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Minister Backs Parliament Bid To Oust Constitutional Court Head


Armenia -- Justice Minister Rustam Badasian speaks at a conference on judicial reform, Yerevan, September 27, 2019.

Justice Minister Rustam Badasian on Friday voiced support for the Armenian parliament’s plans to urge the Constitutional Court to replace its chairman, Hrayr Tovmasian.

The National Assembly will debate and almost certainly adopt early next month an appeal to the court drafted by senior lawmakers representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance. The document denounces Tovmasian’s handling of Robert Kocharian’s appeals against the legality of coup charges brought against the former Armenian president.

The Constitutional Court partly accepted one of those appeals on September 4. It declared unconstitutional an article of the Armenian Code of Procedural Justice used against Kocharian.

The draft parliamentary resolution accuses Tovmasian of committing serious procedural violations during the consideration of the case. It says he should not have dealt with the case also because of his personal ties to one of Kocharian’s lawyers and past membership in the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

“I consider the appeal substantiated,” Badasian told reporters. The minister also effectively echoed Pashinian’s recent allegations that Tovmasian became the Constitutional Court chairman in March 2017 as a result of a dubious political deal cut with HHK leader and then President Serzh Sarkisian.

Tovmasian rejected Pashinian’s verbal attacks in July. But he has yet to publicly react to the pro-government parliament majority’s efforts to oust him.

Although the anticipated parliament resolution is not binding, the high court has to meet and discuss it. Tovmasian will lose his post if most of the court’s eight other judges vote against him.He is not allowed to attend the discussion and vote on his future.

One of the judges, Alvina Gyulumian, on Friday declined to comment on the parliament measure. “A single word uttered by me could be interpreted in a certain way and preclude my participation in the court’s consideration of the issue,” she explained to journalists.

Gyulumian earlier denounced as offensive a Justice Ministry bill offering her and her colleagues financial incentives to resign.

The idea of such a bill was first floated by Vahe Grigorian, another Constitutional Court judge who was elected by the government-controlled parliament in June. Grigorian claimed that only he and another judge, Arman Dilanian, can make valid decisions because they were installed after sweeping amendments to the Armenian constitution took effect in April 2018. The court’s eight other members, including Dilanian, dismissed those claims.

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