Armenia’s Unhealthy Legal Crisis

Robert Kocharyan pictured in court, May 2019 (Photo: ARMENPRESS)

The Kocharian trial case has become a very confusing distraction for the legal system and the political environment in Armenia with worrisome and unpredictable consequences. PM Pashinyan has accomplished a lot. The economy is improving, and he continues to develop trade deals with new counterparts. Corruption appears to be on the decline. Tax collections are on the rise. GDP shows signs of improvement. These are all positive and on the right track. But the Kocharian trial is a dark cloud. 

The Supreme Judicial Council is effectively paralyzed. Articles of the Constitution are being challenged. Attacks, accusations and counter attacks are being waged with no end in sight.

Now in a rather unusual step, Armenia’s Constitutional Court is seeking an “advisory opinion” from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council Europe’s Venice Commission on the charges against the former Armenian president. In separate appeals earlier this year, Kocharian and district court judge Davit Gregorian had asked the Constitutional Court to determine whether the Criminal Code clause conforms to the Armenian Constitution. Instead of holding hearings, the Court decided to obtain an opinion from the European Court (ECHR). I wonder if it will resolve the issue.

According to news reports, “this decision was announced one day after Prime Minister Pashinian launched a scathing attack on the Constitutional Court and its chairman Hrayr Tovmasian. Pashinian has and continues to accuse Tovmassian of having made deals with former President Sarkisian to ‘privatize’ the country’s highest court and demanding changes in the court’s composition.”

As of today, no proposal to reform the judicial system has been presented to Parliament.

At the present time, the court is split between Grigorian (the court’s newest judge elected by the current parliament) and the other seven members including Hrayr Tovmasian the courts’ chairman, who were appointed before the Pashinyan-led Velvet Revolution. Judge Arman Dilanian who was also appointed by the new parliament does not agree or side with Grigorian. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members.

According to news reports, the Special Investigative Service (SIS) is investigating accusations of forgery brought up by an Armenian citizen against Grigorian. The action is suspect. Is this retribution against the judge? Grigorian had ordered Kocharian released from prison pending the outcome of the trial and suspended the trial questioning the legality of coup charges brought against the ex-president. 

Today, Kocharian is back in jail with no trial date set. His case is at an impasse until the ECHR issues its advisory opinion. Kocharian has and continues to deny all charges brought against him saying that they are the current government’s political “vendetta” against him. Pashinyan denies any political motives behind this prosecution and is intent on seeking justice.

Article 66 of the Constitution “Presumption of Innocence” states “Anyone charged with a crime shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty as prescribed by law, upon criminal judgement of the court entered into legal force.”

If that’s the case, then why is Kocharian being held without bail? Has he been proven guilty?

I am not a lawyer and cannot predict what the final outcome and judgment will be. However, it is abundantly clear that the case needs closure so that the conflict between Pashinyan and the Constitutional Court be put to rest.

For the sake and the good of the country.

Vart Adjemian

Vart Adjemian

Vart K. Adjemian was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1943. He became an ARF member at the age of 16 and was a contributor to the Armenian daily newspaper “Houssaper.” Adjemian worked for a German company in Egypt that was awarded the project of saving the Abu Simbel Temples, as well as for the Australian Embassy in Cairo. In the early 1970’s, he moved first to Montreal, Canada, and then to the United States. Adjemian worked for the Continental Grain Company (New York) for 30 years, holding executive positions in the United States, Italy, Switzerland, and England; the last 8 years of his tenure was as executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 2005, he retired to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He is an avid supporter of the ANCA and a regular reader of the Armenian Weekly.
Vart Adjemian

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  1. The reason Mr. Kocharyan is in jail, without bail, is simple. Mr. Kocharyan was charged with horrific crime, he is facing a punishment of a life sentence. Court has determined that, given the chance, Mr. Kocharyan will flee the country to escape the punishment. In other words, Mr. Kocharyan is a flight risk and bail should not be made available for him.

    • Horse sh#@t. Kocharyan never fled from the battle field under fire and he’ll never flee from his country. The only reason he’s in jail is because he’s the only thing that stands in the way of Nikol and his team of army draft dodgers from grabbing unconditional power. In 2008 Kocharyan did a great job of upholding the constitution when Nikol, under guidance from Levon ter petrosyan, was ordering his followers to arm themselves with weapons and attack and destroy the city and the police. The first 2 people killed out of the 10 victims were innocent policemen. Try pulling that stunt in the US and see what happens to you. Truth is the Armenian economy was devastated under Levon but grew exponentially under Kocharyan after 1998. Under Nikol we’ve had severe economic decline from what Karen Karapetyan left in 2018. Stop the propaganda crap look at the numbers.
      Nikol is the continuation of Levon ter petrosyan, one of the greatest traitors in Armenia’s history. Kocharyan is the man that put Levon in his place in 1998 and can put Nikol in his place now if out of prison, and they know it, and they’re scared as hell.

  2. To Vaheh: In the 1st quarter of 2019, the GDP annual growth advaanced 7.1%.
    This is definitely an improvement and hopefully it will continue.
    In regards to the article, it is very informative.
    How the legal process eventually unfolds will be critical to Armenia’s judicial system.
    In the opinion of many, Kocharian is not a flight risk.

  3. The stalemate and crisis continues.
    According to the latest news reports, the Ministry of Justice has drafted a bill that Constitutional Court judges will continue to receive their salaries and other benefits if they tender resignations by October 31.
    Critics have labeled it that it “amounts to a legal bribe”.
    Who knows what will happen next, when the judges do not take the offer and do not resign.
    Confusing and disturbing.
    Vart Adjemian

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