Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday effectively ordered law-enforcement authorities to formally declare innocent those opposition figures who were prosecuted for their alleged role in the 2008 post-election unrest but then cleared of all charges for lack of evidence.
Dozens of loyalists of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian were charged with organizing “mass disturbances” and even plotting to seize power following the deadly March 2008 violence in Yerevan.
The police and other law-enforcement bodies subsequently dropped the controversial criminal cases against some oppositionists for lack of evidence. An article of Armenia’s code for procedural justice allowed them to stop short of stating that those men are innocent.
Two of those oppositionists, Aram Sarkisian and Karapet Rubinian, asked the Constitutional Court to invalidate the clause, saying that it runs counter to the constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence. The court accepted the demand in a ruling announced on Tuesday.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers welcomed the ruling. “If there is evidence, then there is guilt,” one of them, Artak Zeynalian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “If not, there is not guilt and the formulation that their involvement in a crime is not proven violates the presumption of innocence.”
Ara Ghazarian, the other lawyer, said the court upheld not only Armenia’s constitution but also European conventions signed by Yerevan. “That means we are on the right path,” he said.