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Former Vice President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia (RA), Arpine Hovhannisyan, who is also an ex-Minister of Justice, went on Facebook and reflected on the Venice Commission 119th plenary session report’s section on Armenia, and which refers to the vetting of judges and the recent legal-political statement by recently elected Constitutional Court (CC) judge Vahe Grigoryan.

Hovhannisyan wrote as follows, in particular:

“The sections related to Armenia in the document summarizing the plenary session of the Venice Commission are distinctive with several episodes. And, so, the commission has stated:

‘“1. Following a court decision to release on bail [Armenia’s] former President [Robert] Kocharyan, [on 19 May] Prime Minister [Nikol] Pashinyan had strongly criticised 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 [Venice] Commission [Gianni] (Buquicchio) acknowledged that there was a lack of trust in the judiciary [of Armenia] but INSISTED that any measures taken had to be fully in line with the Constitution [of Armenia] and international standards.’

“1.1. Upon the invitation of the Armenian authorities, a high Council of Europe delegation arrived in the RA to discuss judicial reforms [in the country].

‘“AGREEMENT was reached that it would be neither necessary nor useful to carry out a general VETTING of all sitting judges [of Armenia]. Instead, disciplinary procedures should be strengthened and a link with the asset declaration system established.’

“I believe there is no need to explain in detail that in the Venice Commission’s view, the call for blocking [the court houses] and the subsequent measures have not been in line with the Constitution and international standards, the political cause of that demeanor is clearly stated, and whereas vetting is not a panacea, to put it mildly; it’s not necessary, it’s not useful, [and] therefore the [Armenian] authorities have agreed to give up that idea, which, of course, is very encouraging.

“2. The other important emphasis of the [Venice] Commission refers to the tangle that has been created around the Constitutional Court. The commission was informed about Vahe Grigoryan’s comments and, as a result, it has stressed the following:

‘“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 [Armenia’s] parliament and there might be a risk of interference with the mandates of the sitting judges.’ 

“I believe everything is clear here, too. There is no need for additional colorful interpretations: the CC judge and member separation is imaginary. Let me add that the [Venice] commission has authorized commission president G. Buquicchio to follow developments on this matter and to make a public statement, as needed.”

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