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‚Äôs
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.
For more information see: www.coe.int / www.coe.ge