On 20 June 2022, the recording of the conversation of Ruben Vardazaryan, the SJC President Gagik Jhangiryan and the SJC member Stepan Mikaelyan was made public during the press conference invited by Ruben Vardazaryan - previous President of the Supreme Judicial Council, whose authorities were terminated - and his advocate.
The conversation made public contains information about possible causes of criminal cases initiated with respect to Ruben Vardazaryan, as well as prima facie facts of interference with administration of criminal justice and investigation into criminal cases. This raises serious concerns as to the independence and impartiality of the bodies conducting the criminal proceedings, the effectiveness of criminal justice, and also independence and reputation of the judiciary and judges.
The Supreme Judicial Council’s mission of guaranteeing independence of courts and judges requires that the Supreme Judicial Council and its members be the reflection of impartiality, independence and effectiveness of the judiciary, enjoy trust of the system and the public, and be the symbol of justice. The Supreme Judicial Council members should be trustworthy and exemplary for the whole society in their image, functioning and speech.
The recording made public comes to prove once again that problems of the judiciary emerge from the Supreme Judicial Council; even though the Supreme Judicial Council has the mandate and mission to resolve such problems, this body, as represented by its Presidents, is associated with public embarrassment and shame.
The content of the conversation involving the Supreme Judicial Council members is absolutely unacceptable and condemnable․ In such conditions, further functioning of the Council is impossible with the members involved in the conversation made public. Their immediate resignation stems from the interests of the judiciary and justice. Their further tenure of office can increase the deep distrust towards the Supreme Judicial Council and the judiciary.
At the same time, once again we record that such manifestations in the judiciary and the legal system are a result of the RA authorities’ failure to conduct vetting and transitional justice. The need for vetting and lustration in the judicial and law enforcement system has many times been voiced by representatives of the civil society and the community of lawyers, while the acting authorities did not have the political will to do that.
Attaching importance to ensuring the normal functioning of the Supreme Judicial Council, raising public trust in the judiciary, and the formation of healthy perceptions, we demand
the immediate resignation of all the members of the Supreme Judicial Council who were involved in the conversation made public,
an objective, full and effective investigation into the information provided during the conversation,
an objective, full and effective investigation into the ongoing criminal cases with respect to Ruben Vardazaryan and those not initiated yet,
to ensure proper legislative regulations to implement a general vetting in the judiciary and the legal system, starting with the acting staff of the Supreme Judicial Council․
Protection of Rights without Borders NGO
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor
Open Society Foundations-Armenia
Law Development and Protection Foundation
Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center
Journalists’ Club “Asparez”
Union of Informed Citizens