Armenian Bar Association Condemns Russian Court Proceedings

Armenian Bar Association

In the preceding weeks, the Armenian Bar Association has closely monitored the arrest of Hrachya Harutiunian, a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, as well as the ensuing criminal charges stemming from a traffic accident which resulted in multiple fatalities and injuries.

It goes without saying that the loss of lives and the infliction of injuries to persons of any nationality are lamentable developments. The lives lost and injuries suffered in the Moscow-area traffic accident in which Mr. Harutiunian was involved are no exceptions. We extend our condolences to the families and friends of those who died and to the survivors for whom we hope a speedy recovery.

We, as an organization which has for more than twenty years been involved in the development of the rule of law in the former Soviet Union, must now turn to the rights and responsibilities of the accused, Mr. Harutiunian. Therefore, we must consider the plight of this defendant in the Russian legal system in the context of governing legal requirements and standards.

The post-arrest proceedings could not have gotten off to a worse start, both for Mr. Harutiunian and for Russia’s criminal justice apparatus, revealing as it did only lip-service to ensuring the rule of law and decency.

We, along with millions of other viewers of video footage of the accused’s initial appearance in court, witnessed the discriminatory, demoralizing and degrading treatment of an Armenian citizen in a Russian court while, before our very eyes, Mr. Harutiunian was paraded, parodied and pilloried in open court as he was forced by the authorities to wear a female bathrobe and slippers.

He was made to answer the serious legal charges against him wearing these purposefully-demeaning vestments. The images of a clearly-devastated Harutiunian are indelible reminders of the importance of the due process of law, something which Mr. Harutiunian was, right from the start, denied.

We feel compelled to declare and demand that Mr. Harutiunian’s civil rights, irrespective of culpability or innocence, be fully respected; that he be treated humanely and in accordance with international and Russia’s own stated standards of due process; and that he be given a modicum of dignity and safety as opposed to the record of his being mistreated and abused psychologically, if not physically.

A review of the Russian Federation’s laws affecting foreign nationals reveals that the country’s legal codes pass the test of civility and comportment with accepted norms of equal protection. On the other hand, Russia’s recent courtroom ridicule of Mr. Harutiunian has resulted in a colossal failure of that test. Article 49 and Article 62 of Chapter 2 of Section 1 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, respectively, afford presumptive notions of innocence to an accused and guarantee equal rights to non-Russian citizen individuals. Russia’s courts would do well to follow its legislative mandates.

We welcome the Russian Federation’s lawmakers’ legislative intent to provide the universally-recognized protection of individuals’ rights to their citizenry and also to foreign nationals on their soil.

Russia’s stated deference to the rule of law must be given real and practical meaning in the case of Hrachya Harutiunian.

Now is the time and this is the case in which to demonstrate that the words which are written into law in Russia, and everywhere for that matter, actually mean something.

And we hope that certain words resonate more favorably than those uttered by the Mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, who, right after the accident, shamefully and publicly espoused the discriminatory treatment of foreign nationals, including, by implication, Mr. Harutiunian.

We expect from the Russian authorities their adherence to and respect for the civil and human rights of the accused in this matter. Anything less is an insult to its legal foundations, to its citizenry and to all those who, like us, hold out hope for Russia’s continuing transition to become one of the world’s leading democracies.

The Armenian Bar Association was formed in 1989 to provide an arena for lawyers of Armenian heritage to come together socially and professionally and to address the legal concerns of the Armenian community.


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  1. GeorgeMardig said:

    It is more important to respect the rule of law and make justice, than to make a big issue the wearing of female bathrobe and slippers.

  2. Parsik said:

    it is more important to respect the rule of preservation of our national dignity, there is no justice for Armenians or any other small nations that willingly are enslaved by biger nations for fistfull of silvers, if you want to be a Russian slave that is your choice, I respect you to the extent that doesn’t hurt our national interests, I am sure there are lot of people like me who are seeing a major shift in Russian politics toward Armenia to lower our expectections from them, they think tyey own us, it is up to us without upseting them to much to show them the oppopsite, Armenia has her own leverages also, we are not dormant nation

  3. Gazzo said:

    I am having to understand why this unfortunate and degrading incident is questioning the nature of the relation between the two. Is a tragic car accident a catalyst for the souring of relations ? I think we ought to analyse what went on before in the background of the relation and then jump to conclusions. The truck bus tragedy may have become the trigger to reveal the festering schism, divisions, or the disagreements which may exist between the two. Do we know anything which is causing a disturbance in the relations ? On a note aside we also have to realize the visible animosity which exist in Moscow against the invasion of foreigners of their city. The Russians are also human. The sadly neglected treatment of Hrachia is the result of accumulated frustrations at their situation. It is of interest to underline whether the treatment accorded Hrachia was anti Armenian per se, or anti culprit-guilty driver and man slaughterer, or a demonstration of the flaws withi the Russian judicia processes ? . A serious accident has allowed the flow of speculative torrents of emotional outbursts ranging from violations of human rights, xenophobia, discrimination, the distancing and flimsy tenure of international relations and other well scripted shibboleths. One must be very careful not to turn this incident into a deliberate Russo-Armenian rift. If a squabble exists which puts into question the relation of the two countries, the accident should not be used as one more example of a misplaced
    perception. The Russian judicial process is flawed, shoud we translate this into a specific antiarmenian attitude and sentiments ? I don,t think so