Armenia - annual report 2018

Further training seminar for the Special Investigation Service on investigation methods in cases of corruption, embezzlement and such like in Tsaghkadzor, attended by Public Prosecutor Karin Schreitter-Skvortsov, Director of the Special Investigation Service in the Republic of Armenia Sasun Khachatryan, and the Deputy Director (retired) of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Münster, Günter Rüter
Further training seminar for the Special Investigation Service on investigation methods in cases of corruption, embezzlement and such like in Tsaghkadzor, attended by Public Prosecutor Karin Schreitter-Skvortsov, Director of the Special Investigation Service in the Republic of Armenia Sasun Khachatryan, and the Deputy Director (retired) of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Münster, Günter Rüter

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Armenia was gripped by profound transformation during the reporting year. The sweeping constitutional amendment decided by a referendum in late 2015 includes a switch from a presidential to a parliamentary system, meaning a transfer of executive power from the president to the head of government and the vesting of greater competencies in parliament itself. In contrast, largely representative tasks remain with the president. The new President Armen Sarkissian was elected by the National Assembly on 2 March 2018, and entered office on 9 April 2018.

His predecessor, the long-serving State President Serzh Sargsyan, was appointed Prime Minister on 17 April 2018, although just beforehand he had ruled out the possibility of standing for the office of Prime Minister after the constitutional reform. His election as Prime Minister triggered mass demonstrations and strikes that lasted days and that extended to members of the armed forces. This peaceful protest movement is considered the largest to have affected Armenia since the 1980s. Under pressure from these demonstrations, Serzh Sargsyan resigned as head of government on 23 April 2018, and the leader of the opposition movement, Nikol Pashinyan, was elected by Parliament as the new Prime Minister on 8 May. Since then, this peaceful transition of power has been known in Armenia as the Velvet Revolution. The new head of government has promised the people in particular to shed light on corruption and to introduce policies to combat corruption, as well as to improve the general economic situation. New parliamentary elections were held on 10 December 2018 to legitimise the government. Taking 70.2 percent of the vote, the My Step Alliance under Nikol Pashinyan secured an absolute majority, although the turnout was just 49 percent and therefore unexpectedly low.

Overall Concept

Criminal law remains the main priority of the IRZ‘s cooperation in Armenia. It has not been possible to complete the counselling on a completely new Penitentiary Code so far, as the aforementioned political turmoil in the country effectively brought the work on all legislative projects to a standstill.

Aside from this legal reform, the penitentiary system in Armenia is also in need of reform as a matter of urgency. Therefore, building on earlier advice, events were held at selected penitentiaries to develop tailored overall concepts for individual sentence planning, for the creation of work opportunities or the provision of medical care. These efforts should be continued and intensified.

In addition to issues of criminal law, the IRZ has also accepted a mandate to advise the Civil Act Registration Agency at the Armenian Ministry of Justice on the new law to implement the Hague Convention on Child Abduction (HCCA), which is expected to be ratified soon. In addition to the Ministry of Justice, the other partners in this cooperation are the Court of Cassation, the Academy of Justice, the Chamber of Advocates, the School of Advocates, the Chamber of Notaries, the Penitentiary Department and the Armenian Special Investigation Service, as well as the Yerevan State University.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Final counselling on the draft legislation to implement the Hague Convention on Child Abduction (HCCA) in Yerevan, Armenia

Administration of Justice

  • Conference for the Armenian Chamber of Notaries on current practicerelated questions with the Federal Chamber of Notaries in Aghveran.
  • Training of Trainers: pedagogical methodology for lecturers at the Armenian Academy of Justice in Tsaghkadzor
  • Kick-off meeting to take stock in the area of probation and with the aim of developing a collaborative training concept for Armenian probation officers in Yerevan, Ashtarak (Aragazotn Province) and Karbi
  • Seminar in Yerevan for the Armenian Chamber of Advocates on media and communications management in cooperation with the German Federal Bar

