The messenger logo

Judge Calls upon NGO to Identify the People Speaking About Corruption in Court

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, July 10
Dimitri Gvritishvil, a judge member of the High Council of Justice, an independent body responsible for unbiased judiciary in Georgia, calls on the non-governmental organisation Transparency International Georgia to identify those who talk about corruption deals in the judiciary system.

Gvritishvili says if the NGO really has information about the corruption in the court, then anonymous people should give testimony to law enforcers.

He claims if the risks of any type of corruption are proved in the court system, the High Council will not cover up for offenders.

The Transparency International Georgia published a survey several days ago, saying judiciary system is corrupted.

The key findings of the Transparency International report are as follows:

The existing legal framework, including recent legislative amendments, serves the interests of the dominant group of judges and further strengthens its positions. The existing deficient legal framework increases the risks of corruption in the judicial system and concentrates excessive powers in the hands of the dominant group of judges. This creates opportunities for decisions to be made behind closed doors through informal negotiations.

The flawed procedure of selection/appointment of judges increases risks of cronyism and conflict of interest. The High Council of Justice enjoys broad discretion with judicial appointments, which has resulted in unsubstantiated appointments. Because of this flawed system of judicial appointments: Levan Murusidze was appointed for a three-year probationary period, while lifetime appointments were granted to Manuchar Kapanadze (Sulkhan Molashvili Case), Giorgi Goginashvili (Sergo Tetradze Case) and other judges, whose past judicial experience spoke for their inadequate professional reputation.

There is a dominant of judges within the judiciary, mostly consisting of the HCoJ members, which has the leverage to influence judges. This group holds significant powers (e.g., launching disciplinary proceedings, appointment/removal/promotion of judges, setting salary supplements for judges, an appointment of court chairpersons), which are often exercised on the selective basis. These excessive powers enable them to influence judges, which in turn, increases opportunities for corruption. Members of the dominant group of judges are considered to include: Mikheil Chinchaladze, Irakli Shengelia, Levan Murusidze, Giorgi Mikautadze, Dimitri Gvritishvili, Levan Tevzadze, Vasil Mshvenieradze, Sergo Metopishvili, Shota Getsadze, Davit Mamiseishvili.

Major problem is the suppression of critical opinion in the system by the dominant group of judges, an example of which was the process, when members of the Association Unity of Judges were slowly pushed out of the system. Initially, there were up to 50 active judges in the association. Currently, the Association has no acting judge members (some of the judges were not reappointed on the position after expiration of their tenure and others left the association voluntarily). Another example of suppressing critical opinion was the allegations made by Judge Irakli Shavadze.

Distrust towards judiciary has been further damaged by the fact that for years, the institution of Court Chairperson has been dominated by a small group of judges who are regarded as the superiors to other judges. They are considered to be the members of the dominant group of judges.

There is no efficient system of combating corruption within judiciary. Alleged criminal violations as well as disciplinary offenses are usually ignored. For example, the Prosecutor’s Office did launch an investigation into the alleged leak of judicial qualification tests in early 2016, but no information about the results has been made public. The HCoJ did not react to the misuse of court resources by former Chairman of Tbilisi Court of Appeals, Valeri Tsertsvadze, either. In 2016, Transparency International Georgia submitted a disciplinary complaint to the High Council of Justice regarding the latter case, however, the Council failed to react to the incident.

Legal professionals believe that corrupt deals are made in courts. Especially of concern is allegations made by the attorneys, interviewed for this research, that there are corrupt deals being made in courts. They say that, in order to reach a ‘right’ outcome in a case, it has to be fixed with dominant judges, who are called ‘bosses’ within the system.

The problems of Georgian judiciary are also discussed by business-associations, including big investors. Their concerns are not addressed in an efficient manner, which considerably damages the investment climate in the country. Such allegations were made regarding the case of Phillip Morris. This case, which was examined by Transparency International Georgia, gave rise to serious doubts about the fairness of the proceedings and impartiality of the court.

Consideration of politically sensitive cases in courts did not enjoy public trust.