The prime minister recently demanded that judges who cannot remain objective and who know they should not be in their position should resign
A series of large-scale resignations in the judicial system has begun in Armenia.
On June 14, two members of the Supreme Judicial Council, Sergey Megryan and Armen Bektashyan, submitted their resignation. The Supreme Judicial Council is composed of ten members, six of whom have already abandoned their seats.
Other representatives of the judicial system have also resigned. On June 7, Justice Minister Artak Zeynalyan himself resigned.
Call for resignations
The series of resignations began after the statement of the Prime Minister of Armenia on the need for reforms in the judicial system.
“The people perceive the judiciary as a remnant of the former corrupt system, where conspiracies against people were constantly developed and carried out…Obviously, the public does not trust the court decisions. And I say this not only as the prime minister, but also as a representative of the Armenian people, who has the right to speak on its behalf…” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said.
Pashinyan has promised that the government will pursue the creation of a more effective and impartial judicial system, noting that constitutional changes and a referendum may be necessary.
Pashinyan outlined steps for further actions to improve the country’s judicial system and to get rid of the traditional ‘puppet’ system:
- all judges, without exception, must pass a vetting, that is, a reliability check
- all judges who have made decisions with violations recognized by the European Court of Human Rights must resign or be dismissed as must judges who themselves realize that they cannot be objective
A week after this statement, the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Gagik Harutyunyan, first resigned.
He had held this post since March 5, 2018, and since 1996 had been the chairman of the Constitutional Court of Armenia.
After Gagik Harutyunyan’s resignation, Gevorg Danielyan, acting head of the Supreme Judicial Council, resigned as well.
He was followed by a member of the Supreme Judicial Council Armen Khachatryan.
The closing link was the resignation of Sergei Megryan and Armen Bektashyan.
Opinion of European experts
Iskra Kirov, Senior Researcher at the Open Society Foundation of the European Policy, says:
“Armenia really needs fundamental changes. The previous government fully controlled the composition of the courts. The notorious judicial system served the interests of the authorities to preserve this very power.
“The Prime Minister of Armenia and his government should clearly show to its international partners and their people that they are serious about the issue of judicial and legal changes and are determined to reform the right way.”
European specialists have expressed readiness to help in the reformation of Armenia’s judicial system, which has been explicitly welcomed by PM Pashinyan.