YEREVAN — The Armenian parliament elected on Tuesday a 42-year-old senior judge and former prosecutor as head of the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest body of criminal and administrative justice.

The new court chairwoman, Lilit Tadevosyan, was backed by 102 members of the 132-seat National Assembly, among them opposition parliamentarians. Her predecessor, Yervand Khundkaryan, became a member of Armenia’s Constitutional Court in September.

Tadevosyan was nominated for the vacant post by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), an independent body monitoring Armenian courts.

Tadevosyan worked as a prosecutor before taking the bench in 2012. In 2016, then President Serzh Sarkisian appointed her as a Court of Cassation judge. She became the head of the court’s Criminal Chamber in 2018.

Tadevosyan emphasized the importance of judicial independence when she addressed lawmakers before they voted in secret ballot to install her as court chairwoman.

“Independence and autonomy are inalienable characteristics of the judiciary to which all branches of government and all strata of the society must contribute,” she said.

Tadevosyan was pressed by several pro-government lawmakers to comment on Armenian judges’ systematic refusal to allow the pre-trial arrests of opposition figures and other activists trying to topple Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government over its handling of the recent war with Azerbaijan. She pointedly declined to criticize those judges.

“If I don’t avoid, as you put it, answering your questions today I will have to avoid administering justice on those cases tomorrow,” explained Tadevosyan. “That’s not what I am standing here for. Justice will not be administered here.”

Lilit Makunts, the parliamentary leader of Pashinyan’s My Step bloc, hailed her stance.

Tadevosyan also drew praise from Edmon Marukyan, the leader of the opposition Bright Armenia Party, for not “commenting on political processes from the number one podium.”

Vladimir Vartanyan, the chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, stressed the fact that Tadevosyan will be the first woman to head an Armenian high court. “If we want revolutionary changes we must take this fact into account as well,” he said.

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