Case against ex Armenian president Kocharyan paused, ECHR asked to weigh in
The Constitutional Court of Armenia has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for consultation in the case of former President Robert Kocharyan, who stands accused of ‘overthrowing the constitutional order.’
The Constitutional Court has asked for an opinion from the ECHR and Venice Commission as to the constitutionality of Article 300.1 of the Criminal Code (overthrowing the constitutional system).
Until a conclusion is received, the case of Robert Kocharyan will be paused.
He continues to remain under arrest.
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Details of the case, timeline of arrests
The second President of Armenia was arrested for ‘overthrowing the constitutional system’ back in July 28, 2018.
However, after two weeks he was released. The Court of Appeals declared his arrest illegal given his immunity as former president.
The case concerns the events of March 1, 2008, which ended in protests that followed the presidential elections of February 19, 2008.
The Armenian opposition, led by the first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who was one of the candidates, held continuous protest protests for two weeks.
Protesters demanded a recount of the vote, confident that their candidate Ter-Petrosyan had won.
However, the Central Election Commission of Armenia announced Serzh Sargsyan the winner.
During the dispersal of the demonstration, military weapons were used and 10 people were killed. The president of the country at that time was Robert Kocharyan.
The investigation of the March 1 remained at a standstill until the Armenian Velvet Revolution of 2018. The new government headed by revolution leader Nikol Pashinyan immediately took it up.
On December 7, 2018, the Court of Appeal issued a decision to re-arrest the ex-president. From that day on, the second President of Armenia was in prison until May 18, 2019.
On this day, Judge Grigoryan released Kocharyan on bail after the former and current presidents of Nagorno Karabakh vouched to serve as his guarantors.
In addition, the judge sent the Kocharyan case to the Constitutional Court to clarify the constitutionality of the charges put forward against him, as well as to determine the essence of the institution of the president’s immunity under the constitution.
On June 25, the Prosecutor General’s Office turned to the Court of Appeal, which again had Kocharyan arrested.
Kocharyan does not recognize the charges against him. He considers this matter a political vendetta of the current Armenian authorities.
Kocharyan accuses Prime Minister of riots in 2008
On June 24, while Kocharyan was still free, in an interview with a local TV channel, the ex-president said:
“The current Prime Minister of Armenia bears direct responsibility for the riots on March 1, 2008, and he would like to revise history and find the perpetrators. In his account, the culprit is me.”
Premier Pashinyan was an ardent opposition member throughout his political career. An avid supporter of Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Pashinyan actively participated in the protests that began after the announcement of the election results.
After the demonstration was dispersed on March 1, Pashinyan went underground for a year and four months because of accusations of organizing mass riots.
On July 1, 2010, Pashinyan voluntarily went to the prosecutor’s office, was arrested and sentenced to seven years. After a year and 11 months, he came under an amnesty timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the independence of Armenia. Human rights activists believe that the authorities then took this step under the pressure of international structures.
The Prime Minister’s statement
Recently, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan gave an interview to RFE/RL, in which he stated that the ex-president is not a political prisoner:
“If Robert Kocharyan is a political prisoner, then I or another leader of the country can at any moment introduce tanks into the capital and crush any opposition manifestation with tanks. If I do not have such a right, then Robert Kocharyan is not a political prisoner.”
An Opinion of the Constitutional Court
Member of the Constitutional Court Alvina Gulumyan explained the decision to apply to the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe:
“We have not yet made a final decision. We need to know the opinion of these organizations. Who says that a court can make a decision until all the questions have been weighed and clarified?”
With regard to political implications in this whole case, Supreme Court Judge Alvina Gulumyan noted that “the Constitutional Court has always been above political implications”