Hrayr Tovmasyan

Armenia’s Constitutional Court Refuses to Oust Chairman

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By Gayane Saribekian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Members of the Constitutional Court on Monday, October 14, rejected lawmakers’ calls for the dismissal of its chairman, Hrayr Tovmasyan, who is increasingly at loggerheads with Armenia’s political leadership.

The Armenian parliament appealed to the court on October 4 with a resolution drafted by its pro-government majority and endorsed by Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan.

It denounced, among other things, Tovmasyan’s handling of appeals against the legality of coup charges brought against the arrested former President Robert Kocharyan. The resolution also said that Tovmasyan cannot make impartial decisions on this case because of his past membership in the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

Tovmasyan would have been replaced if at least six of the Constitutional Court’s nine judges had voted against him.

In the event, the high court refused to even hold detailed discussions and vote on Tovmasyan’s future. It did not immediately explain the rebuff or reveal how many judges backed it.

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The decision was announced several hours after the court met to discuss the issue. One of the judges, Alvina Gyulumyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Tovmasyan is not taking part in the meeting because he is on vacation.

Tovmasyan, who was installed as court chairman by Armenia’s previous leadership overthrown in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution,” strongly denies violations of the due process, political bias and conflict of interest alleged by the parliamentary resolution.

Tovmasyan claimed on October 2 that the Armenian authorities are seeking to oust him in order to gain control over the country’s highest court and be able to make unconstitutional decisions. He said he will not bow to the pressure despite the recent arrests of two individuals linked to him.

Senior lawmakers from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step alliance condemned Tovmasyan’s statements when the National Assembly debated the resolution two days later.

In a September 4 ruling read out by Tovmasyan, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional a legal provision used by investigators against Kocharyan. Pashinyan called the ruling “illegal,” citing dissenting opinions voiced by two court judges.

In July, Pashinian charged that Tovmasyan had cut political deals with former President Serzh Sargsyan to “privatize” the court. Tovmasyan responded by warning the government against trying to force him and his colleagues to resign.

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