Monday, 06 April 2020

E Editorial

Legal Dissonance in Armenia

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The events connected with the arrest and then the re-release of the second President of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, gave rise to a political resonance in Armenia, comparable to a seven-point earthquake. The judge, who made the decision to release Kocharyan from the courtroom, forced political forces not only in Armenia, but also in Artsakh to play in the open, laying all the cards on the table. For society, as a whole, this is a positive phenomenon, because it allowed us to produce a kind of lustration of all political forces and show the people who is who and who protects whose interests. As for the judicial system as a whole, the fundamental reform of which was spoken a year ago, this court decision was the last straw for breaking the old judicial system -- corrupt from top to bottom, starting with the Constitutional Court -- and building a new one.

It should be noted that Armenia received positive feedback from Europe and the United States on this decision of the government. Thus, the PACE co-rapporteurs on monitoring in Armenia, Yulia Levochkina and Andrei Shirchel, stated that the independence of the judiciary is a necessary condition for the rule of law and is best ensured by the absence of any interference from political actors. The US Embassy issued a statement saying, in particular, that the United States is ready to help strengthen an independent judiciary in Armenia, which includes efforts against corruption and the formation of rule of law institutions. Senior expert of the International Center for Transitional Justice Ruben Carranzan arrived in Armenia.

However, in all statements of Western circles, it was emphasized that reforms in the judicial system and vetting should be carried out strictly within the law. And some did not support Pashinyan at all. Thus, the former Polish ambassador to Armenia, Marek Novakovsky, stated that “he was surprised that the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan appealed to block the buildings of the courts.” The ambassador is concerned that the stock of public confidence granted to Pashinyan may quickly run out.

A year ago, experts spoke about the reforms not only of the judicial system, but also of the importance of the immediate adoption of laws on property, parties and elections. However, could these laws be drafted and adopted, taking into account today's realities, if the Basic Law - the Constitution, which was written to legitimize the power of one person Serzh Sargsyan - remained and now remains unchanged? Of course not.

During this time, it would be possible to write a new constitution in accordance with the spirit of the time, discuss and adopt it. Now, if we want to adopt a new law or reform the judicial system, there have always been and there are still people and organizations who claim that the law or reform does not comply with the Basic Law and all actions of law enforcement officers are aimed at settling accounts by the new government. As a result, all suspects flee to Russia, which does not betray its "own," turning them into political martyrs. And this is despite the fact that in Armenia they are not persecuted for political reasons, but for purely criminal cases. This, of course, is Russia's business, but it should be noted that such an approach does not clearly increase the percentage of the pro-Russian-minded population of Armenia.

Here we are in such troubled times. The absence of a property law gives rise to constant disputes in society — why a bribe-taker who plundered the country was not imprisoned, and he is walking free. But this law could clearly distinguish the difference between the stolen or legally earned. In this case, the courts could make the right decisions, and the people would be happy, because everything stolen would go to the treasury. And so, all corrupt officials are quietly walking around in Armenia, and if they feel the danger, they immediately flee to Moscow. Our law enforcement officers, with enviable consistency, give them the opportunity to escape from the country, and then make excuses that they cannot be caught. Only it is not clear who is deceiving whom.

Of course, vetting, about which people talk so much, is necessary. However, it will not be able to solve all the above problems without adopting a new Constitution.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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Yerevan, Armenia


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