2019 June 28
Anti-Corruption & News - Jun/28/2019: Constitutional Court crisis deepens; Court makes statement; New judge's letter talks about HHK's past tactics & irregularities; Debate looming.... Former Prime Minister & 15 illegal land deals.... frmr Ejmiatsin mayor and others charged... 1.1bln case... Meds
Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams unless specified otherwise.
The debate around the Constitutional Court and its wording about the title of the judges, as well as the trustworthiness of the judges, continues.
The newly elect judge Vahe Grigoryan sent a letter to the Parliament, President, the government, and to judicial board.
Parliament speaker QP Ararat Mirzoyan says the letter suggests 3 solutions to solve the crisis. Mirzoyan won't disclose them, says he'll wait judge Grigoryan to do it when the time comes. Mirzoyan disagrees that the judge is trying to illegally appropriate the power. He said the problem around the Constitution predated Grigoryan's speech in which he said there are only 2 judges.
Mirzoyan said the courts aren't trusted, because for years, they were used as "tools". The problem isn't about replacing the chief judge, also the Parliament doesn't have that right, says Mirzoyan. He said the chief judge himself should also participate in the process of resolving the crisis.
Mirzoyan said the problem wouldn't disappear if the chief judge leaves. "The problem is institutional." He will send the letter to all 131 MPs so they can discuss it.
QP faction leader Lilith Makunts says there is a crisis in the Constitutional Court, and it's regarding the 213th clause. She personally agrees with judge Grigoryan's interpretations, but says QP as a whole hasn't made a decision yet.
The Constitutional Court released a statement today:
1) They won't comment on the questions that have a political nature in order to "stay neutral".
2) The private opinions raised by others cannot have legal ramifications on the court.
3) The Constitutional Court has the ability to interpret the Constitution.
4) They won't publicly comment on things related to the constitutionality of certain clauses, because in future they might discuss it officially in the Constitutional Court.
5) The Constitutional Court will continue to operate as is.
Judge Vahe Grigoryan's letter has been published. It's batshit crazy long so I'll try to TLDR the message to the best of my ability. The below is Grigoryan's opinion...
He wants to expose the problem that caused the situation. The courts, its "members", and "judges" should resolve the problem.
Constitution's Clause 166.1 says there should be 9 judges in the Constitutional Court. Clause 170.5 says an approval of 2/3rd of the judges is needed to pass certain decisions, or a simple majority in some instances.
In the Clause 213 of the New Constitution it is written that the chief and the "members" continue to serve until the expiration of their term that was envisioned by the Old constitution (until they get old).
There are currently 2 "judges" - Dilanyan and Vahe Grigoryan - who were appointed under the new Constitution. There are also 7 "members" who were appointed under the old Constitution.
The differences between a judge and a member are evident from Clause 166, 170 and 213, and the way it's written doesn't say that the members become judges. If it envisioned that the members would convert as judges, it would says "members continue as judges" in the Clause 7.
Constitution says: Մինչև Սահմանադրության 7-րդ գլխի ուժի մեջ մտնելը նշանակված Սահմանադրական դատարանի նախագահը և անդամները շարունակում են պաշտոնավարել մինչև իրենց լիազորությունների՝ 2005 թվականի փոփոխություններով Սահմանադրությամբ սահմանված ժամկետի ավարտը, [but doesn't say որպես դատավորներ]:
(a former judge says the new Constitution has a similar case in which it DOES explicitly say that members of another institution do become full members of the newly reformed institute, yet when it comes to in this instance, it doesn't say that members and judges have the same powers, making it apparent that members don't become judges.)
Vahe Grigoryan talks about not just what the Constitution says word-by-word, but what it "intends" to say, because that's more important, according to him.
The fact that those who wrote then reviewed the Constitution never asked this part to be clarified during reviews, shows an intent that at the time whey didn't think that members would become full judges.
Another intention that members weren't envisioned as full judges lies within the need to change the Constitution itself. As part of the need to have the new Constitution, to make judges more independent and make sure they have higher qualities, new procedures were put in place, such as involving other government bodies during the judge selection, preventing political interference during chief-judge election, a 12-year term limit placed on judges, among with other standards. Meanwhile, the old members had different (lower) standards.
