By Garen Yegparian
Everyone has seen those statues of Lady Justice (derived from various Egyptian, Greek, and Roman deities), with the scale in one hand, a sword in the other, and a blindfold over her eyes. Most have probably not given it a second thought. Yet, that which is represented by the figure is one of the things the Republic of Armenia (RoA) most needs.
Everyone is also aware of the corruption and antics that plague the government, business, and common man in the RoA. Whether it’s through personal experience, friends’ stories, news sources, international assessments, YouTube videos, or some other means, it, too, like Lady Justice, probably elicits little response two decades into the RoA’s life. Yet, that attention is one of the things the RoA sorely needs.
The development of civil society is trumpeted as the means to establishing a truly democratic order in newly democratizing states. This is a multifaceted, difficult, and long-term process. It struck me at the panel discussion about Teghood that many of the ills plaguing the RoA today are not so distant historically in the U.S. Unfortunately, all the things that need to be done to achieve a better society are intertwined and there is no pre-set sequence or formula to arrive at the desired state of affairs.
So I want to address one aspect of what makes a society function relatively freer of corruption—the courts. By all accounts, Armenia’s courts do anything but fairly and equally administer the law, without corruption, avarice, prejudice, or favor—as symbolized by Lady Justice. But how do we achieve this?
The judges in the RoA are dependent on, and beholden to, the political branches of government for their positions and livelihood. The key is to break that dependency. So why not create a new constitutional entity composed of disinterested parties that funds the judicial system and oversees it to prevent corrupt practices and conflicts of interest, without getting involved in the actual administration of justice? It would be exceedingly difficult to maintain that last distinction. This would be no mean feat but, done right, might help break the web of odious judicial practices.
What I envision is a body composed of individuals from different parts of the diaspora who hail from the legal professions— judges, lawyers, and legislators (preferably retired) bringing to bear the experience gained by functioning within the various legal systems in effect in places as diverse as Argentina, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Iran, Lebanon, Russia, the U.S., etc. Imagine, Armenians from these places overseeing the behavior (not actual judgments) of the judges in our homeland. What a wealth of knowledge, conscience, and intellect that would be, all in the service of our young and developing state!
As already noted, it would be tremendously difficult to implement such a project. The oversight body would have to be given the power to remove judges from office. They would also serve as the source of pay, which means a serious funding commitment from the diaspora. Please express your views on this.
I apologize to readers, and thank the person who caught two errors in my article two weeks ago. For the record, I misidentified the states represented by two anti-Armenian members of Congress: Dan Burton is actually from Indiana, Dan Boren from Oklahoma.