Hayk Grigorian headed the Investigative Committee until last year. He will replace Grigor Bekmezian, who resigned from the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) October10, saying that it can no longer protect judicial independence in the country.
Bekmezian’s resignation came three days after the SJC chose Karen Andreasian, a former justice minister allied to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, as its new chairman.
The Armenian parliament appointed Andreasian as well as his former deputy Yeranuhi Tumaniants to the SJC earlier in October.
The SJC nominates judges, monitors their integrity and can also dismiss them. It was rocked this summer by a scandal sparked by a leaked audio featuring its former chairman, Ruben Vartazarian, and his controversial successor, Gagik Jahangirian.
Vartazarian fell out with Pashinian in late 2020 as the prime minister’s political allies accused him of encouraging Armenian courts to free arrested opposition figures. Vartazarian denied the accusations before being indicted and suspended in April 2021. Jahangirian became the acting head of the SJC as a result.
The judicial watchdog formally deposed Vartazarian as its chairman and member in June this year three days after he publicized a secretly recorded audio of a February 2021 conversation with Jahangirian in which the latter appeared to warn him to resign or face criminal charges.
The 14-minute recording caused uproar in Armenia. Jahangirian announced his resignation from the SJC on July 1.
Grigorian thanked Pashinian’s Civil Contract party for nominating him for the vacant SJC seat during a short question-and-answer session that preceded the parliament vote on Tuesday. The former top investigator pledged to uphold “the supremacy of the law” in his new capacity.
The results of the secret ballot boycotted by lawmakers from the main opposition Hayastan alliance were announced on Wednesday. It emerged that Grigorian received the backing of 75 members of the 107-seat parliament.
The ruling party holds 71 parliament seats, suggesting that four deputies representing another opposition bloc, Pativ Unem, also voted for Grigorian. Pativ Unem leaders made no public statements on that.
The two opposition groups as well as some lawyers and judges have repeatedly accused the Armenian government of seeking to further increase its influence on the courts under the guise of Western-backed judicial reforms.