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Parliament Majority Leader Sheds Light On Judicial ‘Vetting’


Armenia -- Lilit Makunts, the parliamentary leader of the ruling My Step bloc, at a news conference in Yerevan, May 6, 2019.

Lilit Makunts, the parliamentary leader of the ruling My Step alliance, on Monday gave some details of a mandatory “vetting” of all judges planned by the Armenian authorities.

Makunts said it will be carried out a state body overseeing Armenia’s courts as well as a new anti-corruption agency which the authorities are planning to set up soon.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian moved to purge the judiciary after a Yerevan court controversially ordered former President Robert Kocharian released from custody on May 18 pending the outcome of his high-profile trial. Pashinian said on May 20 that Armenian judges lack public trust and must be vetted based on their “political ties, origin, property status and activities.”

Makunts stated later in May that pro-government lawmakers are already finalizing a bill on judicial vetting. No details of the planned legislation have been made public so far.

Makunts told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday that the National Assembly will not pass a separate bill on the vetting after all.

“The main process of vetting will be carried out by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC),” she said. “But there are issues which are beyond its powers and they should therefore be dealt with by another body, which will presumably be the Corruption Prevention Body.”

In her words, parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan has already sponsored a bill on the creation of the anti-graft body and submitted it to a relevant standing committee of the parliament.

“We are doing everything to have the SJC launch the [vetting] process already this autumn,” added Makunts.

The SJC was effectively paralyzed by recent resignations of five of its nine members. The parliament elected earlier this month two new members of the judicial watchdog nominated by My Step.

The European Union and the Council of Europe have expressed readiness to assist in judicial reforms planned by Pashinian’s government. They have stressed that the reforms must conform to Armenia’s constitution and international commitments.

Pashinian has repeatedly said that he wants to make the judicial system “truly independent.” His critics claim, however, he is on the contrary seeking to gain control over the courts.

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