Judiciary crisis intensifies in Armenia

Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara said, “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.” 

Every new day is a good opportunity for making Armenia a better place, especially after the devastating war against Azerbaijan, the losses and the disaster that we went through. It’s hard to imagine what history and what country the coming generations will inherit. What lessons should they learn? Whose steps should they follow? Every generation has its hero, but today all we have is an anti-hero who wants to oppress and dominate, and who hates bravery and patriotism. Unfortunately, it is he and his team who make today’s history.   

Justice? What justice?

In May 2019, Judge Davit Grigoryan presided over the trial of former president Robert Kocharyan and released him on bail. Clearly, this was unacceptable for the authorities. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on his “proud” citizens to block the entrances to courthouses. Unprecedented protests disrupted the work of the courts, and police officers would not budge. Pashinyan announced investigations against judges, and from that day on they were targeted, prosecutions started against them and the situation worsened. In an extraordinary move, instead of appealing the judge’s judicial act, the law enforcement officers prosecuted them. Although the Constitutional Court had ruled that Kocharyan’s arrest was unconstitutional, Judge Grigoryan was still suspended. He became the first target of attack. The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) approved the motion of the General Prosecutor. Grigoryan faced forgery charges. Many believed it was completely politically motivated. The case was assigned to another judge, and Kocharyan was arrested again.

RA Constitutional Court (Photo: Ben Men Lyun/Wikimedia Commons)

On February 7, 2022, Judge Boris Bakhshiyan was arrested. Bakhshiyan’s case was unprecedented in that he was the first judge who was prosecuted for his own verdict. He had over 100 cases in his proceedings, including cases of the legendary commander of the “Sisakan” detachment Ashot Minasyan, Deputy Mayors of Goris Irina Yolyan and Menua Hovsepyan, as well as Kajaran mayor Samvel Paramazyan. According to the law, after an arrest, all cases in a judge’s proceedings will be redistributed and reassigned to other judges. The most unusual part in this case is that Bashkhiyan’s judge was the man drumming for the crowd to chant “demp-demp-hou” during the “revolution” days in 2018. 

The authorities in Armenia appear to want to have judges and a judiciary system that can be oppressed. They are blind against prosecutions and targeting and violation of judicial independence. 

Another absurd case took place on November 29, 2021, when the Supreme Judicial Council announced a harsh reprimand towards Judge Zarouhie Nakhshqaryan, who did not withdraw from the “Shushan Pashinyan vs. Narek Samsonyan case.” (Shushan Pashinyan is Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s daughter). De jure, the Supreme Judicial Council is an independent state body that ensures the independence of judges, but in fact it intervenes disproportionately in the activities of the courts. Today’s authorities do not tolerate an independent court. 

Another action of the authorities was movement towards “possessing” the Constitutional Court. They’ve changed three judges, and a campaign started against members of the opposition parties. Some of them were prosecuted with criminal cases. The judges released and cleared them from all charges due to lack of fault. And that fact angered the authorities even more. Armenia is falling from democracy to dictatorship rapidly with the silent support of international organizations. These are just a few cases of the many that have taken place and unfortunately there may be more to come. 

Kocharyan made an announcement about these ongoing events and noted that the authorities are incapable of overcoming difficult situations; instead they do whatever they can to break the resistance. 

Judges that were symbols of justice and fairness now need it themselves. 

Edith Margarian

Edith Margarian

Edith Margarian is a philologist and translator and currently pursuing her master's degree in philology.
Edith Margarian

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