The Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary believes that the public response of some judges to the statement made by the Administrative Committee of the Conference of Judges and their dissociation from it could be an important step in restoring public trust in the judiciary.
On October 31st, the Conference of Judges elected two judge members of the High Council of Justice. The conference was held without providing the public with adequate information regarding the issues listed in the agenda, including which incumbents were leaving the Council and for what reasons. It should also be noted that the conference was scheduled for the second day of the elections, during which the public and media attention was directed to the election issues.
Naturally, holding a conference in such form and context was critically assessed by local and international actors. Critical comments were made with respect to the non-transparent and non-competitive environment of the conference, as well as its decisions, arguments for which are still unknown to the public.
In response to the criticism, on November 4, the Administrative Committee of the Conference of Judges of Georgia issued a special statement. In the statemen
t, instead of addressing questions coming from the public, the Administrative Committee, emphasizing importance of judicial independence, accused civil society organizations and international actors of meddling in the work of the judiciary.
The independence of the judiciary implies a high degree of accountability to the public. Consequently, the public criticism towards the non-transparent and unsubstantiated processes taking place in the justice system, is completely logical and should not be considered as an interference in the activities of the institution. It must also be stressed that the Administrative Committee does not have the mandate for issuing statements on behalf of the judiciary. The judiciary should not be perceived as a monolithic unity where individual judges do not have different, critical positions.
The problematic nature of the Administrative Committee's statement became evident shortly after the publication of the statement. Several judges publicly distanced themselves from it. Judges found the spirit of the statement unacceptable and publicly expressed their gratitude and respect to Georgia's international partners.
In the current context, judges are not encouraged to express opposing opinions. Therefore, such judges may be subjected to condemnations within the system. We believe that the existence, support and strengthening of critical opinions in the judiciary is vital for the recovery of the system and the start of substantive changes.
The Coalition members, taking into account the past experience and considering that the influential group in the judiciary, the so-called Clan, uses all levers at its disposal to influence judges with different opinions:
1. call on sitting and former judges to speak openly and publicly about the challenges facing the judiciary;
2. express full readiness to protect the interests of judges, both nationally and internationally, if they are subjected to direct or indirect sanctions for expressing dissenting and critical opinions.