The trial of former president Robert Kocharyan, who ruled Armenia for ten years, remains in limbo.
The families of the ten victims of the violent March 1, 2018 events in the capital city of Yerevan and their lawyers, have decided to boycott the court proceedings, declaring their refusal to take part in a sham trial.
Kocharyan’s trial officially began in May 2019, however, the events taking place in the courtroom do not reflect favorably on the judicial system of any country.
The prevailing feeling is that chaos is dominating the hearings, where there is a lack of procedural rule and order. Kocharyan’s lawyers often argue with prosecutors, sometimes with the victims’ relatives and their lawyers and on occasion, openly insult the presiding judge without any serious consequences.
For months, Kocharyan’s lawyers have been resorting to various means to delay the actual trial from going forward and have succeeded in preventing the prosecution from presenting its case and calling witnesses to the stand.
Kocharyan’s legal team, while exercising their right to file motions, have submitted nearly 100 petitions in an effort to delay the trial. Some of the petitions include demanding a change in Kocharyan’s pretrial detention, requesting for the judge to be changed, expressing distrust in the prosecutor, using the absence of any member of their legal team and using the defendant’s health condition as delay tactics.
By repeating the same motions over and over again or by going to a higher court when denied, the lawyers have been able to prolong the procedures, especially when the presiding judge, rather than ruling from the bench, often takes a one or two week recess to render her decisions.
Kocharyan has by his side 5-6 lawyers all of whom are generously paid with money stolen from the people of Armenia. For Kocharyan’s legal team, a longer trial is financially more profitable to them. Meanwhile, Kocharyan’s goal is very simple: To prevent the trial from moving forward in hopes that the political environment in the country may change or other developments could take place creating more favorable conditions for him to avoid any liability or punishment.
One of the internationally established rights, in addition to a fair trial, is the principle of a speedy trial, which must be ensured for both the defendants and the injured parties. Conversely, trials in Armenia last months and sometimes years. Now that Kocharyan is out on bail, he and his lawyers have no incentive whatsoever to change their behavior and allow the trial to resume. The Armenian public fears that this trial will never end and that the relatives of the March 1 victims will never see justice prevail for their loved ones.
The recent step taken by the victims’ families, must serve as an alarm to the Armenian government, particularly the Minister of Justice, to put an end to the ongoing sham.
Immediate legislative action should be taken to enable the judges to perform their duties more effectively and efficiently. The legislative actions should first and foremost establish order in the courtroom and mandate that the parties conduct and conclude the trial within reasonable timeframes.