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.
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.