Let Parliament Appoint the Prosecutor General
12 February, 2015
The solution is that the prosecutor general should be appointed for a fixed term by the parliament from candidates put forward by the president.

Officially prosecutors explain to a judge that somebody accused of a crime should be convicted – a fairly clear, but limited technical job the same anywhere. But in Georgia they have always been so much more. Since the Soviet Union through Shevardnadze’s time, the state feared that it was not legitimate enough because it had no
or weak democratic legs to stand on. It needed loyal protection against threats or perceived threats – muscle that it could use, as it felt was needed. The main arena for those battles of the state versus the individual was criminal courts, with the prosecutors enforcing state power. The prosecutors told the judges what was supposed to happen. If the state had no interest in the outcome, which happened occasionally, then the judge was free to decide on his own or sell the decision with the defense and prosecution discreetly negotiating the price.

Things changed under the national movement. Because of what they euphemistically called “plea bargaining” which could more accurately be called “ransoming.” The courts were rarely needed. Somebody would be arrested, told to confess, pay money, and serve the negotiated sentence. The other option was loosing a court case and going to jail
for a very long time because there was no hope of winning in court. The prosecutors role along with the police was to coordinate with the family of the accused, explain things and apply pressure, and administer or oversee the ransom payment. The courts themselves were largely removed from the process and evidence was irrelevant or manufactured. But once again in a different form, the prosecutors were the muscle of the state.
What was missing in all of this was any knowledge of how to actually investigate and argue a case. That was simply not what prosecutors did. So when the current government came in and tried to make the courts independent, they had real difficulties. Originally the Justice Ministry had some authority over the prosecutors, but that was quickly taken away due to personal disputes. Yet the fact remained that few prosecutors were ready or able to actually evaluate evidence and try to persuade judges and argue cases.
This becomes particularly complicated when members of the former government are being prosecuted. The prosecutors have not been very good at actual prosecuting, the government’s reputation is on the line, and it has been embarrassing for them at times. The judiciary under Shevardnadze was somewhat independent although also corrupt. It varied judge to judge. Under the Nationals judges became less corrupt but also less independent, and due to the increased role of state ransoming, simply less important. But now the judiciary is moving quickly towards being both important and independent. The problem of the prosecutors remains. Currently, the prosecutor general is appointed by the government. If he does a job that they approve of, he keeps his job; if he does not, he may loose it. And by what criteria will he be evaluated? Considering the history of prosecutors in Georgia, government having formal control over the prosecutors gives them obvious political power that nobody could be expected to have and not exercise. Of course the prosecutors are political; they have to be because the government is political. It’s natural.
The solution is that the prosecutor general should be appointed for a fixed term by the parliament from candidates put forward by the president. Then they would not fear loosing their job if they didn’t act according to the wishes of the government. It will lead to prosecutors acting independently, which is exactly what we need. The last government didn’t even discuss doing that because they had no interest in impartial prosecutors. They wanted to control outcomes. If the new government is as serious as they say they are about an independent judiciary, this is the easiest and most efficient way to make it happen. Let’s see if they do it.