An anti-graft arm of the Council of Europe on Thursday urged the Armenian authorities to make “further significance progress” in combatting corruption and boosting judicial independence in the country.
The Strasbourg-based Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) said so far they have fully taken only five of the 18 policy measures that were recommended by it last year. “Of the remaining recommendations, twelve have been partly implemented and one has not been implemented,” it said.
In a February 2016 report, GRECO described corruption as an “important problem for Armenian society.” The 18 recommendations contained by it concern independence of judges and prosecutors as well as corrupt practices among them and members of Armenia’s parliament.
GRECO assessed the authorities’ response to those proposals in a follow-up report. The five recommendations which it says Yerevan has “implemented satisfactorily” relate to the work of judges, the appointment and dismissal of prosecutors and mandatory asset declarations by these and other state officials.
“GRECO notes that further significant progress is necessary in order to achieve an acceptable level of compliance with the [other] recommendations within the next 18 months,” reads its latest report.
Most of the “partly implemented” recommendations also involve mechanisms for boosting judicial independence and preventing “improper political influence” on Armenian prosecutors. In particular, they call for restricting the Armenian president’s role in the selection and dismissal of judges.
In that regard, GRECO welcomed relevant constitutional amendments that were enacted in Armenia in 2015. It stressed, though, that the authorities in Yerevan have yet to put in place “effective rules against undue interference” in court cases.
Despite having undergone frequent structural changes over the past two decades, Armenia’s judicial system is still regarded by many people as corrupt and dependent on the government. Armenia’s former human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, highlighted the problem in a 2013 report that accused judges of routinely taking bribes.
At least four Armenian judges are known to have been arrested and prosecuted on charges of bribery over the past year.