Artak Zeynalian

Armenian Justice Minister Resigns

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian tendered his resignation on Friday, June 7, after just over a year in office.

Zeynalian gave no reason for his decision which he announced on Facebook. Instead, he thanked Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for appointing him as justice minister following last year’s “velvet revolution.” He also thanked Justice Ministry employees for the “interesting, fruitful and responsible joint work.”

“I’m sure that everything will be fine … But if it won’t be fine, it will be very fine,” wrote Zeynalian.

A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry refused to comment on his resignation.

Zeynalian, 49, is a prominent politician and former civil rights campaigner affiliated with the pro-Western Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party. He retained his post even after the party challenged Pashinyan’s My Step alliance in the December 2018 parliamentary elections.

My Step’s parliamentary leader, Lilit Makunts, suggested that his resignation is connected with sweeping judicial reforms planned by the Armenian authorities. Makunts said some My Step lawmakers are unhappy with the reform-related work of the Justice Ministry and Zeynalian in particular.

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Makunts told reporters that they voiced their “concerns” after government supporters blocked the court buildings across the country at Pashinyan’s urging on May 20. She insisted, however, that none of them called for Zeynalian’s resignation.

Speaking to journalists on May 21, Zeynalian pointedly declined to comment on the court blockade denounced by the Armenian opposition.

Artur Sakunts, a human rights activist, likewise linked the minister’s resignation with the judicial crisis. Sakunts said that the Justice Ministry did not initiate “drastic changes” within the judiciary under Zeynalian.

Also resigning on Friday was Gevorg Danielyan, the acting head of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a state body overseeing Armenia’s courts. In a statement, Danielyan said the SJC needs to have a different composition in order to “really inspire trust” and be able to implement judicial reforms.

The SJC’s previous chairman, Gagik Harutyunyan, stepped down on May 24. Harutyunyan attributed the move to “ongoing developments relating to the judicial authority” and his “concerns expressed in that regard.”

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