Yesterday, the General Meeting of Judges elected the six final member of the High Judicial Council (KLGj). As with the High Prosecutorial Council (KLP), the KLGj was elected without the vetting of all candidates being finished. This unconstitutional process was facilitated by the Governance Institutions Law, passed with only the votes of the Socialist majority, which redefined “complete reassessment” in case of the KLP and KLGj to the first round of vetting by the Independent Qualification Commission (KPK), excluding the important Special Appeals Chamber (KPA).
Earlier this year, the following 5 lay members had already been elected by Parliament:
- Lawyers (2): Fatmira Luli; Alban Toro
- Professors (2): Erjon Muharremaj; Maksim Çoku
- Civil Society (1): Naurela Llagami
The 6 KLGj members from among the judges that were elected yesterday comprise:
- Judges at Court of First Instance (2/1 outside Tirana): Brunilda Kadi; Dritan Hallunaj; Marçela Shehu
- Judges at Appeals Court (2/1 outside Tirana): Ilir Toska; Brikena Ukperaj
- Judge at High Court (1): Medi Bici
Different from the KLP, no appeals have been filed against any of the elected members. However, the current election procedure has taken away the rights of Artan Lazaj, Artan Zeneli, and Bledar Abdullai, who all appealed their dismissal at the KPA, to be elected to the KLGj.
Throughout recent weeks, both with the election of the Justice Appointments Council (KED), which was accompanied by several violations of legal deadlines and procedures, and the election of the KLP and KLGj, the different actors have followed a course of action in which prudence and respect for the rule of law, as well as the long term goal of establishing a credible judiciary, were sacrificed for speed.
This need for speed was dictated in part by the enormous delays caused both by the design of the justice reform, and the botched legislation passed by the Socialist majority through Parliament that failed to include proper transitory dispositions. Another part is obviously the burning desire of the Rama government and the European Commission to open accession negotiations in June.
By skipping the complete vetting of the KLP and KLGj, a scenario proposed previously by the EU justice assistance mission EURALIUS (which has stripped its website from all information and refuses to answer any questions from the media), there is now a precedent for skipping the vetting of the members of the KED, thus opening the way for the election of new members of the Constitutional Court.
We should remind ourselves of the aim of the justice reform: to establish an independent and credible judiciary branch of government. It was therefore considered of vital importance that any past corruption or malpractice was eradicated from the governance institutions (KLP, KLGj, KED, and Inspector) before they would, in turn, appoint new judges, prosecutors, and establish the new structures of the judiciary. The rotting of the fish should have been stopped at the head.
By skipping the complete vetting of the KLP and KLGj, and by violating the law during the KED election, the government, assisted by their political appointees in the judiciary, and unelected EU bureaucrats have effectively worked against the success of the justice reform. In fact, they have made certain it will fail.