Maybe we don’t have calling justice, but the issue of internal independence of the problem is solved

The interview of Factor.am with Haykuhi Harutyunayn, the President of the Protection of Rights without Borders NGO about the reforms in the judiciary.

Harutyunyan, the RA authorities announced, that judiciary reforms has started and as we know, the vetting tool of the transitional justice shall be applied in the process. After that. The judicial community will have a new composition. What do you think about it?

– Since at the current moment we don’t have the full package, it will be hard to evaluate the situation. The problem, that there is a need for the composition of the judges, we stated about it after the April events of 2019, saying that the current judiciary from the perspective of the legislative base, cannot be considered complete to ensure the democratic development. The general idea as a possible promotion mechanism is very important to be taken into consideration. I shall highlight, that the changes of persons cannot be considered a guarantee for the efficient and independent functioning of the whole system, moreover, when the procedures of the election, app

Therefore, only one action as a guarantee to implement the judiciary reform is incomplete as for me.

The human rights protection and the advocates community mentioned for a few times after the Revolution, that the courts do not implement calling and electing justice. And nowadays, there are different opinions, that there is danger related to the employment issues in the judiciary. What do you think about this?

– As I already mentioned, it’s not a single action to ensure or guarantee and second the latter shall not be applied immediately not to cause an employment problem. Let’s accept, there must be a training for the current judges and in parallel, all the staff shall be trained. I think 1 year is enough to train the staff, who can undertake responsibility in the position of a judge.

The Prime Minister mentioned in his speech of June 20 at the National Assembly, that the salary of the judges shall increase 4-5 times and reach from 2.5 million AMD to 3 million AMD. What do you think; can the increase of the salary prevent the judges from taking bribes?

– Since the issue of reasonable reimbursement of a judges was also raised in the previous concept paper of the reforms and the salary of the judges was raised, we, the human rights defenders also made jokes that parallel to that, the rate of the bribes were also getting higher.  For sure, it’s a joke, but there is a concern behind it, that only the salary is not a guarantee, that the judge will refrain from other interests. Yes, it is important, that the judge shall have his own means of satisfying the conditions not to have a second thought about taking of bribe. However, increasing the salary of a judge is not an enough guarantee to prevent the latter from other influences. We have also a problem, that beside the monetary and financial bribes, we also have political influences in this context, where I am also an expert and according to the professional assessment outcomes, the society has a perception, that the executive branch has a great influence on the judges, moreover we have a problem also of political influences.

In 2016, we implemented a monitoring in the judiciary, where I was involved as an expert and as shown by the expertise assessment there is a perception in the society, that the executive branch has a great influence on the judges, moreover the influence is also visible on the judicial decisions and the post-soviet culture is also visible in the life of independent Armenia.

The decisions related to the justification is very small and it does not state, that the investigative or the prosecutorial bodies were completely professional.

What to do so that the representative from the executive, legislative branches or the Head of National Security Service do not agree to get in touch with a judge, as an institutional solution?

– Usually, when we talk about the judicial reforms and particularly about the neutralizing the possible influences, the problem therefore is divided into two parts: strengthening the individual and institutional independence mechanisms and ensuring of the relevant reimbursement at individual level. Now we have the half of the mentioned criteria, but the other part is very weak.

We have also a problem of professional training for judges and they need capacity building trainings, which cannot be now fully solved. The judge is not practically protected. As you notices, we still talk about the old culture and the previous judicial system. At the moment, we only one part of changed executive body, we have National Assembly, but we have post-soviet judiciary, which has not been uprooted. Now, we maybe do not have a calling justice, but I don’t think the internal independence problem of judges is fully solved, which is quite concerning.

The full article is available with the following link  factor.am