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Statement of the President of Georgia on the Process of Selection Criteria of Supreme Court Judges, Recent Developments in Pankisi Gorge, Adolescent Suicide

President Salome Zourabichvili made a media statement on current developments in Georgia:
“Considering the high public interest on the matter, I would like to respond to the ongoing process regarding the selection criteria for Supreme Court Judges.
“I have expressed my position while delivering my Address to Parliament that the selection criteria for Supreme Court Judges should be based on a highly transparent process and at the same time should serve only one purpose: selecting trustful judges of high reputation.
“The Venice Commission made 5 recommendation on the selection criteria for Supreme Court Judges.
At the first stage, only one recommendation was taken into account concerning the cancellation of examination requirements. In our opinion, this change neither defused the tense situation, nor enhanced the role of the Judiciary, while it could not satisfy the main principles of the European Commission. 
“Due to this, we have been engaged through the second hearing and we have held consultations with the Chairman of the Parliament.

“The consultations achieved the following outcome: three more recommendations have been taken into account.
First, it was adopted that the personal information of judicial candidates will be made public;

Second, a member of the High Council of Justice (HCOJ) that is also a candidate for the position of Judge of the Supreme Court of Georgia can no longer vote on and assess other candidates;

Third, concerning the procedure for the selection of Chair of the Supreme Court: The Chair can only be nominated by three members of the HCOJ, instead of one.
“The only one recommendation that was not taken into account from the five recommendations is the abolition of the secret ballot during the selection process for judges.
“I should underline that this recommendation creates some inconvenience because it was another Venice Commission recommendation in 2014 that suggested making that ballot secret.
“I am confident that the achieved amendments will further support the selection of more open, transparent, objective, and impartial Judges of the Supreme Court and it will increase the confidence toward the Judiciary system.
“As for the opinion expressed by the Venice Commission that the appointment of some judges should be done after the 2020 parliamentary elections, it is a more political view rather than a legal one.
“I express hope that as a result of making reforms of the Judiciary system, Georgia will gain a judiciary branch and a judiciary corps with a high professionalism that shall ensure the delivery of lawful, justified, and fair judgements. This kind of approach preserves the growing trustfulness of society toward the judiciary branch, our common goal.
“I want to express my satisfaction concerning the outcome of our consultations with the Chairman of the Parliament.

Also, I would like to respond to the events that took place in the Pankisi Gorge.
“First, I want to underline that violence against police officers is unacceptable in any state. It is even more unacceptable in a state that has occupied territories and for which stability and protection of borders are vitally important.
“I would like to welcome the fact that under the leadership of the Minister of Internal Affairs, the situation in the gorge was defused.
“As for the reason that created the tense situation (construction of a hydroelectric power plant), I would like to underline that we all are aware that our country needs economic growth; however, it is necessary, at the same time, that the construction of the hydroelectric power plant be based on complete geological findings, complex assessment of threats, and public engagement.
“I believe that we will pursue this criteria and will implement the important projects necessary for our country’s empowerment.

Finally, I would like to discuss with a special accent the tragedy of youth suicide linked to hunger. 
“I cannot understand how many factors creates such a tragedy. But, I, as a president of this country, know that the links between child hunger and suicide is a tragedy and a shame for our country.
“Such tragedies need to be stopped.
“Therefore, I want to call on the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs to urgently start identifying socially vulnerable families and people with special needs to take special measures for their children.
“I would like to express my sympathy to the family of the deceased and accept my apologies as an ordinary citizen of this country.
“At the same time, I would like to underline that it is shameful to use such kind of tragedy for political purposes,” stated the President of Georgia. 

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