Rusudan Dzmanashvili, the wife of another new non-judge member of the High Council of Justice, Tristan Benashvili, works as a specialist at the Tbilisi Court of Appeals

The High Council of Justice of Georgia comprises 15 members. A self-governing body of judges of the common courts of Georgia [TC1] elects eight members, the Georgian Parliament elects five, and the Georgian President appoints one member. Due to the Parliament's failure to uphold its legal duty to elect non-judge members of the High Council appropriately, the High Council of Justice has been operating with an incomplete membership for almost two years.

Finally, Tristan Benashvili (with 93 votes), Giorgi Gzobava (with 91 votes), and Zurab Guraspashvili (with 93 votes) were ultimately chosen by the Georgian Parliament by secret ballot to serve as non-judge members of the High Council of Justice of Georgia during the closed plenary session on May 17, 2023. It should be noted that one requirement for attaining EU candidate status is the election of non-judge members to the High Council of Justice of Georgia.

As soon as the non-judge members were elected, "Georgia Court Watch" published profiles of the new non-judge members and introduced them to the readers. This time, however, we want to discuss their financial situation and motivation (which they presented to the Parliament as a motivation letter) and tell you more in-depth about their experience.

Tristan Benashvili

The financial declaration reveals that Tristan Benashvili's wife, Rusudan Dzmanashvili, works as a specialist in the Tbilisi Court of Appeals. 

The new non-judge member of the High Council of Justice of Georgia resides with his wife and son. Numerous properties are listed in the council member's name, including a Batumi apartment he paid 81,418 GEL for in 2023 and a Tbilisi apartment and garage his father gave him in 2018. Tristan Benashvili also received a plot of land in Mtskheta as a gift from his father. The council member's wife, Rusudan Dzmanashvili, also owns an apartment in Tbilisi.

The family owns two cars as personal property. Various furniture items, watches, and several paintings —mostly gifts from family and friends—are also included in the personal property, the total value of which surpasses 10,000 GEL. But the declaration makes it plain that family members also give them money as gifts in addition to personal property. For instance, Rusudan Dzmanashvili received 30,000 GEL from her brother in 2022, and Tristan Benashvili's father gave him 60,000 GEL as a gift.

Tristan Benashvili earned 81,933 GEL in 2022 as his pay as the deputy director of Georgia's National Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission. The wife of Tristan Benashvili was paid 14,086 GEL as the specialist of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals. Savings made by Tristan Benashvili and his wife, as well as their income, gifts received, and spending, draw attention. In savings, the family has 54,000 GEL, 27,700 USD, and 3,500 EUR.

It is interesting what motivated Tristan Benashvili to keep working for High Council of Justice of Georgia. However, the motivation letter is only included with the documents provided by Giorgi Gzobava to the Parliament and forwarded by the High Council; it is not included with the documents submitted by Tristan Benashvili and Zurab Guraspashvili.

Tristan Benashvili's professional career began in 1999 as an assistant judge at the Tbilisi District Court, where he continued to serve until 2006, first as the expedition department's head and subsequently as the general department's head. He served in the Georgian Parliament from 2006 to 2008. From 2008 to 2011, he continued serving in the Georgian Chamber of Control, first as the head of the office of the chamber's chairperson and subsequently as the chief auditor. He worked for the National Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission from 2011 until he was chosen as a non-judge member of the High Council of Justice. He held several posts there. The commission adviser, the commission's top specialist, the deputy director, and the coordinator of quality management were among them.

Zurab Guraspashvili

Zurab Guraspashvili is another non-judge member, whose wife also works at the Tbilisi Court of Appeals.

Zurab Guraspashvili resides with his wife and kids. He purchased a flat in Tbilisi in 2020 for 134,000 GEL, and his wife Tamar Bliadze also owns the real estate after receiving it as a gift in the same year. Both Zurab Guraspashvili and his wife do not own any personal property, including a car.

Zurab Guraspashvili's financial declaration in the section on savings and accounts appears more modest than those of other members. At the time of filling out the declaration, he had 28,134 GEL in his accounts overall and no savings of any type.

Zurab Guraspashvili received a salary of 47,441 GEL from his professional activities in 2022, and his wife received a salary of 23,430 GEL. In 2022, his wife originally worked as a secretary of the court session at Tbilisi Court of Appeals before transitioning to the position of assistant judge.

Zurab Guraspashvili's employment history reportedly starts in 2006 with an internship at the Georgian General Prosecutor's Office. From 2006 to 2010, he served as a prosecutor in the Isan-Samgori district prosecutor's office. Up until 2017, his professionla experience were related to numerous roles in the prosecutor's office, including working as a prosecutor and a deputy prosecutor. He has continued to serve as the chief of the investigative department for the General Inspection of the Ministry of Internal Affairs since 2017 and held that position up until he was chosen to serve on the High Council of Justice.

Giorgi Gzobava

The asset declaration of a High Council of Justice non-judge member shows that Giorgi Gzobava resides with his wife, son, and mother-in-law. Giorgi Gzobava does not personally own any real estate; instead, his mother-in-law and wife are the real estate owners. The wife paid USD 42,000 for a Tbilisi apartment in 2022 after selling another one she held for USD 45,000.

The only item listed as Giorgi Gzobava's personal property is an automobile, which he paid 6,000 US dollars for in 2018. The council member owns "Rufus" LLC, although the corporation has never engaged in entrepreneurial endeavors. We found Giorgi Gzobava’s name also in another company. He is the sole shareholder of the company, "Lady Secret." However, the declaration states that the company has been inactive since 2016 and is currently going through liquidation.

Regarding the member of the council's accounts and savings, Giorgi Gzobava had 2,043 US dollars and 4,530 GEL in total in his accounts at the time he filled out the declaration. He also had 35,000 US dollars in personal savings. Leila Janelidze, his wife, has an account that shows 49,369 GEL in total. Regarding earnings, the document states that Giorgi Gzobava made just 2,000 GEL over the nearly eight months of 03.10.2022–17.05.2023.

In his motivation letter, Giorgi Gzobava writes, "Based on the experience gained from my long-standing relationships with the court and judges, current judicial practice, ongoing legal education, and participation in various educational activities, I clearly see the peculiarities and needs of the Georgian judicial system, the need to continue the reforms within the High Council of Justice of Georgia, and the judiciary, which, in my opinion, is crucial for the final formation of the Georgian justice system as an analog of the leading European justice system, and what all actors of the country's justice system should strive for."

Giorgi Gzobava states in his motivation letter that his background satisfies all qualifying standards. The majority of his working experience is in the legal field. In addition to practicing private law, he spent several years as a corporate attorney. He was the commercial director from 2010 to 2013 and the sales manager from 2006 to 2008. He began his professional career in 1997 as the prosecutor's technical assistant. Following that, as he expanded his profession, he mainly worked for various judicial bodies and law enforcement agencies for the following few years. He held positions until 2004 at the Georgia Department of Justice, the State Department of Border Protection of Georgia, the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office, and the Penitentiary Department of the Ministry of Justice. Giorgi Gzobava started practicing law in 2004 and was engaged in this field before being elected to the Hogh Council of Justice.

The composition of the Council is even more crucial given the great degree of power concentration bestowed on the High Council of Justice. Elected by Parliament, the non-judicial members of the Council are supposed to counterbalance the judicial members' authority in some areas, including decision-making, debate, and voicing opposing views. But as the present situation demonstrates, there was no disagreement among the members following the election of non-judge members; decisions are still made unanimously, and this custom persisted even when the Council elected additional non-judge members.


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Salome Kvirikashvili