Press Release

Council of Europe Office in Georgia

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PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Georgia welcome justice system reforms and urge consensus on High Council of Justice

Strasbourg, 16.04.2013 - The co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Georgia by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Michael Aastrup Jensen (Denmark, ALDE) and Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC), have welcomed the recently adopted reforms of the justice system.

Speaking following a four-day visit to the country (8-11 April 2013), they said: ‚ÄúThese reforms will greatly improve the independence of the judiciary, which is something we have repeatedly called for. This is an important step forwards. At the same time we note that the implementation of the reform of the High Council of Justice is still an important point of contention between majority and opposition. We therefore urge both parties to look for compromises and seek agreement on the transitional provisions for the reform of the High Council of Justice. This will only strengthen the notion of an independent judiciary,‚ÄĚ said the two co-rapporteurs.

With regard to the recent controversy over European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, the co-rapporteurs noted that this was mostly based on misconceptions and misunderstanding. They stressed that the Charter is an instrument that strengthens national unity, and that in many aspects Georgia’s language legislation already exceeds the demands of the Charter. They therefore called upon the authorities to seek the help of the Council of Europe in organising, jointly with civil society and the media, an information and awareness campaign aimed at all stakeholders in order to ensure that these misconceptions and misunderstandings are removed and that the Charter can be signed and ratified in the near future, as this is still an important remaining accession commitment of the country.

The rapporteurs were also informed about the efforts made to address any possible miscarriages of justice in the past. They acknowledged the importance of addressing this issue and welcomed the assurances of the authorities that any review of cases of alleged miscarriage of justice would be strictly a judicial process. At the same time they stressed that any perception of politicisation of this process should be avoided and that the review should be fully in line with Council of Europe standards for human rights and the rule of law. The rapporteurs therefore urged the authorities to seek the expertise of relevant Council of Europe departments on the draft law that is being prepared in this respect, before it is sent to the Parliament.

With regard to local authorities, the rapporteurs were informed about allegations of pressure on local officials to resign or switch sides from the opposition to the ruling majority. While resignations and switching between parties is part of the democratic process, it would be unacceptable if this was the result of duress. The rapporteurs therefore welcomed the fact that the Prime Minister informed them that he would establish a taskforce under his direct responsibility to investigate these allegations with the aim of stopping and remedying such actions when necessary. The establishment of such a taskforce should also be a strong preventive signal for party activists from all sides that undue pressure on local officials will not be tolerated.

The rapporteurs will give an oral report of their findings to the Monitoring Committee during the next part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly that will take place in Strasbourg from 22 to 26 April 2013.

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Council of Europe Office in Georgia