Judicial Corruption in Armenia - Justice for Sale
How judicial corruption works in Armenia. 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 Agopian case:
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 the bribes would be necessary but Agopian chose to go with one of the honest lawyers. Despite offers from locals to mediate the bribes for him 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. 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 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 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 Agopian stumbled upon a secretive verdict obtained by the co-owners in early 2004 which illegally "legalized" many constructions on 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 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 Agopian's property was blocked by that legally binding verdict. About 5 minutes after his statement Tumanyan 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. 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 11:40 & there was over 5 hours left. 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. 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.
SURPRISE SURPRISE! Of course the second level criminals masquerading as judges expropriated $500,000 of land for a few hundred dollars bribe. The neighbors testify that the co-owners are too cheap to pay more than that. This even after 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 them. There is further evidence which shows bribery in this case, but none as DAMNING as the above.