Judicial reform underway following controversial Kocharyan ruling

YEREVAN—The Armenian National Assembly held its first hearing on transitional justice on Friday. Lawmakers debated the mechanisms of a planned major judicial reform program designed to create a truly independent and professional judicial branch. The hearing was also attended by representatives of the European Union, which has pledged to provide technical support to Armenia’s reform effort.

The hearing was held on the day of Justice Gagik Harutiunian’s resignation as head of the Supreme Judicial Council, the state body tasked with overseeing Armenia’s courts. Harutiunian has been widely criticized for his perceived role in curbing the judiciary’s independence and submitting it to the will of the Sargsyan presidency. In a resignation letter posted online, the judge expressed that he no longer found his role as head of the Supreme Judicial Council expedient, citing the Prime Minister’s call for judges to resign. “I wish you continued fruitful activities in the establishment of an independent judicial authority befitting a rule-of-law state,” read the final line of his letter.

An association of Armenian judges which had convened for an emergency session on Monday night issued a statement signaling their readiness to work with the government in the  implementation of judicial reform, so long as the government strictly adhered to the country’s constitution and refrained from intervening in their work. Their statement also criticized Harutiunian’s tenure, accusing him of deliberately preventing the development of an independent judicial branch.

Outside Parliament, a tiny group of protesters lead by Narek Malyan, a one-time advisor to former chief of police Vladimir Gasparyan held up signs in Russian that read “Soros out of Armenia,” alluding to an increasingly common conspiracy theory allegedly linking the Pashinyan government to the Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Malayan is also part of a newly-formed ultra-nationalist party with ties to Robert Kocharyan with a website registration traced to locations within the territory of the Russian Federation.

Photo: Raffi Elliott

On the previous day, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) held a rally on Liberty Square in downtown Yerevan attended by an estimated 2500 people. The party accused the Pashinyan government of incompetence in managing the affairs of state and laid out its strategy to restore social and economic justice in the country.

At a ceremony held to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Battle of Sardarabad, ARF Supreme Council member Arthur Khachatryan told reporters that his party explicitly rules out any cooperation with former president Kocharyan. Reporters had noted spotting known Kocharyan supporters at the ARF rally in the previous week. Khachatryan responded that anyone could attend.

Raffi Elliott

Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. A former correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, his focus is socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia.


  1. Excellent summary of Maitre Haytoug Chamlian on the Kocharyan trial:

    I wish we could have more of those detailed and factual analysis in the Armenian press.

    The ARF rally, 1h30 discourses summarized in accusing the gvt of “incompetence in managing the affairs of state” should have deserved a better and separate coverage instead of 3 lines, specially that it has finally little to do with the Kocharyan trial itself, rather the dangerous developments of Nikol obssession with this trial.

    To summarize, ARF says that it stands with the people who voted for the present governement, but that Pashinyan and his team shall now put themselves at work instead of looking for internal traitors, internal conspiratory theories and implying that Artsakh need a revolution one year only before the elections, which is unresponsible and potentially extremly dangerous. ARF expressed concerns that Nikol is creating a drift between Artsakh and Armenia.

    The motto of the rally was “lrchasek”, be serious. A short glimpse of what has been said:

    Calling for “im kayle” 1000 supporters to block the courts because the judiciary system is corrupt, few weeks after having bragged that Armenia was now clean or almost from corruption, it is not serious.

    Making an angry statement on facebook that a new revolution shall occur to clear the judiciary system few hours after a legal decision that he doesnt accept and that surprised no one except him, its not serious.

    Acting like he was still in the opposition on Charentsavan hrabarag while he received 70% of the votes, its not serious and not worthy of the strong mandate he received from the citizens. He has now all the cards in hands to deal with reform of justice, and instead he acts out of fear, anger and weakness.

    That the chief of the Police call the blockade of the court “spontaneous therefore unpredictible” while Nikol gave the time and date, its not serious.
    Police did nothing to stop blockade, ironically trully anti constitutional.

    Reacting angrily to the simple guarantee given by Ghukassian and Sahakian that “Kocharyan will behave and will not escape” by calling for Artsakh people to choose their camp and more or less explicitely pushing for a revolution there, only one year ahead of the elections, its highly stupid and dangeroux.

