A state body overseeing the Armenian judiciary on Wednesday took disciplinary action against two judges who recently refused to deal with the high-profile criminal case against former President Robert Kocharian.
The judges of a district court in Yerevan, Nelly Baghdasarian and Harutiun Manukian, were assigned to rule on petitions regarding Kocharian pre-trial arrest which had been filed by his lawyers and prosecutors. They both decided to recuse themselves from the case. Baghdasarian attributed her decision to questions about her impartiality raised by the prosecution, while Manukian cited health reasons.
The Supreme Judicial Council sanctioned them at the request of Armenia’s General Assembly of Judges. It accused Baghdasarian of serious misconduct and formally reprimanded her. For his part, Manukian received a more lenient “warning.”
Gevorg Danielian, a member of the council, said neither judge had “sufficient grounds” to avoid taking up the case.
Kocharian stands accused of “overthrowing the constitutional order” in the wake of a disputed 2008 presidential election. He and two retired Armenian army generals are due to go on trial soon. They deny the charges as politically motivated.
Another Yerevan judge, Vartan Grigorian, refused to preside over the trial last week, citing a conflict of interest. He argued that he used to work for one of Kocharian’s lawyers, Ruben Sahakian.
Danielian dismissed suggestions that Armenian judges are reluctant to deal with the politically sensitive case. “The behavior of two or three judges is not enough to express an opinion about the entire judicial system,” he told reporters.