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Interview of Human Rights Defender of Armenia, Candidate of Legal Sciences Karen Andreasyan to ArmInfo
by Ashot Safaryan
Mr. Andreasyan, on June 11 more than 550 out of 1200 representatives of the Chamber of Lawyers went on a 1-day strike and did not attend the court sessions, thereby protesting against the problems and judicial outrage in the legal system. How much do you think such actions are efficient for removing the existing shortcomings in the system?
The judicial system of Armenia has so many problems, and the lack of trust in the court system is so much obvious that I was not at all surprised at the strike of the lawyers. Moreover, we support the lawyers, in particular, when they are jointly trying to fight the outrage of courts and unfairness. Today the society has got very few ways to influence the court “elite”. In fact, the latter is rather “protected” against the public pressure. This is fixed in the Constitution, as well as in the world practice - the external impact on the judicial power should be reduced to minimum for the latter to be independent in its actions. However, actually, in Armenia this requirement of the Constitution and international norms has in fact led to the opposite effect, i.e. - despotism of judges. A court must depend on the law, it must not depend on neighbors, relatives, oligarchs or money. In Armenia the independence of courts has turned into total chaos. Such prudence often leads to the expected and fair public protest. I don't want to comment on this action of lawyers. Nevertheless, I can say that the general struggle against the top of the judicial power is clear and acceptable to us. It is still relevant today.
The focus in this problem is always put on the fact that the judges and the courts should change, without the slightest hint of the necessity to create conditions for the judges’ independence and to curb the oligarchs and those at power.
If a judge takes a bribe and passes an unfair verdict, to blame is not so much the oligarch that has bribed him but the authority that has failed to punish the judge.
Do you mean the Justice Council?
Yes, I do. It is the only force, besides the mass media, that can influence our courts, but, unfortunately, it is not efficient.
How did your polemic with the Cassation Court regarding the problem of the Justice Council end?
By asking the Justice Council to punish three judges I meant to show that the punishment mechanism is ineffective. Instead of punishing the judges, the Council just said that the judiciary is independent. So, we are right when saying that there is no progress in the Council's work.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has recently obliged the Republic of Armenia to pay 6,000 EUR to prisoner Ararat Muradkhanyan. Are there many such claims against Armenia? How does the state fulfill its obligations with respect to the claimants who win the case?
Lots of complaints have so far been filed to the Court against Armenia, with most of them satisfied. Our authorities timely pay the required compensations but do nothing to improve the situation. What we need is to punish the judges that are to blame for our spoiled image.
Many local and international human rights organizations regularly raise the problem of poor custody in Armenian penitentiaries. What’s the solution to this problem?
Unfortunately, insufficient financing prevents the Human Rights Defender's Office from improving conditions in Armenian jails. The problem of poor custody and bad treatment in jails is very urgent in Armenia, but my office does not have enough money to make a real change. We still keep visiting jails and, together with NGOs, reporting the problems existing there. The Justice Ministry is building new jails to solve the problem of congestion, but there are still problems of poor conditions, bad treatment, corruption and violence.
The hotline service has been operating since November 2011. Are the citizens interested in cooperation with the Human Rights Defender’s Office?
We receive a huge number of statements, applications, and we received about 700 calls on the very first day of creation of the hotline service. People call us every day and get assistance from us. Our cooperation with the NGOs, as well as the funds we receive from international structures, allow us to provide the necessary help to the people who become victims of injustice, bad treatment in the Police, investigation bodies and other law-enforcement structures.