believes that the proposed amendments set only new rules for appointing and dismissing a chief prosecutor,” he said. “The president thinks that [the reform] should secure institutional and political independence and impartiality, as well as accountability of the prosecutor’s office.”

Parliament passed with its final reading package of legislative amendments introducing new rule of selecting and electing chief prosecutor for a non-renewable six-year term on September 18.

Currently Prime Minister appoints and dismisses the Chief Prosecutor upon nomination of the Minister of Justice.

The amendments envisage more complicated procedures for electing Chief Prosecutor; it introduces in the process the Parliament and new body, Prosecutorial Council.

Opposition lawmakers from UNM and Free Democrats parties were against of the bill as under the proposal the government and Justice Minister will still keep a significant role in the process. They say that the bill fails to secure de-politicization of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, a group uniting dozens of non-governmental organizations also said that the proposal falls short of real reform and criticized it for keeping governing party’s strong role in the process of selecting and electing chief prosecutor.  

The new rule envisages setting up of 15-member Prosecutorial Council, which will be chaired by the Justice Minister, who will be an ex-officio member.

8 seats in the Council will go to prosecutors elected by the Conference of Prosecutors – a body, which is also a novelty.
 
2 seats will be allocated to parliament members – one of them will be representative of the parliamentary majority group and another one representing lawmakers, who are not members of the majority group in the parliament; selecting of an MP for this latter quota will be up to the opposition lawmakers.

2 seats will go to judges, selected by the High Council of Justice.

And the two remaining members of the Prosecutorial Council will go to members of civil society and academic circles, elected by parliament through a simple majority.

According to the bill, the selection of a candidate for chief prosecutor starts with the Justice Minister holding consultations with representatives of civil society and academic circles.

The Justice Minister then nominates three candidates to the Prosecutorial Council; the Minister will have to explain the choice.
 
The Prosecutorial Council then has to endorse one of the three candidates with 2/3 majority votes – that is support of at least 10 council members; in case of a deadlock, the Justice Minister will have to name new candidates.

After a candidate is endorsed by the Prosecutorial Council, the nomination will go to the government, which has the power to block the nomination and in that case the process of selecting new candidates will start over.
 
If the nomination offered by the Prosecutorial Council is endorsed by the government, the candidate will then have to be confirmed by parliament.

Support by a simple majority – that is at least 76 MPs – will be required for a candidate to be confirmed as Chief Prosecutor for a non-renewable six-year term.

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