By Karine Kalantarian
A senior staffer at the Constitutional Court handling citizen appeals says citizens in Armenia still have no clear idea on what matters they can apply to the country’s highest judicial body.
Robert Chobanian told RFE/RL on Monday that only 109 out of 288 appeals filed since early last month have been registered and accepted by the Court. The appeals of most visitors turned away did not correspond to the requirements of the constitution.
Armenia’s Constitutional Court began accepting appeals from ordinary citizens for the first time in early July following the entry into force of one of the recently enacted amendments to the Armenian constitution.
Until recently, only the president of the republic, at least one third of the members of parliament as well as election candidates had the legal right to ask Armenia’s highest judicial body to overturn policies or actions which they believe are unconstitutional. The constitutional reform extended this prerogative to all citizens and permanent residents of the country and now the Constitutional Court also considers the constitutionality of legal provisions applied against individuals.
According to Chobanian, 13 of the accepted 109 appeals have been forwarded for further consideration. Two staffs of the court have been set up to study applications for a month and then appoint specific dates for review by the Constitutional Court. Twelve of the 13 appeals were lodged by ordinary citizens. And only one appeal was submitted by a private company.
Constitutional Court chief of staff Arushan Hakobian announced the dates for the consideration of six appeals – from September 12 to November 14.
According to Hakobian, during its September 12 session the Court will, for example, consider an appeal from a citizen, Manushak Kocharian, who disputes the constitutionality of the provision of the law that stipulates that citizens must have social cards to be paid social pensions.
According to him, a number of appeals concern corresponding articles of Armenia’s Civil Code, mainly regarding the property right, and some concern Article 4 of the Constitution dealing with human dignity.
The first appeal submitted to the Constitutional Court was from Artak Zeynalian, a senior member of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party who is challenging the legality of a decree signed by President Robert Kocharian in January. Kocharian set up a caretaker body that briefly managed the Office of Armenia’s Ombudsman following the resignation of the first ombudsman Larisa Alaverdian. Alaverdian and Armenian opposition leaders described the decree as unconstitutional. Zeynalian’s appeals against it were thrown out by lower courts.
“My appeal was not accepted unanimously. Therefore it was discussed at a meeting of the whole staff of the Constitutional Court,” Zeynalian told RFE/RL.
The Constitutional Court will gather to hear Zeynalian’s appeal on November 14.