Armenian reformers struggle | openDemocracy
The nomination of candidates for the Constitutional Court has caused further controversy and disappointment among supporters of the reform. First, the government appointed Vahram Avetisyan, head of the civil law faculty of Yerevan State University. The nomination was apparently obtained by the Minister of Justice, Rustam Badasyan, a former student of Avetisyan.
Several civil society organizations and former political prisoners protested, warning of a possible conflict of interest because Avetisyan had not been examined. Avetisyan’s father, David – the former president of the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation – had previously convicted a number of opposition activists who protested against the fraudulent 2008 presidential election.
Ultimately, Vahram Avetisyan withdrew his candidacy. The replacement proposed by the government, Edgar Shatiryan, also disappointed some activists. Shatiryan had previously been a member of the Committee for Ethical Behavior of Public Servants since 2015, monitoring possible conflicts of interest. Yet although many believed the former Armenian government to be corrupt, Shatiryan did not speak out on significant transgressions.
The second appointment also sparked controversy. After the amendment of Article 213 following the departure of President Sargsyan, his successor Armen Sargsyan (unrelated) expressed the wish to have more powers, including that of directly appointing the members of the Constitutional Court . Parliament rejected an attempt by the new president to fire a judge, Arthur Vagharshyan, whom he had previously unsuccessfully proposed for another role in 2019.
The third and final appointment – this time by the General Assembly of Judges – looked like a show of contempt for supporters of the 2018 revolution, including Nikol Pashinyan himself. The candidate, Yervand Khundkaryan, had been president of the civil chamber of the court of cassation since 2010. Thirteen of his verdicts were overturned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and Armenia was forced to pay 312 â¬ 000 in compensation. Therefore.
In May 2019, when Pashinyan announced that all judges should be reviewed, one of his explicit demands was that any judge whose verdicts had violated the rights of defendants and had ultimately been overturned by the ECHR should voluntarily resign or be sacked. . No voluntary resignations followed, and by 2020 the Armenian justice ministry abandoned the idea of ââvetting judges.
The parliamentary majority voted in favor of the three candidates on September 15, 2020, with virtually no debate. Only two or three members of the My Step fraction voted against each of the candidates; one of them, who had previously worked in the NGO sector, eventually resigned his post.
This inconsistency with the government’s pre-election promises, as well as with Pashinyan’s own explicit request, heightened doubts about the political will to implement reforms. Several officials, including the Minister of Justice, have been embroiled in disputes with representatives of civil society, former political prisoners and other critics.
As those arguments resonated, the unreformed justice system overturned the pre-trial detention of a number of former acting officials suspected of crimes. In an obvious conflict of interest, the judiciary appointed Judge Armenuhi Badiryan, the wife of former President Kocharyan’s defense attorney, to examine a lawsuit brought against the government by Kocharyan himself.
The post-war situation
Since the disastrous war with Azerbaijan last fall and the resulting political instability in his country, Armenian civil society has found itself in an even more difficult situation.
For the supporters of the revolution, the disappointment worsened. The government initially refused to view the snap elections as a way to resolve the current post-war political crisis. In mid-March, the government relented, agreeing to hold an election in June, but without changing the current problematic electoral code, apparently after a deal with two small parliamentary alliances.
Some reformers have called for the country’s mixed member proportional system to be changed to a simple member proportional system, amid fears that the current way of holding elections favors parties currently in parliament, as well as those that cultivate oligarch and clan support. local. On April 1, the My Step alliance made another U-turn and voted to change the electoral code.