The state officials involved in corruption schemes will lose their rest had an interview with Artur Davtyan, the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Armenia, Candidate of Legal Sciences, First Rank State Counselor of Justice, speaking about the changes made in the Prosecutor General’s Office of the RA, mechanisms of supervision, political will, crimes committed in the country and the trials connected with the occupation of Police Station, trials of armed groups and other issues.


- Mr. Davtyan, when the new constitution comes into force fully in 2018 what is going to be changed in the Prosecutor's Office, won’t there be any changes in the function and structure of the Prosecutor's Office?


- The new Law "On the Prosecutor's Office" really envisages changes and amendments; otherwise it would not make sense to adopt a new law. They are mainly conditioned by the imperative of the implementation of the principles of formation of state bodies as well as the principles of separation of independence and functions according to the reformed Constitution. I would like to mention the most important aspect of the changes. First of all, a mechanism has been established for the election of the Prosecutor General, which provides higher guarantees for the independence from the government and its political conditions. The Prosecutor General is elected by the National Assembly upon the recommendation of his/her permanent competent committee, and is dismissed upon the recommendation of the NA faction by at least three-fifths of the votes of the total number of deputies. This gives an opportunity the prosecutor, enjoying the confidence of the majority of the National Assembly, act more independently, but also realize that in case of any violation of law, even the smallest faction of the National Assembly can at least discuss the issue of his resignation.


A new procedure for the appointment of the RA Deputy Prosecutor General has been established, reserving the right to appoint the Prosecutor General, which is a factor that raises the level of responsibility of the latter.


In addition, the procedure for appointment and promotion of prosecutors has been completely revised. It has become more predictable. Persons liable to become prosecutors and acting prosecutors have the right to appeal the decisions made related with them. The prosecutors’ rules of conduct have been raised to the level of law. That is to say, it is very important that the prosecutor behaves in accordance with his title, both in labor relations and out of it. This is, of course, only a part of the changes made.


- You said a year before that there are not and will not be unpunished people in Armenia. It is said at all official levels that there are not unpunished people and there is not any crime that can’t be disclosed. In your opinion, how does the society trust these statements? We are talking about the facts that there are not any unpunished people, but the highest official still accused is Vahan Shirkhanyan, Deputy Minister of Defense. Are the officials faithful? Don’t they commit violations? For example, high-ranking officials in neighboring Georgia are regularly convicted, including Prime Minister, and there is a charge against the former President.


- I have stated and still insist that there can’t be impunity in Armenia. I affirm once again my earlier assertion that state officials involved in corruption schemes ever will lose their rest. The proof is that 52 cases of corruption-related crimes which deserved public attention in the first nine months of 2017 were investigated under the supervision of prosecutors of the RA Prosecutor General's Office and 70 officials having function of the head in the commercial organizations were prosecuted. Our task is to raise public awareness about the work being done, and to provide public confidence in the fair interest of law enforcement agencies in the fight against corruption. I am deeply convinced that professional circles of public, particularly, should not form a biased negative view of the results, initiatives and reforms they see before they are convinced how well they are being implemented. If, despite of everything, ceaseless mistrust should be inspired in the society, though the latter's perceptions will continue to remain low.


In regard with the comparison with neighboring countries, I don’t think at all that artificial processes should be initiated to ensure comparable indicators. It should not be allowed that anybody is prosecuted without sufficient evidence to prove one's guilt. Such comparisons are not appropriate, especially when the examples from neighboring countries are not so clear. For example, in the same countries, a number of high-ranking officials have been prosecuted, some have been convicted, but in some cases the European Court of Human Rights has reported violations of the Convention. Should we take this as a good example?


- Haven't the vendettas, shootings and murders become frequent? For example, are there statistics and comparisons with other countries and Armenia? Are there any cases where an element of vendetta was found?


- At first glance, the publication of murders by means of mass media may leave wrong impression that the number of particularly serious crimes, including killings because of revenge, has increased in the total mass of crimes. Meanwhile, the dynamics shows that the level of this crime has steadily declined for the last twenty years. If the average number of murders was 105 in 1995-1998, 77 in 2001-2004, and 66 in 2016, during eleven months of 2017 murder cases decreased to 48. It is natural that in the conditions of such tendencies the number of murders having revenge motivations has decreased. In general, the number of murders in Armenia is rather low compared with a number of CIS and European countries. In 2013, according to the UN Global Survey on Intentional Murders, Armenia ranked 56th place among 219 countries, leaving behind our close neighbors and almost all CIS countries and many European countries. According to the last year's data, there are 3.4 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants. Armenia has better results than Kazakhstan, where the index is 4.8, Russia - 7.2, Ukraine - 4.2, etc.


