STRASBOURG — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has dismissed an appeal filed more than three years ago by the former chairman and three other members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court against their dismissal in 2020.
A constitutional reform amendments passed by the parliament extended a 12-year term limit to all nine members of the Constitutional Court, thereby mandating the immediate dismissal of three court justices who had taken the bench in the 1990s. They also required Hrayr Tovmasyan to quit as court chairman while allowing him to remain a judge.
Tovmasyan and the three ousted judges — Alvina Gyulumyan, Felix Tokhyan and Hrant Nazaryan — said the amendments are null and void because they were not sent to the Constitutional Court for examination prior to their passage.
Tovmasyan, Gyulumyan, Tokhyan and Nazaryan went on to appeal to the ECHR, saying that they were forced out in violation of several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. One of those articles guarantees their “access to court.”
In its long-awaited ruling made public on Thursday, the Strasbourg-based court refused to invalidate or challenge in any away their ouster, saying that it resulted from the constitutional changes “not directed against them specifically.” It claimed to have found no “evidence of the authorities singling out any of the applicants with negative remarks about their professional performance, personality or moral values.”
The ECHR ruling also cited statements on the issue made by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in 2020. While largely backing the constitutional amendments, the commission criticized the Pashinyan administration’s refusal to introduce a transitional period that would “allow for a gradual change in the composition of the court in order to avoid any abrupt and immediate change endangering the independence of this institution.”
As a result of the 2020 amendments, two more Constitutional Court members resigned in the following years. The vast majority of the court’s current judges have been handpicked by Armenia’s current political leadership and confirmed by the parliament loyal to it.