European Court of Human Rights gives recommendations on arrested Armenian ex-president
On May 29, the European Court of Human Rights issued an advisory opinion on the case of the second President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan. The Constitutional Court of Armenia applied to the ECHR for advice.
The former president is under arrest, accused of overthrowing the constitutional order in the so-called “March 1” case.
This refers to events which happened in 2008 when, military weapons were used during the dispersal of the demonstration of people protesting the results of the presidential election and 10 people were killed. The current president at that time was Robert Kocharyan, who is now the main defendant in the case.
Kocharyan’s lawyers argue that their client cannot be charged under an article that did not exist in the country’s constitution in 2008. Their interpretation is that this is confirmed by the recommendation of European colleagues.
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How it all started
In 2019, Judge David Grigoryan, who is examining the Kocharyan case, as well as the ex-president’s lawyers, appealed to the Constitutional Court. The main point of the lawsuit was to
- ascertain the constitutionality of the charges against Kocharyan, in particular the application of Article 300.1 on the overthrow of the constitutional order,
- determine the possibility of the president’s immunity, according to the constitution.
The Constitutional Court began to consider the case. But about a week later, he turned to international organizations for consultation on this issue: the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.
The Europeans’ recommendations
The text of the ECHR’s opinion is difficult to understand without legal knowledge. However, the ex-president’s lawyers were clearly pleased.
The Constitutional Court sent a total of 4 questions to the European Court.
The fourth and most important question refers to the criterion defined by Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights (there is no punishment without a law), which checks the compatibility of two different legal acts.
Kocharyan is charged under article 300.1 – the overthrow of the constitutional order. And in 2008, there was no such article, and only Article 300 was in effect, concerning usurpation of power.
The ex-president’s lawyers claim that their client cannot be charged with an article that did not yet exist in 2008.
The ECHR had this to say: in order to give an assessment, one should take into account the specific circumstances of the case, and not make an abstract comment. And Kocharyan’s lawyers consider this a confirmation of their position.
The lawyers’ expectations
Robert Kocharyan’s lawyers are certain that if the recommendations of the European Court are taken into account, the ex-president will be free.
“Our first impression is that many of our previous positions and statements were affirmed by the court’s opinion…
The ECHR has no problem freely expressing its position. If the European Court analyzes an issue, it also publishes a hugely voluminous document, which can sometimes be problematic.”
By and large, lawyers believe that the whole case against the former president goes beyond the law.
After receiving the recommendation of the ECHR, the Constitutional Court is most likely ready to make a decision. They have not reported on what specific actions the lawyers plan to take in the near future.