Three officials sitting on the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) challenged on Tuesday the legitimacy of another member of the state body overseeing Armenia’s courts who was sworn in last week.
Nakhshun Tavaratsian, a controversial Court of Cassation judge, was elected to the SJC by fellow judges in November only to tender her resignation ten days later. She unexpectedly changed her mind and took an oath of office during the latest conference of the country’s judges held on July 11.
Tavaratsian argued that she can join the SJC because her resignation was never accepted. She dismissed objections voiced by some judges.
“Just because a few judges could not restrain their emotions during the conference doesn’t mean that my legitimacy is in doubt … I was elected and sworn in as member of the SJC in a manner defined by the law,” she said.
However, three other members of the SJC -- Grigor Bekmezian, Liparit Melikjanian and Hayk Hovannisian -- issued on Tuesday a joint statement saying that Tavaratsian technically joined the council in November. Citing the Armenian Judicial Code, they said she must be expelled from it for absenteeism.
The SJC will meet on Thursday to discuss their demands for termination of her duties. Its website does not list Tavaratsian among SJC members.
Senior representatives of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance have also expressed concern over Tavaratsian’s appointment to the judicial watchdog.
The veteran judge, who took the bench in 1996, could not be reached for comment.
The Armenian constitution gives the SJC wide-ranging powers, including the right to nominate, sanction and even fire judges. Half of its ten members are appointed by the Armenian parliament while the five others are chosen by the country’s judges.
The SJC was effectively paralyzed last month by the resignations of its chairman, Gagik Harutiunian, and four other members, which followed a radical reform of the Armenian judicial system demanded by Pashinian. The latter said that many judges remain linked to “the former corrupt system.”
Pashinian has repeatedly stated that he wants to make the courts “truly independent.” His critics claim, however, that he is on the contrary seeking to gain full control over them.