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Armenian President Also Picks Candidate For High Court


Armenia -- President Armen Sarkissian speaks at a meeting with members of a government commission on constitutional reform, Yerevan, July 7, 2020.

President Armen Sarkissian also nominated on Tuesday a candidate to replace one of the three members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court controversially dismissed in June.

The candidate, Artur Vagharshian, is a chair of jurisprudence at Yerevan State University (YSU). Sarkissian already nominated him for a vacant seat in the Constitutional Court as recently as in May 2019.

The Armenian parliament controlled by the ruling My Step bloc refused to appoint Vagharshian to the country’s highest court at the time despite his assurances that he is “not linked to any political force.” The parliament also voted against another candidate proposed by the largely ceremonial head of state in April 2019.

The presidential press office mentioned these rebuffs in a statement released on Tuesday. It said Sarkissian stands by his recently articulated view that he should be empowered to appoint, and not just nominate, some of the Constitutional Court justices.

The statement emphasized the fact that Vagharshian, 56, was one of three prospective justices who had been shortlisted by an advisory “working group” set up by Sarkissian in 2018.This is why Sarkissian decided to again seek his appointment to the court, it explained.

Under Armenian law, the government, a general assembly of judges of all Armenian courts and the president of the republic must each field one candidate to fill the three high court vacancies.

The government picked its candidate, senior YSU professor Vahram Avetisian, on July 23, while the judges nominated Court of Cassation Chairman Yervand Khundkarian at the weekend. The National Assembly is expected to discuss and vote on the three candidacies in September.

Constitutional changes passed by the parliament in June call for the gradual resignation of seven of the Constitutional Court’s nine justices installed before April 2018. Three of them are to resign with immediate effect. Also, Hrayr Tovmasian must quit as court chairman but remain a judge.

Tovmasian and the ousted judges have refused to step down, saying that their removal is illegal and politically motivated. They have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to have them reinstated.

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