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Retreat from the Key Public Demands of the Velvet Revolution: Statement

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor office, Open Society Foundations-Armenia, “Asparez” Journalists’ Club, Protection of Rights Without Border NGO, Law Protection and Development Foundation, Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, attorneys Robert Revazyan, and Karen Tumanyan have released a statement concerning government’s failure to instigate effective measures for vetting in the judiciary and law-enforcement bodies through legislative regulations. The respective laws were heard in a second hearing on March 25, 2020, awaiting a third hearing. The statement is still open for additional signatories.

“Analysis of the legislative regulations adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on March 25 in a second hearing, during the state of exception declared in Armenia, with respect to vetting in the judiciary and the legal system, supports the following conclusions:

  1. Two years after the revolution, predominantly waged by people defying injustices in the judicial, governmental and social realms, their expectations with respect to fundamental reforms of the judiciary will not be met, because the political majority in Armenia has adopted legislative acts by which it refuses to honor its publicly-stated commitment to implement sound vetting of the judiciary and law-enforcement authorities, and thus, will carry out only formalistic or selective vetting.
  2. There has been an obvious retreat from the key social demands of the Velvet Revolution—the agenda of achieving justice and equity.”

The statement goes on describing the limitations of the adopted legislative measures not empowering the State Corruption Prevention Commission to with sufficient tools to conduct vetting. Thus, the Commission will only review the property and income declarations and interests of judges, their good conduct and only for the period after 2017. The Committee will not be endowed with powers to require explanations for flawed or inadequate property and income declarations submitted before 2017. In addition, review of conflict of interests is framed too narrowly and only planned for the period starting 2019. Review of good conduct is extremely narrow, and planned only for candidates of judges, constitutional court judges, prosecutors and investigators. Good conduct will not be evaluated for acting judges, constitutional court judges, prosecutors and investigators.

The statement then stresses; “It is unacceptable that the conclusions of the Corruption Prevention Commission will not be published and will be advisory for the Supreme Judicial Council. The conclusions of the Corruption Prevention Commission and the decision-making of the Supreme Judicial Council on the basis of such conclusions will not be public. Thus, there can be no public or other oversight and accountability of the whole process.” 

The signatories demand from the authorities:

  1. To acknowledge that success in restoring democracy, the rule of law, sovereignty, and a social state critically depends upon comprehensive and in-depth vetting in all parts of the judiciary and law-enforcement bodies, notwithstanding the reactionary systemic resistance.
  2. To reconsider its inadequate, extremely moderate, and ineffective measures planned for justice reform, and to revise the vetting legislation immediately in line with the international best practices and the requirements and demands of the New Armenia before commencing vetting procedures.
  3. To conduct priority vetting of the Supreme Judicial Council’s members, as it is the ultimate body responsible for the vetting of judges.