Judicial conference condemns “Vetting” and elects 2 new members of the High Council of Justice of Georgia

At the XXXII Conference of Judges held on 24 March, Levan Murusidze, a judge of the Court of Appeal and member of the Supreme Council of Justice, announced the election of Vasil Mshvenieradze and Levan Tevzadze as new members of the Supreme Council of Justice. They also endorsed Nikoloz Marsagishvili for the secretary position. These individuals secured their positions through an absolute majority vote among the attendees.

The conference, which saw the participation of 295 judges, culminated in a statement expressing strong opposition to any extraordinary procedures for assessing the integrity of judges. This stance reflects a broader concern for preserving the dignity, independence, and institutional reputation of Georgia’s judicial system. The statement highlighted the expectation that the public would understand and respect this perspective.

This development comes in the wake of Georgia being granted candidate country status for European Union membership. The European Commission has recommended the Georgian government implement a mechanism for evaluating the integrity of certain judges. This recommendation is part of a set of outlined steps aimed at judicial reform, specifically targeting the Supreme Council of Justice and key judicial figures. The integrity check is intended to be a temporary measure, focusing on judges occupying significant roles within the judiciary.

Peter Stano, spokesperson for the European External Action Service, emphasized that a thorough reform of the judicial system is essential. This includes the restructuring of the Supreme Council of Justice and the integrity evaluation of high-ranking judges, which are seen as crucial steps towards initiating EU accession negotiations.

Georgian Dream initiates anti-LGBTQ constitutional amendments

Mamuka Mdinaradze, the leader of the parliamentary majority from the “Georgian Dream” party, recently announced at a press conference at the party’s office that the party is proposing constitutional amendments focused on “family values”, which critics argue are aimed against the LGBTQ community. Mdinaradze highlighted that the party had previously declared its intention to introduce legislation to counter what it perceives as “pseudo-liberal propaganda”. GD provided a two-week period for the opposition and other interested stakeholders to submit their feedback or alternative proposals concerning this matter. However, according to Mdinaradze, there has been no such engagement from the opposition or any stakeholders to date. Instead, there has been preliminary opposition to the initiative, even though its specifics have not been fully outlined yet.

Mdinaradze reiterated the party’s dual commitment: protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of all individuals, regardless of their lifestyle choices, while also safeguarding family values and future generations from what they view as the damaging effects of pseudo-liberal propaganda.

Despite the current opposition’s stance, Mdinaradze expressed little optimism for their support of the proposed constitutional changes. Nevertheless, he affirmed the party’s determination to seek approval for these amendments in the next parliamentary session and to enact more definitive legal changes within the year, aiming to ensure the protection of family values as they see fit.

The government increases the funding for the Patriarchate of Georgia

According to the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, the financing of educational projects of the Orthodox Church of Georgia has increased by five million. In total, the financing of the organizations subordinate to the Patriarchate from the state budget reached 60 million.

The Prime Minister explained in response to the media that there is a general funding of 25 million for the Patriarchate, but beyond that, a 30 million allocation was included in the state budget for 2024, which is used for educational projects of the Patriarchate.

According to Kobakhidze, funding has nothing to do with elections.

This increase in funding has sparked reactions, including from the “United National Movement” party. Levan Khabeishvili, the party’s chairman, referenced remarks by Bishop Anton about the general price hike affecting all sectors, including the clergy. He highlighted that under the UNM, the budget for the Patriarchate was significantly increased, reflecting their alignment with European Christian-democratic values and their investment in the restoration and construction of religious sites.

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