RFE/RL Armenian Report – 05/31/2019


Two Arrested Over ‘Political’ Shooting In Armenia

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia -- A screenshot of official video of police arresting one of the men 
allegedly involved in a high-profile shooting incident, .

Two men have been arrested in Armenia on suspicion of opening fire on 
supporters of Samvel Babayan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s former military leader.

An Armenian police statement released on Friday said police and National 
Security Service (NSS) officers identified, tracked down and detained the 
suspects, Alexey Balayan and Roland Aydinian, in Yerevan in a joint operation 
conducted on Thursday.

The statement added that the shooting incident, which reportedly occurred on a 
highway in Armenia’s eastern Gegharkunik province on Wednesday, resulted from a 
personal dispute between two groups of men. It did not elaborate.

Babayan’s office alleged on Thursday political motives behind the gunfire, 
which apparently did not wound anyone. It said the retired Karabakh general’s 
supporters were attacked by “gangs” controlled by Arayik Harutiunian, 
Karabakh’s former prime minister and one of the main candidates in a 
presidential election that will be held in the Armenian-populated territory 
next year. Babayan is also seeking to run in that ballot.

Harutiunian again flatly denied any involvement in the shooting when he spoke 
to RFE/RL’s Armenians service on Friday. “Let us respect the information 
provided by security services and be guided by it,” he said. “I’m sure that 
there were no political motives. Those guys had no issues with Samvel Babayan.”

Still, Harutiunian admitted having ties to the arrested suspects. He said one 
of them, Aydinian, served as mayor of a Karabakh town when he was prime 

Pashinian Urges Council Of Europe Role In Armenian Judicial Reform

Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (R) meets with officials from the 
Council of Europe, Yerevan, .

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian assured a visiting delegation of the Council of 
Europe on Friday that his administration wants to work together with the human 
rights organization in reforming Armenia’s judiciary.

The high-level delegation arrived in Yerevan earlier this week to discuss the 
planned reform with Armenian leaders in line with understandings reached by 
Pashinian and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland during 
their phone conversation on May 22. It is headed by Christos Giakoumopoulos, 
the Strasbourg-based organization’s director general for human rights and rule 
of law, and comprises senior representatives of other Council of Europe bodies, 
notably the Venice Commission.

A statement by Pashinian’s press office cited Giakoumopoulos as saying that the 
Council of Europe welcomes “radical” judicial reforms planned by the Armenian 
authorities and is ready to “closely cooperate” with them for that purpose.

Pashinian responded by saying that the Council of Europe should “become 
involved, not just assist” in the reform process. He again stated that Armenian 
courts “do not enjoy the people’s trust” and must therefore undergo profound 

The prime minister demanded such changes on May 20 as hundreds of his 
supporters heeded his appeal to block the entrances to all court buildings in 
Armenia. The blockade followed a Yerevan court’s controversial decision to 
order his bitter foe and former President Robert Kocharian released from 

Pashinian and his political allies portrayed the decision as further proof that 
the Armenian judiciary remains closely linked to the country’s “corrupt” former 
leadership. They pledged to enact soon legislation on a mandatory “vetting” of 
all judges.

The parliamentary leader of the ruling My Step alliance, Lilit Makunts, said on 
Wednesday that a relevant bill is already being “finalized” by pro-government 
lawmakers and legal experts. She refused to give any details of the bill, 
prompting criticism from leaders of the opposition minority in the Armenian 

The Armenian opposition also criticized the court blockade initiated by 
Pashinian, as did the two Armenia co-rapporteurs of the Council of Europe’s 
Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Yuliya Lovochkina and Andrej Sircelj.

“Political stakeholders must refrain from actions and statements that could be 
perceived as exerting pressure on the judiciary,” the PACE officials said in a 
joint statement issued the day before Jagland and Pashinian spoke by phone.

According to an official readout of the phone call, the two men agreed that the 
reform process “should proceed in conformity with the Constitution, the 
relevant international standards and Armenia's obligations as a member state of 
the Council of Europe.” Pashinian and the Council of Europe officials 
reaffirmed this at their meeting in Yerevan.

