tea tsulukiani

Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani. (DFWatch photo.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–A debate is brewing in Georgia about the credentials of the new justice minister, as Thea Tsulukiani’s opponents claim that she doesn’t have a law degree.

Her supporters in the governing Georgian Dream coalition claim she has a diploma, but received it abroad. The minister herself has not commented except from promising to answer all questions in the next few days.

The debate started a few days ago with an interview with Goga Khachidze, a member of President Saakashvili’s party United National Movement (UNM). He questioned whether Tsulukiani really has a law diploma from university.

In 2012, when Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili presented his new cabinet, the appointment of Tsulukiani received positive feedback even among the government’s opponents, due to her extensive background and experience in the field of law.

The Justice Ministry website describes all the minister’s achievements chronologically, starting with her graduation from Tbilisi State University (TSU), Faculty of International Law and International Relations.

The interview with Khachidze was followed by a report on Channel 1 dedicated to scrutinizing the minister’s educational history.

No-one is questioning that she is a well-educated person with great experience, but if she doesn’t have a law diploma, that may pose a problem, because Georgian law says that a person may become justice minister or chief prosecutor only if he or she has higher education in the field of law.

Dali Kandelaki, representative of Tbilisi State University, told journalists that after going through TSU’s records it turned out that Tsulukiani did graduate from the faculty of International Law and International Relations, but she majored in international relations, not law, and her diploma is therefore in international relations.

Representatives of Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA), as well as other constitutional experts, say that without education in law, a person cannot become justice minister; an official who in Georgia also functions as prosecutor. GYLA lawyers say that if a minister doesn’t really have a law diploma, the president has the right to dismiss her. But the organization plans to study this issue well and find out more about Tsulukiani’s education.

Representatives of the Georgian Dream coalition claim that the opposition is misleading people and that Tsulukiani has a law diploma. Deputy Justice Minister Alexander Baramidze says she received her law diploma abroad, while the education minister, energy minister and others in the government highlight her great experience from abroad.

“When I came to Paris, at the number one university of France I was introduced as a person, who is from the country, where Thea Tsulukiani is from,” Giorgi Margvelashvili, Education minister told journalists.

Vakhtang Khmaladze, who chairs parliament’s judiciary committee and represents the Georgian Dream coalition, a few days ago said in a TV interview that if Tsulukiani doesn’t really haw law education, she doesn’t have a right to be minister, and in this case, any decisions made by her, as a prosecutor, cannot be considered legal.

Vakhtang Khmaladze explains that any minister is a state official and there is no education census for any of them, but the justice minister is and exception, because under Georgian law, the justice minister is also prosecutor, and prosecutors are obliged to have special education.

Another subject which has been raised by political opponents is that recently a new draft bill was presented to parliament, according to which there will be amendments to the law and justice ministers will no longer be obliged to have a law diploma.

Chiora Taktakishvili, a member of parliament from the UNM, writes on her Facebook page that that Tsulukiani is attempting to cover up a crime. She writes that a draft bill was presented to parliament, which was prepared by the ministry, by which the justice minister will no longer need law education.

The draft has not yet been passed.

Yesterday, Friday, Tsulukiani wrote on her Facebook profile that she has just returned to Georgia and she considers some of accusations to be unworthy of an answer.

Tsulukiani said on Tuesday that she is invited to Channel 1 to speak about the important and successful visits to Washington and Brussels.

“If the journalist gets interested in my education, of course as always I will give complete answer to society,” she wrote. “Kiss you all. Your lawyer, Thea Tsulukiani.”