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Pashinian Ally To Run Armenian Judicial Watchdog


Armenia - The parents of soldiers killed in the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh protest outside the Supreme Judicial Council building in Yerevan, May 26, 2022.

A powerful state body overseeing Armenia’s courts on Friday elected a political ally of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian as its new chairman.

Karen Andreasian was chosen to run the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) one day after becoming one of its nine members. He was appointed by the Armenian parliament controlled by Pashinian’s Civil Contract party.

Andreasian served as Armenia’s justice minister until Wednesday. He was also affiliated with Civil Contract until it nominated him and Deputy Justice Minister Yeranuhi Tumaniants for two vacant posts in the SJC.

One of those vacancies resulted from Gagik Jahangirian’s decision in July to resign as both acting chairman and member of the SJC amid a scandal sparked by a leaked audio of his conversation with the previous head of the judicial watchdog, Ruben Vartazarian. Jahangirian could be heard warning Vartazarian in February 2021 to resign or face criminal charges.

Armenia - Ruben Vartazarian, head of the Supreme Judicial Council, at a news conference in Yerevan, June 20, 2022.
Armenia - Ruben Vartazarian, head of the Supreme Judicial Council, at a news conference in Yerevan, June 20, 2022.

Vartazarian was indicted and suspended as SJC chairman in April 2021 after falling out with Pashinian. By contrast, Jahangirian was widely regarded as a figure loyal to the Armenian government. During his leadership of the watchdog Armenian courts rarely rejected arrests warrants for opposition figures and other government critics prosecuted on what they see as politically motivated charges.

Early this year Armenian opposition groups, lawyers and some judges accused the government of seeking to further increase its influence on the courts under the guise of Western-backed judicial reforms. Andreasian stated afterwards that the SJC must dismiss these and many other judges in line with a sweeping “vetting” of the judiciary strongly advocated by him.

The SJC nominates judges, monitors their integrity and can also dismiss them. The number of disciplinary proceedings against judges initiated by the Ministry of Justice rose sharply during Andreasian’s ministerial tenure.

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