Lawyer Vahe Grigorian Nominated For Constitutional Court

        • Gayane Saribekian

Armenia -- Lawyer Vahe Grigorian speaks in the National Assembly, October 23, 

President Armen Sarkissian has nominated a prominent lawyer for the 
Constitutional Court after the current parliament twice rejected other 
candidates chosen by him.

The nominee, Vahe Grigorian, has a long history of human rights advocacy. He 
has also cooperated with opposition groups that challenged former Presidents 
Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian.

In particular, Grigorian represented Levon Ter-Petrosian and his Armenian 
National Congress party in Constitutional Court hearings on their appeals 
against official results of a 2008 presidential election and parliamentary 
elections held in 2012 and 2017. In addition, he has been representing the 
relatives of anti-government protesters killed by security forces in the wake 
of the 2008 vote in the European Court of Human Rights.

Grigorian is believed enjoying the backing of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
and the ruling My Step alliance.

President Sarkissian already nominated him for the vacant Constitutional Court 
seat last fall. The then Armenian parliament dominated by supporters of the 
former government refused to approve his candidacy.

Sarkissian went on to nominate two other candidates. They both were rejected, 
most recently on Wednesday, by the current National Assembly controlled by My 

The head of state announced his decision to pick Grigorian on Friday. In a 
statement announcing the nomination, his office argued that the appointment of 
a new Constitutional Court judge “must not turn into an endless process and 
become a subject of political haggling or speculation.” It also complained that 
only several Armenian lawyers are deemed qualified enough to sit on the 
country’s highest court.

Parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, who is a close associate of Pashinian, 
hailed Grigorian’s nomination as “highly positive,” saying that he has long had 
a “close relationship” with the nominee. He said they have “a lot in common in 
terms of the value system and vision for country’s development.”

Mirzoyan cautioned at the same time that My Step’s parliamentary group has yet 
to discuss and formulate a position on Grigorian’s candidacy.

By contrast, some opposition lawmakers voiced serious misgivings about 
Sarkisian’s latest Constitutional Court nomination.

Gevorg Petrosian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) said Grigorian is widely 
“associated with the authorities” and that the latter “seem to be attempting to 
push him through.” He said the BHK believes that the new court justice must be 
“free from political influence, pressures, connections and constraints.”

For his part, Taron Simonian, a senior deputy from the opposition Bright 
Armenia Party, claimed that Armenian law does not allow the president to 
nominate the same person for a second time.

Press Review

Tigran Karapetian, a parliament deputy from the ruling My Step alliance, 
comments on former President Robert Kocharian’s political activities in an 
interview with “Haykakan Zhamanak.” Karapetian says Armenians are now free to 
decide which political forces and individuals should run their country. He says 
elections are the only legitimate mechanism for changing the country’s 
government. “As regards all those forces that are hatching conspiracies and 
trying to accelerate processes, there will be no illegal political processes in 
Armenia and we will not allow that,” warns Karapetian.

“Zhamanak” comments on Wednesday’s armed attack on former Karabakh leader 
Samvel Babayan’s supporters. The paper says in this regard that Karabakh will 
hold next year its first truly competitive elections in which Yerevan will not 
directly interfere. “Having said that, there is no doubt that the Armenian 
authorities will have their preferred variant and Arayik Harutiunian, who has 
been quite loyal to changes that have occurred in Armenia since the Velvet 
Revolution, is now viewed as such a variant,” it says. “Whether or not the 
situation will change before the elections probably depends on a change in the 
circle of [Karabakh presidential] candidates. Armenia’s former ruling system or 
rather its two wings, Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian, also have its 
preferred variant.”

“One year after the revolution we still live in an atmosphere which reigned in 
the country during the revolution,” writes “Hraparak.” “As if the country has 
found itself in a period of permanent revolution which leaves one with no hope 
for stability. One gets the impression that we live on a volcano where 
unpredictable events ranging from the closure of roads to a rejection of 
various-level officials could happen every day. There is a sense that the 
revolution has not yet ended, that the country’s new government has not yet 
been formed and that we are still far from reaching our destination.”

(Sargis Harutyunyan)

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2019 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS