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Armenia: PACE monitors express concern at the high level of tension between institutions

“We are very concerned by the high level of tension between two State institutions in Armenia, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Presidency of the Constitutional Court,” said the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the monitoring of Armenia, Andrej Šircelj (Slovenia, EPP/CD) and Kimmo Kiljunen (Finland, SOC).

“Checks and balances are essential in any democratic system. This implies that all institutional powers must act according to the rule of law, and respect it in their deeds and words, including with regard to the principle of the presumption of innocence. If they fail to interact according to these principles, they undermine and damage each other. We are therefore worried about the long-term damage these tensions, that have reached an unprecedented level, could inflict on the judiciary as a whole, in which trust is already very low,” they said.

“So far, the Government and the Parliament have respected legal procedures to resolve the situation. Moreover, the authorities have requested the opinion of the Venice Commission on the mechanism for early retirement of judges of the Constitutional Court. According to European standards, the Venice Commission underlined that early retirements should be strictly voluntarily and that this principle needs to be observed. As co-rapporteurs, we will closely monitor that the Armenian authorities continue to act in this way, even if the objective of this mechanism, to uphold the spirit of the constitutional amendments of 2015, seems valid,” they added.

“We have already emphasised the need for political players to refrain from actions and statements that could be perceived as exerting pressure on the judiciary. In addition, we call on all parties to lower tension,” said the co-rapporteurs.

“Finally, these tensions should not overshadow the need for reforms in Armenia, whether it be those in preparation or those that have already been launched in many areas of interest for the Council of Europe,” they concluded.