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Venice Commission: The Government acted in a responsible and thoughtful manner in the process of preparation of Judicial Code Package

15/10/2019

On 14 October, the Opinion on the package of the Constitutional Law "Judicial Code" and related laws was posted on the official website of the Venice Commission (Click here).

Thus, the following was recorded:

  • For the Venice Commission, the overall assessment of the legislative amendments contained in the Package is clearly positive. The proposed mechanisms increase the accountability of judges and are more efficient to prevent corruption, without, at the same time, disproportionately encroaching on the judges’ independence.
  • Internally, the proposed reform underwent a process of public consultations; the Ministry of Justice made many amendments to the proposed texts following the input from the civil society organisations, the judicial community and other stakeholders. Many of the NGOs the delegation met in Yerevan noted with satisfaction the transparency and inclusiveness of the process of preparation of the Package.
  • The Venice Commission understands that the proposed scheme of direct nominations to the CPC was needed to overcome future deadlocks. In sum, in the current political landscape in Armenia, the new system of nominations seems to be acceptable, but it is worth reviewing after formation of the CPC.
  • In regard to the minimal age to become a judge, the Venice Commission has stated that it cannot criticize this proposal in abstracto, since it does not have sufficient knowledge of the Armenian education system, the “demographics” of the Armenian judiciary. As to the Council of Europe standards regarding conditions for appointing judges, they do not mention certain age as a limit even though there are national systems with such provisions. The Armenian authorities plan an exceptional early retirement scheme for judges of the Constitutional Court. They invoke the implementation of the Constitution as revised in 2015 in a post-revolutionary context and consider that the shift from the life-time tenure of constitutional justices (provided by the Constitution before the 2015 revision) to fixed-term mandate (provided by the current version of the Constitution) should be applied immediately.
  • The Venice Commission has previously criticised early retirement schemes when they were mandatory or when they affected a large number of judges. Then, the Venice Commission provides details about its approaches to early retirement.
  • What is interesting is that, in the recommendations given to Armenia, the Venice Commission has stated that this criticism cannot be mounted, where the resignation depends on a voluntary decision of the CC justices concerned. However, the Venice Commission has recommended reducing even the potential simultaneous retirement of several and even as many as seven out of nine justices that might hamper the effective functioning of the Court.

The Venice Commission states that the Judicial Reform Package, developed by the Ministry of Justice, generally deserves praise. In the process of preparation of the Package the Government of Armenia acted in a responsible and thoughtful manner and demonstrated openness to dialogue with all interlocutors, within and outside the country.

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