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New Bill Gives More Powers To Top Judicial Body


Armenian lawmakers holding a special session of parliament, March 19, 2021

The Armenian parliament on Friday voted to amend the current laws related to the judiciary to give more powers to the Supreme Justice Council.

Eighty-one lawmakers, including representatives of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s majority My Step alliance and several deputies not affiliated with any faction, voted in favor of the bill, with 15 lawmakers representing the opposition rejecting it in the second and final reading.

The parliament discussed the draft amendments submitted by My Step during a special session convened today.

My Step MP Vladimir Vardanian, who co-authored the bill, said the amendments will ensure “a reasonable examination of judicial processes” by giving additional powers to the Supreme Judicial Council that guarantees the independence of judges. In particular, the pro-government lawmaker said that the body will be able take a case from one judge and assign it to another, examine the reasons for protracted trials, etc..

With the adopted changes, a citizen will be entitled to lodge a complaint with the Supreme Judicial Council about the judge examining his or her case. Also, the amendments limit the number of petitions that parties to the trial can submit.

“Courts should be independent of the executive, other bodies, of any kind of external pressure, but not of the law. A judge must be guided by his or her own conviction and by law,” Vardanian said.

The opposition Bright Armenia faction, however, claimed that the amendments create opportunities for the government to influence judges.

“If they see, for example, that some judge wants to administer justice by passing a ruling in favor of a citizen [against the government], they will be able to replace that judge with someone who will pass a ruling [suitable for the government],” Edmon Marukian, the leader of Bright Armenia, said, stressing that he could not vote for a bill that also restrict the rights of lawyers.

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