(if I understood right, Grigoryan is saying that the fact that the Constitution envisioned to reform the judge selection process to make sure the judges have higher standards, this indicates that since the old members didn't go through such processes, they weren't supposed to be full judges, that's why they are just "members")
When the new Constitution was adopted in 2015, it envisioned to have a Constitutional Court that met the higher standards. According to Clause 7, the new Court and the old Court have significant differences.
The new Constitution envisions that judges should be nominated by different agencies, including non-party affiliated ones. The president (who isn't a party member) and the judicial board can pick judge nominees. This assures that these judges aren't of a political background. Yet under the old Constitution, it was easier for one party to nominate and do whatever they wanted, and that is in fact what happened, because the president and the parliament used to be ruled by the same party. This isn't in-line with what the Constitution wanted to see in the Constitutional Court.
He also says when one political party (HHK) nominated and elected the court members, and made sure their picks could stay "forever", there was no proper reason given as to why they did so, other than the logical explanation that it was done to politically benefit themselves.
Vahe Grigoryan continues, now he is naming names (shit just got real).
The current chief Hrayr Tovmasyan, who was a member of HHK party, who was one of the people who wrote the new Constitution, was nominated by his fellow HHK MP Babloyan as a judge, and was elected as a judge the next day by his fellow HHK MPs, and in essence gave himself the ability to stay there permanently, while he wanted future judges to serve only 12 years. (his nomination happened just 40 days before the new Constitution was supposed to kick-in)
20 days later, when only 20 days were left for the new Constitution and new standards to kick-in, with the help of his fellow HHK members, Hrayr Tovmasyan was elected as a chief judge. Grigoryan then implies that Hrayr Tovmasyan is selfish and appropriated the power by writing the Constitution in a way to make it better for himself.
Girgoryan then proceeds to talk about how, in a political move, previous chief judge Gagik Harutyunyan quit as the chief judge just 20 days before the new Constitution kicked-in, in order to allow HHK to nominate Hrayr Tovmasyan. (G. Harutyunyan was then appointed as Supreme Court Council member before resigning new weeks ago amid criticism). Grigoryan exposes other events with their time-frames to show that there was a political scheme by HHK to hijack the court (he doesn't actually use the word hijack).
He accuses other court members for closing the eye on these events.
Says these changes were against what the new Constitution envisioned.
The swearing-in ceremony and its wording are significantly different for members and judges. The old members haven't given a swearing ceremony under the new Constitution yet. Says the wording also implies a difference between members and judges.
He criticized the international organizations which participated in the Constitutional debates in 2015 but closed the eye on some of these issues.
Says the safeguards that the judges cannot be replaced by politicians for political reasons are important, because they make sure the government doesn't do whatever it wants, but in 2015-2018 the politicians did whatever they wanted thus violating the main principles. (is he saying there should be a way for Parliament to fire judges?)
Grigoryan says the Constitutional court cannot be the sole body to solve this problem, because its members are the subject of the issue and are impartial. There is currently no single institute that they can go to and get this resolved.
He thinks the Constitutional Court should agree to create a legal council, consisted of various people, including the current court members, who will sit together and resolve this.
Outcome 1: They can decide everything stays the same.
Outcome 2: Seven new judges are nominated by the judicial board, president and parliament. There should be a consensus with opposition parties around the nominees.
Outcome 3: The members retire and the government pays them a pension. (this is the tldr obviously he goes into lengths)
Vahe Grigoryan won't say what his preferred method of resolution is, for now.
Armenia's former PM Hovik "Muk" Abrahamyan was known for his excessive ownership of lands. For many years, people have complained about embezzlement and water abuse. Last year a felony investigation was launched https://hetq.am/hy/article/92820
The SIS says they have uncovered illegal land deals during the investigation. Mayors of 3 settlements, as well as auction handling officials, are implicated in a case, in which 15 pieces of lands were illegally given and registered under Hovik Abrahamyan's friends and relatives names.
