The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has formally agreed to advise Armenia’s Constitutional Court on the legality of coup charges brought against former President Robert Kocharian.
Kocharian was charged last year under Article 300.1of the Armenian Criminal Code dealing with violent seizure of power. The accusation stems from the 2008 post-election street clashes in Yerevan which left ten people dead.
In separate appeals, Kocharian and a district court judge in Yerevan asked the Constitutional Court early this year to determine whether the article conforms to the Armenian constitution. The ex-president’s lawyers argued, among other things, that the clause was added to the Criminal Code in 2009 and cannot be used retroactively against him.
In July, the Constitutional Court suspended the consideration of the appeals, asking the ECHR as well as the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for “advisory opinions” on the matter.
“The European Court of Human Rights has accepted a request for an advisory opinion from the Constitutional Court of Armenia and has constituted a Grand Chamber of 17 judges to consider it,” the Strasbourg-based tribunal said in a weekend statement.
The statement said the judges will arrive at a common conclusion regarding Article 300.1’s conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights. “Advisory opinions, which are given by the Grand Chamber, give reasons and are not binding,” it stressed.
The ECHR gave Kocharian’s legal team and the Armenian parliament until November 19 to present “written observations” to the chamber. Other interested parties, including the Armenian government, can send their comments to Strasbourg by December 4, according to the statement.
Armenia’s representative to the ECHR, Yeghishe Kirakosian, said on Monday that the government will exercise that right. Kirakosian declined to shed light on the government’s likely arguments.
Kocharian, who was arrested again in June, is specifically accused of illegally using Armenian army units against opposition protesters that demanded the rerun of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008, two months before he completed his second and final term. The 65-year-old ex-president was also charged with bribery early this year. He denies all charges leveled against him as politically motivated.