Statement on the protocol of the 119th session of the Venice Commission15.07.2019
The Protocol of the 119th Session of the Venice Commission (June 21-22) has been published in limited circulation, which contains important considerations on the processes taking place in Armenia. In particular:
1) As a result of the discussions with the delegation from Europe, the Armenian authorities have accepted that the overall vetting of the current judges is neither necessary nor beneficial.
2) The delegation from Europe and the RA authorities have agreed that instead of vetting, disciplinary procedures should be strengthened, connecting those with the system of income and property declaration.
3) The the play on words/wordplay “judge” – “member” of the Constitutional Court was not considered reasonable by the Venice Commission.
4) Տhe Venice Commission considers the provision for the further appointment of the judicial staff of the Constitutional Court (Article 213, RA Constitution)as “clear” and “unambiguous”.
5) The Venice Commission considered it worrisome that the RA Parliament welcomes Vahe Grigoryan’s well-known claims.
6) The Venice Commission sees a danger of interference with the mandate of the existing judges of the Constitutional Court.
The full text of the Protocol on Armenia with the Armenian translation is written below. See the original English version attached.
Mr Markert recalled that last year in Armenia there had been a peaceful revolution respecting the rules of the Constitution. The judiciary was, however, regarded by many as being corrupt and close to the previous power.
Following a court decision to release on bail former President Kocharyan, on 19 May Prime Minister Pashinyan had strongly criticized the courts, asked his supporters to block court houses and called for a renewal of the judiciary. In a letter to the Prime Minister the President of the Commission acknowledged that there was a lack of trust in the judiciary but insisted that any measures taken had to be fully in line with the Constitution and international standards.
Upon the invitation of the Armenian authorities, a delegation of high Council of Europe officials, led by the Director General on Human Rights and the Rule of Law and including the Secretary of the Commission, went to Armenia to discuss judicial reform. Agreement was reached that it would be neither necessary nor useful to carry out a general vetting of all sitting judges. Instead, disciplinary procedures should be strengthened and a link with the asset declaration system established. To this end the Judicial Code should be amended before the end of July.
The Armenian authorities indicated an interest in obtaining an urgent opinion of the Venice Commission on these amendments but had not yet made an official request since the amendments were not ready. At its meeting the Enlarged Bureau authorized the preparation of an urgent opinion.
The Commission authorised the preparation of an urgent opinion on the reform of the judicial code of Armenia, to be forwarded to the requesting authorities prior to the October Plenary Session.
The Commission was furthermore informed that a newly elected judge of the Constitutional Court had questioned the legitimacy of 7 of the 9 judges of the Court, who had been elected prior to the entry into force of the 2015 constitutional amendments. His main argument was that, according to the previous text of the Constitution, they had been elected as members of the Constitutional Court, while the new text referred to judges of the Constitutional Court. Article 213 of the revised Constitution, however, provided clearly and unambiguously that the chairman and members of the Constitutional Court appointed prior to the entry into force of the amendments shall continue to serve until the end of their term of office prescribed by the Constitution amended in 2005. It was disturbing that this statement by the judge had been applauded in parliament and there might be a risk of interference with the mandates of the sitting judges.
The Commission asked the President to follow the situation with respect to the Constitutional Court closely with a view to making, if appropriate, a public statement.