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Armenia’s Unhealthy Legal Crisis

The Kocharian trial case has become a very confusing distraction for the legal system and the political environment in Armenia with worrisome and unpredictable consequences. PM Pashinyan has accomplished a lot. The economy is improving, and he continues to develop trade deals with new counterparts. Corruption appears to be on the decline. Tax collections are on the rise. GDP shows signs of improvement. These are all positive and on the right track. But the Kocharian trial is a dark cloud.
The Supreme Judicial Council is effectively paralyzed. Articles of the Constitution are being challenged. Attacks, accusations and counter attacks are being waged with no end in sight.
Now in a rather unusual step, Armenia’s Constitutional Court is seeking an “advisory opinion” from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council Europe’s Venice Commission on the charges against the former Armenian president. In separate appeals earlier this year, Kocharian and district court judge Davit Gregorian had asked the Constitutional Court to determine whether the Criminal Code clause conforms to the Armenian Constitution. Instead of holding hearings, the Court decided to obtain an opinion from the European Court (ECHR). I wonder if it will resolve the issue.
According to news reports, “this decision was announced one day after Prime Minister Pashinian launched a scathing attack on the Constitutional Court and its chairman Hrayr Tovmasian. Pashinian has and continues to accuse Tovmassian of having made deals with former President Sarkisian to ‘privatize’ the country’s highest court and demanding changes in the court’s composition.”
As of today, no proposal to reform the judicial system has been presented to Parliament.
At the present time, the court is split between Grigorian (the court’s newest judge elected by the current parliament) and the other seven members including Hrayr Tovmasian the courts’ chairman, who were appointed before the Pashinyan-led Velvet Revolution. Judge Arman Dilanian who was also appointed by the new parliament does not agree or side with Grigorian. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members.
According to news reports, the Special Investigative Service (SIS) is investigating accusations of forgery brought up by an Armenian citizen against Grigorian. The action is suspect. Is this retribution against the judge? Grigorian had ordered Kocharian released from prison pending the outcome of the trial and suspended the trial questioning the legality of coup charges brought against the ex-president.
Today, Kocharian is back in jail with no trial date set. His case is at an impasse until the ECHR issues its advisory opinion. Kocharian has and continues to deny all charges brought against him saying that they are the current government’s political “vendetta” against him. Pashinyan denies any political motives behind this prosecution and is intent on seeking justice.
Article 66 of the Constitution “Presumption of Innocence” states “Anyone charged with a crime shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty as prescribed by law, upon criminal judgement of the court entered into legal force.”
If that’s the case, then why is Kocharian being held without bail? Has he been proven guilty?
I am not a lawyer and cannot predict what the final outcome and judgment will be. However, it is abundantly clear that the case needs closure so that the conflict between Pashinyan and the Constitutional Court be put to rest.
For the sake and the good of the country.
Vart Adjemian

Armenian Weekly

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