Criminal and Penitentiary Law

  • Guest lectures on juvenile criminal law at the Law Faculty of the Yerevan State University
  • Colloquium with the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation on the issue of “Coercive measures during criminal proceedings, German practice, case-law by the ECHR“ in Tsagkhadzor
  • Continued support for the Ministry of Justice in the Republic of Armenia for the preparation of a new draft Penitentiary Code
  • Further training seminar in Tsaghkadzor for the Armenian Special Investigation Service on investigative methods in cases of corruption, embezzlement by officials and the recovery of assets

Basic and Further Training

  • Participation by the President of the Armenian Chamber of Notaries and a notary in the multilateral, practice-oriented further training for English-speaking notaries/junior notaries by the IRZ in Bonn
  • Participation by an Armenian lawyer in the eighth “IRZ Summer School on German Law“ in Bonn
  • Participation by four Armenian lawyers in the IRZ Autumn Academy on Civil Law and the Protection of Fundamental Rights in Bonn
  • Participation by an Armenian judge in the multilateral internship programme for civil and commercial judges
  • Moot court in criminal law in Aghveran, designed for students at all universities nationwide

Outlook

The reform of the Penitentiary Code and its practical application will remain an important issue in cooperation with the Armenian Ministry of Justice in 2019. Within the field of the penitentiary system, there are plans to continue and intensify the counselling provided in individual penitentiaries. Technical counselling for the recently introduced probation service will also continue. Support for the Yerevan State University will be expanded to include comprehensive advice on the introduction of case-based teaching methodologies and the development of case materials for a greater practical orientation in teaching.

Armenia - annual report 2017

Delegation of the Armenian Ministry of Justice in front of the IRZ in Bonn: Martina Erb-Klünemann, judge at the Local Court in Hamm and liaison judge (2 nd from right)
Delegation of the Armenian Ministry of Justice in front of the IRZ in Bonn: Martina Erb-Klünemann, judge at the Local Court in Hamm and liaison judge (2 nd from right)

Legal Policy Situation

In April 2017, parliamentary elections were held in the Republic of Armenia. These were the first elections after the constitutional reform of 2015, which comprised the transition from a presidential system to a parliamentary system. The Republican Party emerged as the clear winner from the elections, which displayed some irregularities according to international election observers. The State President, whose term of office ends in April 2018, is also a member of this party. Since the constitutional reform has also transferred the executive power from the president to the head of government, the opposition is apprehensive of the current president changing his office to that of head of government. The President has denied these speculations, however.

The elections were held exactly one year after the resurgence of the bloody fights in Nagorno-Karabakh lasting several days in April 2016. Since then, the conflict has been frozen once again, without any sign of a diplomatic solution. This conflict continues to have an impact on the economic situation and the overall development of Armenia. It is also for this reason that the country is very much oriented towards Russia as a protective power, which it already depends on in terms of energy and economic policy.

At the same time, Armenia is maintaining its cooperation with the European Union. It is a member of the Eastern Partnership of the EU and signed a Comprehensive and Advanced Partnership Agreement with the EU at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels in November of the year under review. This replaces an association agreement with the hope of bringing about rapprochement in terms of trade relations, product safety and consumer protection as well as support for civil society. Additionally, the country benefits from EU programmes on judicial reforms with a current focus on structural problems in the judiciary and criminal law.

Overall Concept

Criminal law continues to be the focal point of the IRZ’s cooperation with Armenia. In addition to ongoing consultations on a fundamentally new penitentiary code, the specialist events mainly address the question of how specific regulations, e.g. with regard to handing down sentences or to the fight against money laundering, can be implemented in Armenian legal practice in accordance with international standards. This also applies to the implementation of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, which was the subject of close collaboration with the Civil Act Registration Agency at the Ministry of Justice.

In relation to current reforms in the judicial administration, contacts with the Court of Cassation and the Armenian Judges’ Association were also intensified.

Besides the Ministry of Justice, the cooperation partners comprise the Court of Cassation, the Judicial Academy, the Chamber of Advocates, the School of Advocates, the Armenian Chamber of Notaries and the Correctional Department and the Armenian Investigation Service, as well as the Yerevan State University.

