The Council of Europe Advisory Panel of Experts said in its conclusion that only one out of three candidates for a vacant position of Georgia-nominated judge to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) meets the criteria set by the European Convention, Georgian Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said on July 25.
Tsulukiani said that Lado Chanturia, former chairman of the Georgia’s Supreme Court, will continue selection procedures and added that a competition will be announced to select the remaining two candidates, as Shota Getsadze and Sophio Japaridze failed to meet the criteria due to lack of judicial practice and professional experience.
The nationwide procedures for selecting three three candidates for vacant ECHR judge position have been underway since December 2015. In January 2017, the Committee on the Election of Judges to ECHR, special committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, rejected three Georgia-nominated candidates to ECHR, citing lack of qualifications, prompting the Government of Georgia to announce a new call for applications in February.
In May 2017, the 13-member selection commission under the Justice Ministry shortlisted five candidates, three of whom were later approved by the government and presented to an international Advisory Panel of Council of Europe experts, which offers nominating governments confidential advice on potential candidates before the final list of three is sent to the Assembly.
The Georgian President’s administration, opposition parties and civil society representatives criticized the commission’s choice, saying the impartiality of commission members “raises questions.”
The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Judiciary, including civil society organizations which participated in the selection process, demanded annulment of the competition results.
“Due to the purposeful actions of government representatives, some highly competent and reputable candidates failed to make it to the list of top five and then top three candidates, whereas candidates with questionable qualifications and reputation made it into the group,” the coalition said in its statement released on July 3.
Georgia has to submit the list of three candidates to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) before August 31. Once the Assembly receives the list of the three nominees, the Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights will interview each of the three candidates in person and will scrutinize their CVs, in a standardized format, before recommending whether or not to accept the list – in other words, whether it believes all three candidates are sufficiently well qualified to do the job. If so, it will indicate which candidates it believes are the strongest. If not, authorities will be asked to submit a new list.
The Assembly - made up of 324 parliamentarians - then proceeds to vote on the candidates in a secret ballot, held during plenary sessions, based on the committee recommendations. An absolute majority of votes cast is required in the first round. If this is not achieved, a second round is held and the candidate with the most votes is duly elected to serve on the Court for a non-renewable term of nine years.
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights rules on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The tenure of Nona Tsotsoria, current Georgia-nominated ECHR judge, expired in January 2017, but was prolonged due to the PACE committee rejection of Georgia-nominated candidates.