Rights Advocates Strive to Promote Judicial Independence in Armenia
The lack of the judicial system's independence is rooted in Armenia's post-Soviet constitution, which states that the president is "the guarantor of the independence of the judicial bodies." Such language, in effect, gives the president the ability to appoint and dismiss virtually all judges at will. Conversely, the constitutional provision effectively intimidates judges into making decisions designed to please incumbent executive branch officials, rights advocates say.
Research conducted in 2002 by the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative rated Armenia negatively on 18 out of the 30 indicators that comprise its Judicial Reform Index (JRI) for formerly Communist nations. Eight of the 12 remaining criteria in Armenia's JRI were rated as "neutral." Among the negative categories were "judicial qualification and preparation," "selection and appointment process," "adequacy of judicial salaries" and "judicial decisions and improper influence."
In comparing Armenia's performance with other CIS states, the JRI for Ukraine gave a negative grade for 12 of the 30 reform criteria. A newly published report on Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, gave negative evaluations in 19 of the 30 categories.
"Bribery is a common problem, caused ... by low judicial salaries, mistrust of the judicial system and historical practice," the Armenia JRI stated. "Judges often get telephone calls from officials, parties and
Emil Danielyan is a Yerevan-based journalist and political analyst.