Judicial Corruption in Armenia - Justice for Sale
How judicial corruption works in Armenia. Submitted by Inga Karapetyan (37410) 52 21 27
Judges like any other civil servants here forget that they are just that, servants. Civil servants (from teachers, clerks on up) here use even the slightest position of authority to extort bribes by refusing to do what they are required to do by law. In the case of judges they will keep postponing the case until either side gives a bribe. Justice is hence sold to the highest bidder. A perfect example that follows is the Greg Agopian case:
Mr. Agopian settled in Armenia in 2002. Shortly thereafter he purchased 1/4 of a house (condo) with a substantial amount of land in the center of Erevan. After several problems arising with the co-owners of the land he decided to subdivide his portion of the land from the rest so he can use his portion in peace. Several attorneys guaranteed that it was an open & shut case as Armenian law requires equal division of joint property. In all honesty a few lawyers did say that bribes would be necessary but Mr. Agopian chose to go with one of the honest lawyers. Despite offers from locals to mediate the bribes for him, Mr. Agopian refused as that would be contrary to his mission of building a just & prosperous homeland.
The first instance court denied the claim to divide the land after many postponements. The excuse was a flimsy one that proved yet again it is almost impossible to accomplish anything in Armenia without bribes or fear. The excuse was that there existed illegal constructions on portions of the land. The lawyers then filed another claim asking for the demolition of the illegal constructions, which would remove the artificial obstacle to seperate Mr. Agopian's portion from the joint land. This trial was postponed many times till the judge made it clear that he would have to decide for demolition of illegal constructions. He postponed the trial one last time to collect a bribe from the other side. Seeing that Mr. Agopian won't pay a bribe the judge would expropriate the $500,000 land portion for as little as a $100 bribe & sell it to the other co-owners.
The judge in question was none other that Mnatsakan Martirosyan, one of the most corrupt judges in the country who, because of his KGB ties, can get away with murder (literally, as he presided over the Bogos Bogosian murder trial which was closely controlled by government circles to make sure nobody suffered any real punishment.) He also serves on the secretive, closed-door Justice Council which guarantees he is immune from responsibility to abide by the laws, Constitution or Treaties. It was absolutely clear when he accepted the bribe from the other side as from then on he no longer acted as a judge but as counsel. He preempted & reformulated their lawyer's questions. This was also the same judge who extorted a $2000 bribe from a local so he would not expropriate the local's inherited property. Unfortunately, the local wasn't smart enough to save a copy of the original verdict, before the bribe, which stated his inheritance was to be expropriated.
The reality is that the first instance court is a waste of a bribe as the case gets reheard at the second instance. What happened at the second level will ASTOUND even the most die-hard patriot.
After the first level verdict Mr. Agopian stumbled upon a secretive verdict obtained by the co-owners in early 2004 which illegally "legalized" many constructions on Mr. Agopian's land, hence depriving him of his Constitutional right to freedom of using his property. As the old Armenian proverb translates "there's no bad without a good"; that illegal, bribe-purchased verdict was a God-sent. In that verdict one of the findings was that Mr. Agopian was indeed a co-owner of that land. One of the main points of Civil Procedure are Articles 52 & 53 which state that the findings of a civil court verdict once entered into law (not appealed within 15 days) cannot be reheard by another judge & must be accepted as fact. On 25 Sep 2006 this legally binding verdict was presented to the 3 member corrupt court. The presiding judge, Armen Tumanyan, openly stated that this was one circumstance that the court could not cross. In essence the road to expropriate Mr. Agopian's property was blocked by that legally binding verdict. About 5 minutes after his statement Tumanyan illegally postponed the trial for no apparent reason. It would soon be clear that this postponement was an invitation for bribes. The panel, composed also of Tigran Sahakyan & Astghik Kharatyan, has many times been witnessed to postpone a trial for no apparent reason, violating the Code of Civil Procedure. The real reason of course is clear to be an invitation for bribes.
The Code of Civil Procedure specifically prohibits postponements of trial unless it is the end of the work day. In this case it was 11:44 am & there was over 5 hours left in the work day. The sides can motion for postponement only to provide more evidence or request witnesses. In this case neither was done. Also Tumanyan's postponement was indefinite. On Nov 3 the trial resumed. It was clear Tumanyan had accepted a bribe already as he would not have brought it out of indefinite postponement so soon & he started acting as a lawyer not a judge, as did Martirosyan at the frist instance. He denied to allow additional evidence that had surfaced which would further block expropriation of the land. They also refused to allow legal precedent which is guaranteed by Art. 92 of the Constitution.
Of course the second level criminals masquerading as judges expropriated $500,000 of land for a few hundred dollars bribe. This even after Mr. Agopian reminded the court of Tumanyan's own words "this was one circumstance that the court could not cross". Of course for a few hundred dollars they'll cross any line. Beggars have more self-repect than judges in Armenia. The sad thing about it is that the judges will probably never lose their jobs even though they practically admit they postponed the trial to get a bribe & later crossed the line they weren't supposed to, per their own words. There is further evidence which shows bribery in this case, but none as DAMNING as the above.
The fact remains that when a judge admits he legally can't cross a line, then illegally postpones the trial, then 1 month later he crosses that line that is proof enough that the postponement was specifically to collect a bribe. Else the judge would've crossed the line the same day without postponing. But in that case nobody would pay a bribe because it would already be a done deal.
There is evidence in the verdict itself that shows the judge met with 1 side while the case was in postponement. In the verdict, the judge claims that the side was willing to give up 50sq.m. of land but the side only made that claim in pre-trial negotiations & never made that claim in court (neither verbal nor written.) So how could the judge have known that fact, if there wasn't a secretive meeting between 1 side & the judge?
Also the judge falsified some of the evidence in his verdict. The most glaring example is that in the evidence it was written by Erevan City Council in 1963 that: Mr. Agopian's predecessor's "request to split his portion of the land was denied, because by law the land was for joint use" (Soviet laws.) But that statement made it into to the verdict as the "request to split his portion of the land was denied, hence he doesn't have land rights." Only bribery could support such blatant misstatement of fact. No judge will put their job on the line unless they have some financial gain for themselves.
The judge also ignored statute of limitations, which alone should've been enough to stop the expropriation.
In reality whether money exchanges hands or not isn't what makes bribery. Bribery also occurs when a judge refuses to take action until a bribe is paid. That inaction is still bribery on behalf of the judge even though no money exchanged hands. Bribery is the act of influencing the legal outcome by illegal means, irrelevant of if money, gifts or promises are exchanged.
Unfortunately officials get away with bribery because the system in Armenia is set up to not prosecute unless there is videotaped evidence of the transfer of marked money. In developed countries an official can lose their job based on an illegal act alone, irrelevant of if money is exchanged. Just as a murderer can be convicted based on fingerprints, without eyewitnesses, so should a judge be relieved of his duties if the facts show they broke the law. In reality though, the judge will only have to pay a bribe himself to avoid losing his job as the whole system is based on corruption & WIIFM (what's in it for me.)