I consider the existing format of fighting against drug trafficking insufficient – Prosecutor General
YEREVAN, JULY 21, ARMENPRESS. Prosecutor General of Armenia Anna Vardapetyan does not consider the existing format of combating drug trafficking to be sufficient, at the same time she assures that efforts are being made in this direction, in particular, an attempt is made to change the tactics and quality of the investigation, but it is too early to talk about the results.
On the occasion of the 105th anniversary of the establishment of the Prosecutor's Office, ARMENPRESS spoke with the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia Anna Vardapetyan. During the interview, Vardapetyan spoke about her achievements in the position of the Prosecutor General for almost a year, her upcoming plans, "delayed" justice, rise in crimes, and also referred to the results of meetings with the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan Kyamran Aliyev and the conference dedicated to the establishment of the Prosecutor's Office.
To the question of the correspondent of ARMENPRESS about the achievements recorded during the year in office, Prosecutor General Anna Vardapetyan noted that one year is not enough to talk about tangible results. “Besides, the results should not be talked about, they should be seen by the public, therefore here I would like to talk about some important changes. The first is the legislative reform adopted by the National Assembly in March 2023, by which the Prosecutor's Office was given the authority to initiate a lawsuit for the protection of community interests in court. This means that the Prosecutor's Office has the right to question in court the orders and decisions of the heads of local self-government bodies, based on which public parks, kindergartens and other similar immovable properties were illegally alienated”, Vardapetyan said, adding that this has one goal – to return to the public the illegally alienated property. Since the Prosecutor’s Office has been granted by the mentioned power, 235 criminal cases have been initiated.
“The next area of reforms is about cadres. I have spoken about this on different occasions. In terms of cadres, my approach is unchanged. As the Prosecutor General, I want to share my responsibility and success with those prosecutors who are well-mannered, have a high standard of professional knowledge, are hardworking, honest, improve their qualities and most importantly, are dedicated to their profession and their country.
In terms of cadre policy, I attach great importance to the work with young people, students and pupils. In terms of professional orientation, we give students the opportunity to do an internship with us, to have regular meetings with prosecutors, before being included in the list of prosecutors, to work in the Prosecutor's Office.
I am often asked about the involvement of women. Anticipating this question, I should note that smart and dedicated women certainly have their place in the Prosecutor's Office, including in high positions. Women know about the rule in the Prosecutor's Office: we work hard and treat our work with extreme responsibility”, Prosecutor General of Armenia Anna Vardapetyan said.
Speaking about challenges and problems, Vardapetyan noted that they are quite many, starting from criminal proceedings, delay of trials to efficiency of fight against corruption.
Answering the question about delay of trials and “delayed” justice, which cause decline of public trust in legal system, Anna Vardapetyan noted that “delayed” justice still continues to exist, adding that she first raised that issue last year, when being nominated as candidate for the position of Prosecutor General. In the 2022 activity report of the Prosecutor's Office, we devoted a separate chapter to the issue of the delay in the examination of criminal cases, where the concerns raised by me about "delayed" justice are presented with examples. The reasons for the delay in examination of criminal cases are multifaceted: they have objective and subjective aspects. The objective side is the increase in the number of criminal proceedings, the subjective side is the unscrupulous attitude of the bodies conducting the proceedings towards their responsibilities, the frequent change of judges in the same case, the incomplete application of prosecutor's supervision and control mechanisms, etc.
From the day I assumed the position of the Prosecutor General, I gave instructions to all departments to exclude the phenomenon when prosecutors do not attend trials for no serious reason”, she said, emphasizing that the period of examination of criminal cases is in the center of her everyday attention.
Referring to the question about her two meetings with the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan Kyamran Aliyev through the mediation of the Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, how she evaluates those meetings, what significant results can be highlighted, and whether there will be similar meetings in the near future, Mrs. Vardapetyan answered, “At the end of 2022, I received an offer from the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation to meet with the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan in a tripartite format, which I accepted, because each discussion in such a format is an opportunity to talk substantively about the fulfillment of the obligations stipulated by the tripartite statement of the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan on November 9, 2020. Point 8 of the tripartite declaration on humanitarian obligations is a priority for the prosecution. At the core of the tripartite meeting held at the end of 2022 was the issue of Armenian prisoners of war still held by Azerbaijan.
Another tripartite meeting was held in June of this year, again at the initiative of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. In this context, I cannot help but emphasize the efforts of my Russian partner to resolve this sensitive issue as soon as possible, but it is a fact that there are still no tangible results from those meetings.
I will not stop raising this issue among the prosecution community. You ask if there will be such meetings in the near future, yes, there will be, because if my participation in the meetings in such a format will create an opportunity to return our soldiers to the homeland, then yes, I will participate, I will speak, I will raise the need for Azerbaijan to fulfill international humanitarian demands and I will not allow the Azerbaijani side to ignore the issue”.
Answering the question whether there is any analysis of what’s the reason behind the rise in crimes, Prosecutor General Anna Vardapetyan noted that in 2022 nearly 22 thousand cases of crimes were registered in Armenia, which is 24% higher than the figure in 2021. “The analyzes show that one of the reasons is the change in criminal procedure legislation. You might be aware that the new code eliminates the stage of preparation of materials, and criminal proceedings are initiated for each report that can reasonably be given a preliminary legal assessment of compliance with any act under the Criminal Code”, Vardapetyan said, adding that it should not be forgotten that crimes are systemic and re-productive phenomenon.
The correspondent of ARMENPRESS asked if sufficient efforts are made to fight against the rise in drug trafficking in Armenia, to which Prosecutor General Anna Vardapetyan answered, “You raise a very important question. I regret to say that no, I do not consider the current format of combating illegal drug trafficking to be sufficient. Efforts are being made, particularly an attempt is being made to change the tactics and quality of the investigation, but it is too early to talk about the results.
The need to ensure the confidentiality of the preliminary investigation does not allow me to reveal details about the investigation process in specific cases, however, I should note that active work is being done within the framework of international legal assistance regarding the importation of large batches of drugs, including the extradition of suspected criminals to Armenia”.
As for prevention of drug use among minors, Anna Vardapetyan emphasized that the systematic criminal-legal fight against illegal drug trafficking is of primary importance, along with it, however, the family can also play a serious role in prevention. “For a minor, the drug is a deception of "happiness", "interesting experience", she said.
Referring to the question about the conference dedicated to the 105th anniversary of the establishment of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Anna Vardapetyan answered, “A few days ago, on July 1-2, the Prosecutor's Office celebrated its 105th anniversary. With the support of our international partners, the Council of Europe and the European Union, a conference was organized on the topic "Prosecution’s independence as a guarantor of the rule of law". The heads of the executive and judicial authorities of Armenia, ambassadors accredited to Armenia, heads of law enforcement structures, prosecutor generals of five member states of the Council of Europe, high-ranking representatives from the Council of Europe, the International Association of Prosecutors and the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice participated in the conference. At the end of the conference, a document summarizing the results of the panel discussions and reports was adopted.
It was a great honor for me to organize such a high-level conference in Armenia and to host my European colleagues in Armenia. I am sure that the participants of the conference left our country having discovered Armenia and with the desire to return. I am glad that in addition to professional discussions, we managed to tell our European partners about the cultural and national wealth of Armenia.
Thanks to the positive feedback on the effectiveness of this conference, we already have a preliminary agreement with our colleagues from the Council of Europe to hold another conference in the near future, which will have a more inclusive geography and will be dedicated to the institute of confiscation of property of illegal origin”.
Interview by Karen Khachatryan
Photos by Hayk Manukyan