The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary Addressed the Council of Europe
September 29, 2017
The Coalition for Transparent and Independent Judiciary is once again addressing the issue of national competition for selecting judicial candidates for the European Court of Human Rights, and specifically the informational supplemental document submitted by the Government of Georgia to the Parliamentary Assembly regarding the competition process.
Importantly, the document was not published locally and became known to us from the Council of Europe web page. Further, the document was not discussed and adopted by the Candidate Selection Commission.
The document is the Government’s unilateral opinion on the competition and ignores the differences in opinion within the Commission on various issues. The document says nothing regarding the critical opinions of the non-governmental institution members of the Commission, candidates, wider public and legal community representatives who systematically expressed concerns regarding both the selection process and the outcomes.
The document’s deficiencies can be grouped in several issues:
- The attempt to present the national competition process subjectively and omission of important facts
The informational supplement gives the following assessment of the competition process:
Georgia thus created an institutional mechanism inside the country for selecting candidates for the position of the judge to be elected in respect of Georgia in accordance with the European Convention. This mechanism is inclusive, transparent, based on objective criteria and sets a high standard for future selections.
The document sent from the government fails to mention crucial flows of the national selection process and its organization.
This raises many questions, especially given that other parts of the document are very detailed and insignificant issues are described in unnecessary detail (e.g., detailed description of who passed the language test, where and how, etc.). At the same time, opinions of several members of the Commission, competition participants and the public regarding the deficiencies and challenges of the competition are ignored.
The Ombudsman’s open statement and criticism of the competition despite his participation in the third competition is also omitted in the document.
Consequently, it is our assumption that the information supplement may not give the Parliamentary Assembly objective information and may unfairly discredit the actors who drew attention to multiple, unmentioned faults of the process.
- incorrect statement of the Coalition’s positions and arguments
Despite the fact that the Coalition stated its position and the substantial arguments numerous times both in the email communication with the Commission members as well as in public statements, the government’s communication document fails to mention this. Moreover, the Coalition is presented not as a constructive actor actively involved in the first two competitions, attempting to help improve the process with its recommendations, but rather as a destructive actor that unconditionally boycotted the process.
The Coalition expressed readiness to participate in reflection on the past shortcomings and was open to work with the government towards improved national competition procedures both after the first and subsequent competitions. However the government did not consider any of the Coalition’s concerns.
The Coalition considers that the only correct course of action is a review of the rules for composition of the Commission and its procedures. Since the Commission operating with the same composition and rules failed to fulfill its mandate twice, it would be unreasonable to expect that under similar conditions the third competition would be conducted objectively.
It is essential that the Commission members be required to substantiate their scores and that these evaluations be public and available to the wider public. Conflicts of interest must also be regulated. We believed that without these conditions the Coalition’s participation in the third competition was in vain and we withdrew from the process.
- Attempt to present the Coalition representative in the Commission as subjective and biased
The document also attempts to present the Coalition representative as subjective and biased.
While the document indicates original versions of comments by the Justice Minister and other members of the Commission and the relevant media sources, the Coalition representative’s positions are not presented in the original, but they are paraphrased and interpreted with substantial inaccuracies.
According to the informational supplement:
All the more, in different interviews on TV and in newspapers, the Coalition representative Ms. Ana Natsvlishvili explained her decision by stating that the composition of the Commission was unacceptable, the procedure and criteria for selection lacked transparency. She also added that she did not trust the whole procedure since the candidate Baqaquri she supported was not selected by the Commission in June 2017.
The document presents Natsvlishvili’s position as her personal one, rather than the Coalition’s. This is incorrect, since the position belongs not to one specific person but to over 30 civil society organizations. Additionally, allegedly Natsvlishvili stated that she did not trust the procedure since the candidate she favored was not selected by the Commission. The document does not contain a single source for such a statement. This sentence aims to present the Coalition’s representative as a subjective evaluator and completely distorts the positions of the representative and the entire Coalition regarding the process.
Natsvlishvili did indeed repeatedly discuss the competition and its deficiencies in interviews. She also mentioned multiple times that several strong candidates participated in the competition but they were artificially blocked so that Strasburg only received the list with unequally competitive candidates. In this context she used Baqaquri’s case to illustrate the problem.
How did a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court who is highly competent and enjoys a high reputation in legal circles receive the lowest possible score (one point) from seven members of the Commission, while receiving the highest scores from representatives of independent institutions, including the Ombudsman? Instead, thanks to the high scores given by the government members of the Commission, less competent persons and those with questionable reputations made it to the top five.
 The Coalition disseminated its public statement on these issues not only on its own webpage, but also sent the statement to all members of the Commission. The Coalition’s position and the reasoning behind it was widely covered in the media, e.g., Coalition representative Ana Natsvilishvili’s interview with the most popular information agency: https://goo.gl/8WorZ4 (in Georgian)
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