GDI Statement on the Election of the Two New High Council of Justice Members at the Judicial Conference of Georgia

Georgia's political environment is currently extremely tense, further aggravated by the runoffs in the local elections. Despite this, the Judicial Conference of Georgia convened following the election day, on October 31st, 2021 and with no justifiable necessity, elected two new judge members to the High Council of Justice. With the society consumed with other urgent matters, we believe the “Clan” is trying to seize the opportunity to install loyal and trusted judges to the body. This will ensure their continued influence on the Council for years to come.

To elect the new members to the Council, two active members prematurely resigned from the council–Tamar Oniani (who was in office until March 24, 2022 and Thea Leonidze, elected to the council exactly 1 year ago). The news about these resignations was only announced at the Conference. Despite many prior attempts, the Administrative Committee of the Judicial Conference continuously refused to release information on who was planning to step down and vacate their positions, so that the judges could elect new members at the Council. None of these two members have given arguments for the premature termination of their tenure.   

Exactly two candidates were put forward for the suddenly vacated two positions: Paata Silagadze and Giorgi Goginashvili. Unsurprisingly, they received an absolute majority of the votes of 266 attending judges: 257 and 253, respectively. And finally, none of them have campaigned, given any speeches, presented their agenda, or addressed the Conference in any manner. 

It is alarming that during recent years, dissenting opinions in the judicial system have evaporated and so has the competition, which is a sign that the quality of independence of individual judges has hit critical levels. Because of these changes, the reputation of the High Council of Justice and the entire court system is gravely damaged, and public trust is broken. The current situation is a clear sign that Georgia’s courts need substantial and in-depth reforms.