Armenia’s justice minister believes the establishment of diplomatic relations and an open border with Turkey will inevitably necessitate certain amendments in some of Armenia’s laws to ensure “a normal enforcement” of the agreements between the two countries that have “essentially differing domestic legislations.”
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL on Wednesday, Gevorg Danielian said such amendments in the country’s criminal, civil and land codes will become all but “unavoidable”.
“When we study [Turkey’s] domestic legislation, we understand that whether we want it or not, from the viewpoint of a proper protection of the country’s security and citizens’ rights and freedoms, there will emerge a need to revise legislation,” said Danielian.
Earlier this month, Armenia and Turkey, on the level of their foreign ministers, signed two protocols envisaging the establishment of diplomatic ties and development of bilateral relations. To gain legal force, the protocols will need to be ratified by parliaments in both states.
Under Armenian law on international agreements and treaties, the ministries of justice and finance are supposed to submit reports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on possible discrepancies between an international agreement or treaty planned for ratification and current domestic legislation.
Danielian said his ministry has mainly completed the perusal of the documents.
“There is no difference between the initialed and signed protocols. We, in fact, are already familiar with [the contents of the protocols] and are ready to provide our report on these protocols,” said Danielian.
According to Danielian, the ratification of the protocols will make it necessary to make amendments in the country’s land code to provide stricter procedures for land purchase.
He said any restriction in ownership or property rights is “linked with security.”
“The notion of security concerns not only areas near the border. We may have a territory or premises even in the center of the republic that would be considered a zone of security for us. It could be an administrative building of the Defense Ministry or an administrative building of the General Staff,” explained Danielian.
At the same time, the minister ruled out any amendments in the penal code that will entitle the government to prosecute people for dissidence. Moreover, Danielian thinks Turkey itself will reconsider its notorious law that allows prosecution of people for “denigrating Turkishness”, which is widely viewed by human rights groups as a restriction of freedom of speech.
A number of scholars in Turkey raising the issue of the 1915 Armenian massacres have been tried on charges presented under this penal code article.
“You cannot condemn people’s positions from the very outset. If you condemn them, you cannot at the same time give a person an opportunity to discuss. What should we discuss if a person has no right to express an opinion?” said Danielian.
Meanwhile, a number of political groups in Armenia opposed to the current rapprochement with Turkey, notably the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), have sought legislation to envisage prosecution for denying the fact of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Danielian also brushed aside critical opinions that the current protocols with Turkey reaffirm the 1921 Treaty of Kars, which defined the borders of Soviet Armenia and is still widely viewed by Armenians as treasonous.
“All these claims that these international agreements give legal force to other international agreements are far from being true. One should read our constitution to understand that in our country all international agreements are valid only if ratified by the National Assembly. These concerns are the result of legal ignorance,” concluded the minister.