Millions of square-meters of lands, in different areas, were given to him for house construction and agricultural purposes.
The lands will be returned to the state, but the statue of limitations has expired, so the officials won't face a jail time.
Manvel "Tushonka" Grigoryan's son, the Ejmiatsin mayor who was long accused of turning the city into his family's playground, who quit after the revolution, has been charged with felony abuse of power and embezzlement. Two other officials working at the municipality are also charged.
SOC audited the municipality's work and found that these alleged crimes took place between 2015-mid 2018.
The report says that Mayor Grigoryan used his father's connections with Yerkrapah union to do them a favor and appoint their person at a high ranking municipality position. 4.5mln was embezzled because the latter didn't go to work but received salaries.
In another similar instance with Yerkrapah, 2.2mln was stolen after the another worker didn't go to work.
Another official is charged with a similar 5.5mln embezzlement case.
The mayor then allegedly abused his powers by ordering his personal chauffeur to be hired as a high ranking official in the municipality. The latter didn't go to work but received 9.6mln public funds.
Manvel had a bear and other animals, if you remember. There was a worker who used to clean up the zoo. At the request of the mayor, this man was registered as a city worker and received 1.2mln in funds, while never going to work and instead continuing to work at Manvel's mansion.
Another half a mil was stolen after the mayor instructed municipality to hire his father Manvel's bodyguard as a construction worker, who never went to work.
In another instance 0.8mln insurance money was stolen from the budget.
... the end of the report.
Mayor Grigoryan is facing 8 charges. Other two officials face several charges. They are told not to leave the country. The stolen money was partially recovered.
Citizen Mushegh Saghatelyan participated in the peaceful morning gathering in public square on March 1st 2008. That's when the government illegally dispersed the crowds by applying unjustified force. The ECHR ruled on that.
Mushegh was at the time arrested for 5 years. Subsequently, Armenian courts violated his rights for the next few years.
When the ECHR verdict came recently, showing the government and courts being wrong, the general prosecutor asked the Cassations Court to throw away Mushegh's conviction and assign a new trial. Today the Cassations Court approved the prosecutor's petition..
Former HHK MP Ashot Arsenyan's son didn't go to army. The prosecutors have opened a felony investigation with suspicion that documents were falsified. The son himself isn't isn't charged as a suspect, at least for now.
State officials from state property registration department are facing felony charges for their alleged role in colluding with a company, selling it a land, then falsifying documents showing that the company met all the legal requirements that came with the sale.
1.1bln in damages was done to state between 2015-2017.
400 prescription medications will become free for 200,000 low-income citizens beginning this July. http://panarmenian.net/m/arm/news/270458
The 4 Russian SU-30 jets have been purchased. The Armenian pilots are currently going through a training. The jets will be soon placed in the Shirak airport. 8 more will be purchased later. http://panarmenian.net/m/arm/news/270478
Boxer Karen Tonakanyan wins bronze medal in European Games. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/165031
and so did Gor Nersesyan https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/165039
Cyprus has ratified the EA-Armenia comprehensive cooperation agreement.
An Armenian citizen Zaven Karapetyan will return home from Azerbaijan, and Azeri Elvin Ibrahimov will return back to Azerbaijan, after a swap that took place at the presence of Red Cross near Kayan, Ijevan.
Earlier, Azerbaijan demanded to swap all prisoners, but Armenia disagreed, citing the fact that some of the Azeri the infiltrators committed a murder.
Elvin Ibragimov crossed the border in March, during which he was shot in the leg and received care in a hospital. The authorities agreed to let his family visit Armenia (unclear if they did). Armenian authorities had earlier agreed to return him to Azerbaijan as a good gesture "without conditions". It appears that Azerbaijan answered the same way by returning Karapetyan.
Zaven Karapetyan was a homeless man who entered Azerbaijan in 2017.
Making sure the most important news item of the week was covered before I leave for weekend.
Link to original report: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/c6p48m/anticorruption_news_jun282019_constitutional/
|2018 Daily Armenia Reports|
|2019 Daily Armenia Reports|