Anna Vardapetyan became Armenia's first female Prosecutor General
Anna Vardapetyan – new Prosecutor General of Armenia
For the first time in Armenia, a woman, lawyer Anna Vardapetyan, became the Prosecutor General. Her candidacy was proposed by the parliamentary majority. The opposition did not nominate a candidate and did not participate in the voting. The new Prosecutor General was elected only by the deputies of the ruling Civil Contract faction.
Discussions about the advisability of nominating her candidacy lasted ten days. Concerns were raised not by the professional qualities of Anna Vardapetyan, but by her previous position. Since March 2020, she has been an assistant to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. In this regard, the opposition expressed fears that she would not be able to make independent decisions. The ruling majority refuted this view.
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The term of office of Prosecutor General Artur Davtyan expires on September 15. The nomination of candidates began on 15 June. The ruling faction of the Parliament “Civil Contract” nominated Anna Vardapetyan for this position. The opposition factions did not exercise their right to nominate their own candidate.
Anna Vardapetyan holds an Associate Professor position and teaches at Yerevan State University. Her previous experience includes work in the Court of Cassation and the Judicial Department. She also served as Deputy Minister of Justice and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s legal aide.
On June 29, an extraordinary meeting was held in Parliament on the issue of electing the Prosecutor General. The opposition did not participate either in the meeting or in the subsequent voting, but the elections took place. The candidate was elected by 70 votes.
The Attorney General is elected by the National Assembly. At least 60 percent of the votes of the total number of deputies are required for election. The term of office is 6 years.
Vardapetyan will take office on September 15.
The parliamentary majority calls these elections historic, since women have never held the position of prosecutor general in Armenia before.
“The punishment should not be belated, it should be proportionate”
The candidate for the Prosecutor General in her speech before the vote spoke about the upcoming reforms and focused on seven problems of pre-trial proceedings:
- belated justice, or a focus on processes rather than end results;
- delays in cases
- the practice of relying only on verbal evidence, i.e. oral testimony,
- lack of joint work, for example, between the investigator and the prosecutor,
- patronage, protectionism,
- replacement of mechanisms for preventing offenses by formal mechanisms for initiating a criminal case and investigation,
- public demand and expectation of a strict and severe sentence, and not a just punishment.
“The punishment should not be belated, it should be proportionate. In order for the punishment not to be late, criminal justice must be effective, not formal, but meaningful. In order for the punishment to be proportionate, there should be no patronage, protectionism. This is a simple formula”, says Anna Vardapetyan.
She stated that the election to this position for her is a matter of professional dignity, and if she is not elected, it will be “the failure of her entire life and career”. The work will be guided by its own criteria: consistency and clear requirements.
Anna Vardapetyan emphasized that she does not like to make promises, however, she promised to “rule out any destruction that could discredit the [upcoming] work process”.
“I am not afraid, because I made a deliberate decision, I want my knowledge to benefit society. And this is not unreasonable self-confidence on my part, but a responsibility that I take on consciously. I am against destructive approaches”, Vardapetyan said.
Dispute between the ruling majority and the opposition
For ten consecutive days, the opposition and deputies of the ruling faction commented on the candidacy of Anna Vardapetyan.
The oppositionists explained their distrust by the fact that Nikol Pashinyan’s assistant is unlikely to be able to avoid the influence of the prime minister and make independent decisions.
“They talk about democracy, but they do exactly the opposite. The Prosecutor General should be truly independent, and not turn from an assistant to the Prime Minister into the Prosecutor General”, Aram Vardevanyan, a member of the Hayastan (Armenia) opposition parliamentary faction, told reporters.
The pro-government deputies objected and assured that “Vardapetyan will act within the framework of the Constitution of Armenia, laws and his own conscience”.
“Mrs. Vardapetyan, with her professional qualities, high moral and value qualities, meets both the requirements established by law and the most important mission that, in our opinion, the future Prosecutor General should have”, said Hayk Konjoryan, leader of the ruling faction.
Earlier, Anna Vardapetyan herself raised this topic in an interview with journalists. She stressed that Pashinyan always expected an “alternative opinion” from his assistant. According to her, she always provided the prime minister with a “professional, legally impartial opinion”. The candidate for the Prosecutor General assured that the criterion for her work will be professionalism, as it was in previous positions:
“Women have never been nominated for the post of Prosecutor General. This circumstance is an additional factor, a bar of expectations from the candidate. Yes, the responsibility is huge. I think that my knowledge will allow me to meet the expectations of society”.
Anna Vardapetyan – Prosecutor General of Armenia