By Emil Danielyan
Armenia’s newly created Court of Economic Arbitration formally began its work on Saturday with the swearing-in of its chairman and six members. The judges, appointed by President Robert Kocharian on Friday, took an oath of allegiance to the constitution and other laws at a ceremony in the presidential palace in Yerevan.
The economic court, formed by the Armenian parliament earlier this year, is tasked with adjudicating commercial disputes among private businesses, government agencies and individual citizens. Such disputes were previously tackled by ordinary courts of first instance.
Kocharian, who presided over the official ceremony, argued that the existence of judges specializing in business law is essential for a market economy. He said the creation of the new court is part of his administration’s efforts to improve the business environment in Armenia, widely criticized by investors and Western donors. “An investor must be certain that in the event of a dispute the court will hand down a fair and legitimate ruling,” he told the judges.
Despite substantial structural reforms, Armenian judiciary is still not perceived to be independent and objective. Courts rarely make decisions going against the government’s will, and business people complain that the adjudication of commercial disputes is often tainted with corruption.
A package of draft amendments in the Armenian constitution aims to strengthen independence of the judiciary by stripping the president of authority to dismiss judges practically at will.