Following the results of the 119th plenary session of June 21-22, the Venice Commission published a document in Venice, which addressed the events taking place in Armenia.
The full text of the letter is below:
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 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 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 authorised the preparation of an urgent opinion.
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.