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Yerevan Urged To Seek Venice Commission Opinion On Constitutional Changes


FRANCE – A session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 25, 2017.

Representatives of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) urged the Armenian authorities on Thursday to consult with legal experts from the Strasbourg-based organization before enacting controversial constitutional changes.

The PACE co-rapporteurs for Armenia, Andrej Sircelj and Kimmo Kiljunen, made the appeal as the Armenian parliament debated the proposed changes that would replace seven of the nine members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court locked in a bitter dispute with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his My Step bloc.

My Step bloc, which controls the parliament, also moved to call a referendum on the draft amendments rejected by opposition lawmakers as unconstitutional.

“The proposed changes could have long-term repercussions on the functioning of constitutional institutions,” Sircelj and Kiljunen said in a joint statement. “In this context, as well as taking into account some of the questions raised in that respect, we call on the Armenian authorities to request as soon as possible, the opinion of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s expert body on constitutional law.”

“We believe that this opinion, which could be adopted very quickly via an urgent procedure, would be valuable to all stakeholders, including the Armenian electorate if a referendum were to be held,” they said.

The Armenian government and the parliament majority did not immediately react to the appeal.

The PACE co-rapporteurs and Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio earlier expressed serious concern over the ruling bloc’s standoff with Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasian and six other judges who had been appointed by the former Armenian governments. Buquicchio warned on Monday against “any undue political or personal pressure on the judges concerned.”

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