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Government Vows Sweeping Judicial Reforms


Armenia -- Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian talks to the media after presenting a new program of judicial reforms, Yerevan, 24July, 2012.

Armenia -- Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian talks to the media after presenting a new program of judicial reforms, Yerevan, 24July, 2012.

Armenians will stop complaining about a lack of justice in their country as a result of sweeping reforms of the judicial and law-enforcement system planned by the government, Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian said on Tuesday.

Tovmasian referred to a four-year reform plan that was drafted by his ministry and approved by President Serzh Sarkisian last month. It envisages wide-ranging changes in the work of courts and law-enforcement bodies as well as legislative initiatives such as the adoption of a new Criminal Code.

“I don’t know if I will be minister then, but I can assure you that as a result of the implementation of this program you will be asking totally different questions in four years from now,” Tovmasian told journalists after presenting the document at a public discussion in Yerevan. He declared that Armenians will stop having “doubts, concerns and complaints” about judicial independence and overall administration of justice.

The Armenian judiciary and security apparatus have repeatedly undergone structural changes since the mid-1990s. Public trust in them remains low, however, with the police and other security services continuing to abuse human rights and courts rarely making decisions opposed by the government and prosecutors. Only about 2 percent of individuals charged with various crimes in Armenia were acquitted last year.

“There is a lack of justice in Armenia. The courts, including the Constitutional Court, are not independent,” Felix Tokhian, a Constitutional Court judge, publicly stated earlier this month. Tokhian complained in particular that Armenian judges challenging the authorities run the risk of arbitrary dismissal.

The reform plan presented by Tovmasian calls for the introduction of more objective criteria for evaluating the performance of the judges. The Justice Council, a state body overseeing the judiciary, has been accused by many lawyers of arbitrarily punishing judges.

“I can’t say that our courts are the most just courts in the world,” said Tovmasian. “But we have taken many, many steps that are not visible at the moment.”
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