Discussion on the Topic “Visible Efforts, Invisible Outcomes: What will the Specialized Judges Change?”

Lawyer Hasmik Harutyunyan has published an article on the role of Supreme Judicial Council in the latest development, which is presented below: 

“The Supreme Judicial Council, as an autonomous body of the judiciary, was established for an essential objective: to ensure the independence of courts and judges. 

Let’s state such a constitutional body was established in the Republic of Armenia after the constitutional changes in Armenia of 2015, before it a similar body was not operating in Armenia. 

By the first Constitution, self-government bodies to ensure the independence of the judiciary were not envisaged. 

According to the Constitution, the right to ensure the independence of the judges was vested to the President of the Republic. Even though the activities of the Council of Justice was envisaged by the Constitution, the latter was not vested with the authority to ensure the independence of the judiciary. 

What status and authority was the Supreme Judicial Council vested by the Constitution of 2015 and the Constitutional Law on Judicial Code adopted in 2018 respectively. 

It should be mentioned that the Supreme Judicial Council is vested with the authority to ensure essential powers for the independence of judges, which in practice are able not only to serve that objective, but also create obstacles and risks. 

The Supreme Judicial Council, among other issues, is responsible for appointment and promotion of the judges, termination of the powers of the judge, solves the issues of subjecting judges to disciplinary liability, is responsible for financial issues, etc. 

I would also like to highlight the role of the Supreme Judicial Council regarding the measures and issues of endangering the independence of courts and judges. 

To what extent do the activities of the Supreme Judicial Council serve the constitutional objectives and how the above mentioned authorities were exercised? 

In order to answer this question, let’s observe the establishment procedure of the Supreme Judicial Council, which enables to evaluate the appointment of 5 non judge members out of 10 members of the Supreme Judicial Council by the National Assembly as a political procedure, since, essentially the leading fraction of the National Assembly could elect its candidate as a non judge member of the Supreme Judicial Council. 

Moreover, there are no objective criteria of transparency, evaluation of capabilities and skills in the selection process of the judges and that is in case, when we speak about lawyer-doctors in science and there is a formulated expectation, that the latter should be prominent specialists in the field. 

After its establishment in 2018, the staff of the Supreme Judicial Council has constantly been changed without concrete and sustainable directions for its operation. 

Moreover, from the perspective of objective criteria the procedure of appointment of non-judge candidates continues to remain unexplainable for society and especially for the legal community. 

Under such conditions, taking into consideration the latest events and the replenishment of the staff, we can state that the three-year activities of the Supreme Judicial Council is not sufficient to ensure the objective envisaged by the constitutional status, that is to ensure the independence of the judges. 

Without detailed analysis regarding the professional abilities of a certain member, let’s answer a simple questions: how can a member with an experience of accusatory mindset for decades and being associated with  impunity in criminal justice sector get involved and lead a institution, one of the main objectives of which is to ensure the independence of courts” – is stated in the article.