    Calling for the “new phase” of the revolution not long after he already proclaimed that the second phase of the revolution would be economic, its not serious.

    Claiming that “the poverty is in our head”, its not serious.

    So the ARF warned the governement that the time for revolution was over and asked them to finally focus on the realisations of the promises that Nikol was elected for, mostly billions USD investments and tens of thousands of jobs. It reafirmed it was ready to help this gvt like they did with the others, if they receive such request.

  2. The current political climate in Armenia is not healthy and could lead to undesired consequences. Pashinian and his party were highly successful in leading the velvet revolution; the old regime is out and a new government was installed. There was hope and expectations. A new youthful energy ready and willing to contribute and make a difference.
    It was time to govern and implement the reforms that were promised to improve the economy, eradicate corruption, provide job opportunities to stop the emigration, establish a level field for business investments and development.
    Alas, the priorities have changed, Kocharian’s trial has become the top issue and the major preoccupation of the prime minister and his entourage. It is not clear what the objective is and what is to be gained. Then due to developments in the trial’s process,the judiciary has become target of attacks and calls for reform.
    I’ll let legal experts and pundits comment on the merits of the case against Kocharian. But what is painfully obvious is that the rule of law, separation of powers and the constitution has been totally neglected and trampled.
    Now instead of having unity, we have accusations and counter accusations, and conspiracies hurled around. It is total insanity when the country faces challenges on several fronts and constant threats from the Turks and the Azeris. Why is this happening? Why do we have to be in a constant revolutionary mode? Can’t we just get together and focus on what needs to be done? Why can’t we have a new dawn and new page in our history? Why so much hatred? Who the hell is Soros?
    This madness has to stop for the sake of the country before it is too late.
    Vart Adjemian

    • Who does not UNITY? We all want UNITY, however, unity is not something that can be attained as a verbal wish.
      In order to have unity of the society you need to clean up the mess the CORRUPTION and the ROBBERY that is going on during the last twenty plus years in our country and has deep very deep foundations.
      The country and its people are in shambles. Just think why the people went to the streets in thousands to protest against the kothcaryan’s and sargsayan’s of this world, why do you think.
      I believe because they said ENOUGH with these CORRUPTED RULERS AND ROBBERS OF THE COUNTRY’S WEALTH.
      These are heavy accusation which of course must be proved in the courts based on substantial evidence, nevertheless, the accusations are extremely serious to the extent of high treason.
      Pashinian and the present government of Armenia no doubt has to govern the country in an impartial and just way, has to take the necessary steps to boost up the dignity and wellfare of the people, to jump start the economy, to provide basic social and health security to the people, to promote education, to create new and better paid jobs and above all to FIGHT DECISIVELY AND TRY TO ERADICATE THIS MONSTER OF CORRUPTION which is widely spread among the post soviet era rulers of our country, this MESS must be cleaned if you wish to see a new dawn and a new page going forward in our country.
      It is evident that they are working hard to hinder the government’s efforts to uproot CHRONIC CORRUPTION and reinstate the rule of law in a DEMOCRATIC, FREE AND GROWING PROSPEROUS ARMENIA.
      This is the fact of the matter and it is ain’t madness as it is ain’t madness that we Armenians in Diaspora must be thankful and supportive of the courage and heroic work and efforts of the “VELVET REVOLUTION” and the present government carried out under the current CORRUPTED conditions.

  3. a man holding 100% of the Executive Branch of the State, and 70% of the Legislative Branch (in a parliamentary system), plus significant popular support, incited the citizens – and even some members of the National Assembly – to attack the Judicial Branch, in a frontal and obvious violation of the Law and the Constitution.. and he ordered the police and the Attorney General to abstain from performing their primary job and duties in this matter…

    all this, instead of using all that tremendous power to proceed to the necessary reforms of the judicial system

    how can this be justified, with a minimum of Reason, a minimal understanding of the basic concepts at issue ?

    and now, after rejecting two candidates proposed by the President, he will appoint to the Constitutional Court a person who must only be swiftly disqualified, on numerous grounds (including a clear constitutional interdiction); and he will do so, because the views and opinions of that person correspond to his political and personal agenda

    as for the Kotcharian case, it is the ultimate worst example that can be invoked, in fact, in Law, by virtue of the Constitution and even on the basis of elementary logic, for the purpose of demonstrating the flaws of the judicial system in Armenia… which no one can seriously deny… but any sensible person will easily see that the new regime is perpetuating those same flaws, by simply reversing them, this time in their favor

    and this is supposed to be a “New”, better Armenia… ?