I find such indicators are provided by means of uncompromising, careful fight against this crime, and I am convinced that the guarantee of the fight against murder, in particular, killings for revenge, is the guarantee of punishment for committing such crime.


What I said does not mean that I consider the situation to be fully satisfactory. Of course, we have more problems in order to act more effectively, to improve the staffing resources, to provide our work with modern scientific and technical capabilities. Our daily efforts are aimed at finding optimal solutions.


- Mr. Davtyan, you have stated several times that you have appropriate mechanisms to check prosecutors, there are superior prosecutors who carry out checking, and even if there are no reports of any violations, they may be found out by the superior prosecutor. Has such a case been reported, who has been punished?


Two factors should be considered. On the one hand, the control mechanisms within the prosecutor's office system should be aimed not only at punishing the failed prosecutor, but also at eliminating the violation that arose in parallel, even before that. At the same time, however, the oversight functions should in no way limit the independence and autonomy of the prosecutor supervising the preliminary investigation or defending the charges in court.


Inside the prosecutor's office control is exercised on several levels. First of all, I supervise the execution of the orders of the RA Prosecutor General in order to abolish the identified shortcomings, or according to my instructions, the Deputy Prosecutor General, who coordinates the relevant sphere. Relevant structural subdivisions of the RA General Prosecutor's Office with competences of supervision exercise daily control over various functions of the prosecutor's office. And finally, the supervising prosecutor exercises supervision. In the result of these control mechanisms, in the first half of 2017, I overturned 28 decisions made by the investigators and prosecutors.


During 2017, only 7 disciplinary proceedings were instituted against prosecutors for violations of internal control mechanisms, in the result of which 6 prosecutors were subjected to disciplinary sanctions.


- Apart from the necessity of supervising mechanisms and legislative changes, mainly lawyers and advocates speak about the lack of political will. Do you agree with the statement that there is a lack of political will or progress is a matter of time?


- Honestly, the conversations about the lack of political will in the fight against crime are incomprehensible to me. Authorities should simply do their job, that is, the functions within which they are entitled.


Political will is often discussed in the context of the fight against corruption. Serious steps have been taken in this direction over the past year. For example, illicit enrichment has been criminalized, the Anti-Corruption Commission has been formed, the scope of property and income declarations has been expanded, and the system of whistleblowing and the legal protection of whistleblowers have been introduced. If you are familiar with the data published by us this year in regard with particularly grave, sometimes systematic crimes of corruption, including the frame of officials, then they themselves answer the question: does the prosecutor's office have will and wish to fight this evil. Let's compare the indicators of the previous and this year. Just one example: he number of accused in criminal cases sent to court with indictments in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016 increased by 91.8%. It is another matter whether we want to see all this or not, although, I believe, the effectiveness of the systemic fight against corruption cannot be measured only by prosecuting the officials. This is a common problem and requires a systemic approach as well as the involvement of society.


- Mr. Davtyan, at the moment three similar cases are being examined in the courts: Sefilyan and others, the cases of those accused for the occupation of the Police Station, and the case of the Nork-Marash armed group. Certain actions were undertaken with irreversible consequences regarding the Police Station case, Sefilyan and others, or members of the Nork-Marash group, irrespective to their will they did not complete the planned crime. What has changed since the incident of the Police station in order to prevent such cases, and secondly, what has resulted such cases, why they have not been prevented? Aren't there too many similar cases in Armenia, taking into account that three such groups have been detected during 2-3 years?


- Let me disagree with the observation that such crimes have not been prevented. First of all, the law enforcement agencies acted in a systematic and professional manner in order neutralizing the armed people, as a result of which there were not destructive consequences and the crime was prevented within the armed people with minimum sufferings.  Thorough and comprehensive investigation of the circumstances of this crime was undertaken in a very short period of time, the circumstances of the case of the murder of three police officers were fully and comprehensively investigated and the case was sent to the court. I am sure that the evidence examined in the result of the trial will provide answers of the questions and concerns of our society and will neutralize the misinformation spread by some people about the crime.


It is obvious that both in the case of Sefilyan and the others, and the members of the Nork-Marash group, have not completed the planned crimes. The public's attitude towards such events as well as toward their participants showed that such crimes are unacceptable for the overwhelming majority.