President Giorgi Margvelashvili has appointed Anna Dolidze, his parliamentary secretary, as a new member of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) for a four-year term, replacing Vakhtang Mchedlishvili, who had also been appointed by the President.
President Margvelashvili, who presented the new member on January 8, focused in his remarks on “problems” persisting in the judiciary, as well as on the role of the HCoJ, the body overseeing the judiciary.
“The justice system has been the Achilles’ heel of practically all governments in the history of independent Georgia,” the President said, adding that despite “everyone’s hopes” in the post-2012 election period that the justice system would be “qualitatively” improved, “today, we can say that public trust towards the justice system fails to answer many questions.”
“Independent judiciary is one of the core foundations of statehood, which provides legal protection of our citizens and serves as an important guarantee for effective functioning of a democratic and legal state,” Margvelashvili added, stressing on the role of the High Council of Justice in ensuring the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, and the need for “improving the legal framework” to that end.
“However, this very sensitive system cannot be improved through legal framework only, and this needs to be done by individuals who have demonstrated professionalism, integrity and loyalty to supreme values rather than the political environment,” the President went on, adding that his decision to appoint Anna Dolidze to the post was guided exactly by these considerations.
“For many years, Anna Dolidze has shown herself as a professional and a courageous lawyer, who has been loyal to the country’s supreme values,” Margvelashvili said.
Dolidze, who spoke after the President, focused on the priorities of her work at the High Council, including on making the judiciary more efficient, on increasing its openness, and staffing the courts with professionals.
Commenting the appointment, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze said that it was “regretful” that the President continued nominating his staff members for “independent positions.”
Anna Dolidze, who chaired Tbilisi-based legal advocacy group Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) in 2004-2006, was appointed as Deputy Defense Minister under Tina Khidasheli in May 2015. Before that, she served as a professor of law at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
In February 2016, Margvelashvili named Anna Dolidze as a candidate for a vacant Supreme Court seat, but the Parliament voted down her candidacy and she was appointed as the President’s Parliamentary Secretary. In 2016, Dolidze also participated in the competition for vacant ECHR judge position, but she was not shortlisted among the three candidates.
The High Council of Justice is in charge of overseeing the judiciary with the authority to appoint or dismiss judges, as well as to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges. The institution consists of 15 members, with eight members elected by the Conference of Judges, five members elected by the Parliament and one member appointed by the President.
HCoJ’s decisions in the last few years on appointing or dismissing judges have repeatedly triggered strong criticism from local civil society organizations.