A member of Armenia’s Constitutional Court has again rejected financial incentives to resign which have been offered to her and her colleagues by the government.
Alvina Gyulumian reiterated her view that the proposed early retirement is “not moral.” She also said it is too costly for the state and could paralyze the work of the court.
“I have had a chance to say [recently] that this is not an acceptable option to me because I believe that one must not be remunerated for work not done by them,” Gyulumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in a weekend interview.
Under a bill approved by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s cabinet last week, Gyulumian and several other Constitutional Court judges installed by Armenia’s former governments will continue to receive their salaries, bonuses and other benefits until the end of their mandates if they resign by January 31.
The bill was drafted by the Armenian Justice Ministry in August shortly after Pashinian implicitly demanded the resignation of those judges, including the court’s chairman, Hrayr Tovmasian. The latter has since been under particularly strong government pressure to resign.
The bill was criticized by some Armenian legal experts and opposition leaders. They said that it amounts to a legal “bribe.” The Justice Ministry dismissed the criticism, saying that some eastern European countries introduced similar measures when they reformed their judiciaries.
In a report released in October, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission voiced misgivings about the bill. It said early retirement proposed to the high court judges must be “strictly voluntary” and “not designed to influence the outcome of pending cases.”
“It would be unacceptable if each new government could replace sitting judges with newly elected ones of their choice,” warned the Strasbourg-based body.
Justice Minister Rustam Badasian emphasized the voluntary character of the government offer at a November 14 cabinet meeting in Yerevan which approved the final version of the bill. Pashinian also strongly defended it. He said Armenia’s former political leadership made sure that Tovmasian and most of the other Constitutional Court judges can serve until the age of 65 despite constitutional changes mandating shorter tenures for them.
The bill is widely expected to be passed by the Armenian parliament before the end of this year. So far none of the nine members of the court has publicly expressed a desire to retire.
Gyulumian said that if most of her colleagues accept the government offer the Constitutional Court will effectively stop functioning because replacing them would take months, if not years. The judge argued that the authorities have for months been unable to choose and appoint two members of the Supreme Judicial Council, a state body overseeing Armenian courts.