    • Հ.Շ.,
      Very biased opinion because you are obviously a Tashnak and a lover of Kocharyan and Russia. All traitors, oligarchs and Russia lovers will be shut out of the new government in the transnational phase. No more tolerance for servitude and corruption. The judicial will be purged of all old guard corruption, the executive will serve the people’s will, we will become a western style nation whether Tashnaks like you like it or not. Thanks to our courageous new Prime Minister Armenia finally has hope for the first time in ages.

    • @ Michael T,
      At least Հ.Շ. presented some facts and logical reasoning to back up his arguments. All you did is abuse the guy, make absurd accususation about groups of people and hoped for the best. Like a typical Nikol follower. In the near future there will be a serious backlash against all the soros funded traitors in Armenia, including the NED funded Nikol. I just hope it happens before they have a chance to destroy the country.

  4. “Harutiunian has been widely criticized for his perceived role in curbing the judiciary’s independence and submitting it to the will of the Sargsyan presidency. In a resignation letter posted online, the judge expressed that he no longer found his role as head of the Supreme Judicial Council expedient…” – to say the LEAST! He has been evidenced to be an enabling stooge for the illegitimate Sargsyan mafia by willingly and knowingly forcing violations of laws and rights onto a generation innocent good Armenian citizens at the exact time that they desperately and helplessly yearned for justice. How many lives and dreams were ruined in Armenia, and how many citizens were forced to give up and leave their beloved homeland due to the villainous corrupt lawlessness of this enabling monster! He should not only fade away into retirement, he should rot the rest of his life in an Armenian prison with the rest of the members of Armenian’s 27 year criminal syndicate!

  5. Michael T,
    Reading your comment, I can think of two Armenian words,” Dekedoutyan Artunkner”. (Result of an Illiterate) and THAT is what you and Tuxov Peaceniks are. Enjoy your glory days while it lasts.

  6. @Michael T,
    You are late.
    People in Armenia had hopes, high expectations as high as the endless promises for”new Armenia” made by Nikol.
    But hopes vanished as swiftly as the foreign direct investments : it is now clear to most of Armenian citizens that the new regime is just perpetuating the same motus operendi as the precious ones, specially LTP…
    Assault on Markarian while he was wandering in family in Kentron by My Step and LTP HAK members wasnt worthy of a comment by Nikol, however the punitive action by ARF youth provoked an angry reaction from the PM.
    Former Mayor of Abovyan had his car and appartment burnt by Nikol fanatics few days after he announced his candidature at the next mayorial elections against Nikol protegé… still no comment from Nikol.
    Police targetting anti Pashinyan activists while in the same time My step supporters who threatened to kill Artsakh leaders are left in peace……

    All these are just a few examples of the new democratic standards of Armenia. The “courageous” PM is creating a vaccuum nourished by hate and inequality, variable geometry democracy and corruption. He is courageous only when it comes to defend his steak and his share of power. Nikol appreciation in Armenia is very low now, and it will continue to fall down. No discourse or verbiage will change that. The My step rally to counter the ARF one did’t gathered 50 people… Wind is turning.

  7. All you shamless fans of Oligarchs and Russia keep dreaming. Armenia is finally freed from corruption and imperial oppression. There will be some bumps on the road going forward but our duly ellected prime minister will overcome all challenges. Pashinyan enjoys overwhemling support by the people. There will be no going back to the old ways. Get used to it!

  8. If not for Russia, there won’t be Armenia, Mr. Illiterate man. The victorious Russians forced the Persians in 1828 to cede Trans-caucasian regions in exchange for peace. Yes, thanks to Russia, Armenia is back on the map. You have no pride, or dignity, Mr. Shameless little man. Enjoy your glory days while it lasts.

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