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Opinion: Crime and Punishment, Armenian Style

By Stepan Danielyan

Every day, the media in Armenia reports about numerous crimes perpetrated by state officials. Sadly, none of these revelations translate into the criminals being punished.

This is a system-wide phenomenon and we would be well served to understand the reasons why.

The political history of Armenia in the past few years is chock-full of crime, serious offences. But one would be hard-pressed to recollect one major case where the perpetrators have been held responsible. What’s the reason? We all know that the judicial system is not independent and is subject to the executive.

We can state that contrary to the ruling Republican Party, to which state  bodies are apparently subject and which, if we follow the press, has been transformed into an apolitical structure, the judicial system is the most politicized institution in Armenia and this characteristic is manifested in its verdicts and decisions.

The reason for the apolitical nature of the Republican Party and the politicization of the judicial system is one and the same – the anti-constitutional nature of the country’s governance. That’s to say, constitutional bodies should not perform their obligations, and the opposite – they must carry out that which is expected of them from the guarantor of anti-constitutional governance.

The populace of Armenia can be divided into two categories for whom different sets of laws are applied. The second category is the society, for whom the law is applied with full force, and which is regarded by the first category as a source of enrichment. Here, everything is clear.

However, the composition of the first category is quite complex and it is much more difficult to understand the laws that govern this sector.

It is natural that this group, which includes the state bureaucracy, institutions of power, big business and the elite of the criminal world, cannot be governed by the same standards that restrict the bulk of society.

The rallying hymn of this governance is well-known.

At the end of the congress of the Republican Party, when members were lined up to bid farewell to their leader, what rang out was a live performance not of the national hymn, but rather the refrains of the song “Betrayal is Infamy”.  The party members, by singing the tune, were exhibiting their personal allegiance to the leader as well as accepting the “inner rules” imposed on them to extend the scope of authority. Understandably, appropriate modes of punishment must be crafted for such betrayal.

It is also clear that a criminally-based group cannot be punished by the laws envisaged for common mortals. During the events of 2008, contrary to arrested political prisoners, big businessman Khachatour Soukiasyan was declared a “traitor” and was punished in unique fashion. In this way, traitors, those who were part of the group and took advantage of the favors and opportunities so afforded the, or more correctly, those who participated in illegal processes, must be punished in other ways – they must be banished from the club, suitably denigrated and stripped of their property. In case their offence is much more serious, they must be subjected to maximum punishment, for which there are numerous examples.  

This, then, is the most important methodology for Armenia’s system of governance. If we understand it, we will be able to comprehend the meaning and content of internal political science articles.