Thursday, 06 May 2021

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"Telephonic" Justice

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The issue of judicial reform is one of the most discussed in the last two years since the change of government, which is not accidental. States that succeed in building a judiciary that guarantees full independence from the other two branches of government and meets international standards are rapidly gaining ground among democratically developed countries. In May 2018, Armenia got such an opportunity, but could not use it. Instead of embarking on immediate reforms, the My Step government, and particularly Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, have from time to time been undermining the importance of transitional justice and their intentions to implement it.

Debates on the topic, issues are still being discussed, programs are being developed, proposals are being made, but the case is not moving forward. The impression is that the new authorities, who have made loud statements in favor of transitional justice, have regretted and reversed that idea. This became clear months after the "velvet" events, when the recording of the wiretapping of NSS Director Arthur Vanetsyan and SIS Chief Sasun Khachatryan was spread on the Internet on September 11, and in December of the same year, the recording of the conversation between NSS Director and Prime Minister. Thus, Nikol Pashinyan's claims that the judiciary in New Armenia is independent and he never interferes in the activities of the judiciary came to the fore.

As it is known, in both recordings, high-ranking officials were discussing the issue of arresting the people involved in the "March 1" case. So where are the assurances of non-interference? Apparently, the Prime Minister had decided to give preference to "telephone" justice instead of "transitional". Why should I leave "tested tan" and go after "untested yogurt", this is probably how Pashinyan considered it. The myth of the independence of the judiciary finally crumbled immediately after the first anniversary of the "velvet" on May 20 last year. The day before, the Prime Minister had posted on his Facebook page about the launch of the "second, most important stage of the Armenian Revolution," noting that he expects popular support.

It's about his well-known call to blockade the courts, which was unprecedented, unheard of. In fact, the head of the country's executive branch, who is also the head of state, actually revolted against another branch of government. And he did so a year after the "velvet" revolution under the guise of the "second phase of the revolution." In his speech, Nikol Pashinyan touched upon the steps taken to clean up the justice system, including the imperative of introducing promised and forgotten transitional justice mechanisms "to resolve the situation." According to him, all judges operating in Armenia, without exception, should be subjected to vetting. This means that the public must have complete information about the judge's political connections, moral character, property status, personal and professional characteristics. The need for vetting was also conditioned by the public's distrust of the system. By the way, this same motive was the basis of the Constitutional Referendum.

Another fruitless year has passed since then. The rating is on everyone's lips, but not in practical terms. Instead, the spirit of "telephone" justice still lingers in the court of the judicial system. It is worth mentioning that this judicial "fake" type has existed throughout the history of the Third Republic of Armenia. During the previous government, it was crystallized, almost to the point of institutionalization, becoming a lever in the hands of the regime to silence political opponents, create an atmosphere of fear in the country or to persecute unpleasant figures. Apparently, by rejecting Serzh, "My Step" did not reject his vicious law, just as it did not renounce his super-prime ministerial powers.

As a result, two years ago, the "My Step" folks who sowed love and tolerance from the "velvet" platform gave a second breath to the "telephone" justice, which brings new manifestations of violence, vendettas, "samasuds" and other illegal actions which the political forefathers of telephonic justice could only envy. The most recent example is the shameful events that took place in Syunik. Well, the Prime Minister is in no hurry to implement the much-promised reforms. He is convinced that this case does not like haste, otherwise it may turn out to be an uncooked "barbecue" made of hot fire, burnt in the face, and raw in it.


Gevorg Brutents

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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Yerevan, Armenia


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