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Open letter to USAID: Judge Anna Pilosyan has carried out her duties ‘heroically’

panorama.am12/26th/2022, 12:00
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Open letter to USAID: Judge Anna Pilosyan has carried out her duties ‘heroically’

Human and civil rights advocate, criminal defense attorney Garo Ghazarian has addressed an open letter to the USAID Armenia chief concerning judge Anna Pilosyan. The full letter follows:

"OPEN LETTER

Mr. John Allelo

Mission Director, USAID Armenia

Dear Mr. Allelo,

Congratulations on your December 15th launching of a new five-year project supporting the Government of Armenia to establish a fair and equitable justice system, and to increase public trust in the rule of law, funded by USAID and implemented by Development Professionals, Inc.

At the launch event, you stated that “USAID’s Justice Sector Support Project stands ready to help Armenia resolve issues that plague the judiciary, such as an inefficient case management system, a growing backlog of cases, and a lack of transparency over court rulings.”

Reportedly, the project’s activities are to advance the functional independence and effectiveness of the judicial branch, strengthening of the capacity of the courts, the relevant self-regulatory agencies, and educational institutions, as well as by facilitating multi-stakeholder oversight of the implementation of justice sector reforms.

With this writing, I bring to your attention, to include in your ongoing discussions regarding the current challenges facing the judicial system and opportunities for strengthening the justice sector in Armenia, a matter ripe for consideration: the case study of a Judge in Armenia, Anna Pilosyan who this past week was before the country’s Supreme Judicial Council, responding to charges brought by the Justice Ministry, of “not timely issuing rulings” in merely 4 (0.1%) of the more than 5,000 cases on her docket.

Here are the two sessions of the SJC:

1/ https://youtu.be/ccXW7XSJcZE
2/ https://youtu.be/uMPWbsN2__k

During one of my 3 visits to Armenia in the last 6 months, I visited a courtroom in Yerevan where, presiding in one of the courtrooms was Judge Anna Pilosyan. I’ve known Judge Pilosyan for seven (7) years. She is one of several judges in Armenia whose careers I have followed, and whose courtrooms I have visited over the years, to observe proceedings underway, in an effort to observe courtroom proceedings, and to bring my findings and suggestions for improvement of the Judicial System of Armenia to among others, the country’s Ministry of Justice.

For over a decade now, during just about each visit to Armenia, I have met and shared my observations and concerns about Armenia’s Judicial System generally, and about its Judiciary particularly, to multiple Justice Ministers and multiple Human Rights Defenders, including Mr. Karen Andreasyan, the current Chair of the Supreme Judicial Council of Armenia (SJC), when the latter was serving as Ombudsman of the Republic.

Further, following judicial proceedings with an eye to identify shortcomings as well as improvements, are undertaken by me in person — when in Yerevan, and from afar — when away from Armenia.

I confess, I thought I’d seen all anyone needed to realize the urgent need for judicial reform; and, though I had opted to bite my tongue for the last two years, post 2020 war unleashed onto Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), witnessing of the hearings this past week held by the SJC made me realize that my previous concerns about Armenia’s Judicial System pale in comparison to my utter shock at the dysfunctional state which the Judicial Branch of Armenia is in these days.

My latest observations concern a session of Armenia’s SJC which had come at the request of the Justice Ministry. It was to hold accountable and to mete out discipline to judge Anna Pilosyan for her “failure” to tender an opinion on four (4) matters in a “timely fashion.” So far so good. Except, as I watched these proceedings, it soon became clear to me, that while Judge Pilosyan was being chastised for the delays, several critical factors appeared to be overlooked by both the Ministry of Justice as well as the SJC.

Chief among those factors was the fact that Judge Pilosyan was saddled with over 5,000 cases, and she was being called to account for delaying the issuance of her rulings in just four (4) matters. Simple arithmetic yields a 99.9% performance when measuring the four (4) delayed opinions against the more than 5,000 matters which all sides seemed to agree were on the Judge’s plate. It is this backdrop which begs the question: does it not appear, by all accounts, that Judge Pilosyan has carried out her duties heroically, and as a true “Lady of Justice?”

The answer to that question is what compels me to write to you about the imperative of infusing logic, common sense, and anything resembling justice in today’s Armenia. Why? Because, on any given calendar year, there are 2,000 working hours (50 working weeks at 40 hours per week, with 2 weeks vacation). That is just 24 minutes per case. And exactly what kind of justice can be reached in just 24 minutes?

I have been an act...

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