Foci of Activity 2017

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Expert report on a reform draft law to implement the Hague Convention on Child Abduction (HCCA) in Armenia
  • Working visit by a delegation of the Armenian Ministry of Justice on the implementation of the HCCA in Bonn, Hamm and The Hague
  • Participation by a member of staff of the Armenian Ministry of Justice in the “Summer School on Intellectual Property” at the University of Bonn

Administration of Justice

  • Working visit by the President of the Court of Cassation and his delegation on questions regarding jusdicial administration, independence of the judges and the compensation of moral damage in Berlin and Karlsruhe
  • Seminar for the Armenian Chamber of Notaries on questions of their day-to-day professional practice in cooperation with the Federal Chamber of Notaries in Tzaghkadzor/Armenia
  • Further training on rules governing the legal profession for Armenian lawyers in Yerevan
  • Attendance by two representatives of the Armenian Judges’ Association of the international conference of the Memorandum Group of Judges’ Associations in Tbilisi/Georgia, (see Multilateral p. 129)

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Continued support of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia in preparing a draft of the new Penitentiary Code
  • Guest lecture on the topic of “Handing down sentences” at the State University of Yerevan
  • Seminars on handing down sentences for the judges and the Public Prosecutor’s Office in collaboration with the Judicial Academy of Armenia in Yerevan
  • Support in implementing reforms in the penitentiary system: kick-off seminar for prison guard officers on practical questions in regard to international standards in the penitentiary system in Tzaghkadzor/ Armenia
  • Support of the Department of “Probation” of the State University of Yerevan in the revision of the curriculum: internship for an Armenian lecturer at the Alice Salomon Hochschule in Berlin
  • Further training for the Special Investigation Service on investigating cases of money laundering in Aghveran/Armenia

Basic and Further Training

  • Participation by two Armenian lawyers in the IRZ’s summer school “German law” in Bonn
  • Moot court in criminal law addressing all students of all universities nationwide, participation by 24 students from six universities in the final round in Aghveran/Armenia

Outlook

An important topic in the cooperation with the Ministry of Justice in 2018 will be the reform of the Penitentiary Code and the law on applying the Hague Convention on Child Abduction in Armenia, the implementation of which is to be accompanied closely. Regarding the penitentiary system, specific consultations are planned in individual prisons as well. Specialist advice on the recently introduced probation service is also being considered. In addition, the collaboration with all other partner institutions will be continued and intensified in the form of seminars and training courses.

Armenia - annual report 2016

Conference on notary law in Yerevan: Vanine Hovsepyan (front row, 4th from right), President of the Armenian Chamber of Notaries; Richard Bock (to her left), Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries

Conference on notary law in Yerevan: Vanine Hovsepyan (front row, 4th from right), President of the Armenian Chamber of Notaries; Richard Bock (to her left), Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

The Republic of Armenia once again looks back on an eventful year. Certainly the most important development from a legal policy point of view was the constitutional reform, which entered into force at the end of 2015. The central point of the reform is the change from the current presidential system to a parliamentary system. This manifested itself amongst other things in greater competence being conferred on the government and parliament, whereas the president by contrast mainly keeps representative tasks and is also no longer directly elected by the people. Although the actual reform itself was mainly viewed as a step in the right direction not only from an international perspective, several aspects gave rise to dissatisfaction amongst the population. However, in a referendum at the beginning of December 2015, the preparation and conduct of which was accompanied by criticism from election observers and representatives of civil society, the majority of the population was in favour of the reform.

In the continuing conflict concerning Nagorno-Karabakh, there were hefty military clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijan troops in April 2016 on the cease-fire line. Numerous soldiers were killed on both sides. This was aggravated by a serious domestic political crisis resulting from the two-week occupation of a police station in Yerevan in the summer. A radical opposition faction had taken several hostages in order to enforce political demands. Although a police officer was killed in the process, the violent occupiers received significant support from the population.

This indicates a consistent dissatisfaction of the Armenian people about the lack of change to their life situation. Trust in politics is minimal.

Overall Concept

In Armenia, the IRZ mainly devotes itself to criminal law which has undergone a fundamental reform in recent years. The main criminal law legislation had to be revised once again as a result of the constitutional reform in 2016. This in turn had repercussions on the reform of the Penitentiary Code on which the IRZ has provided advice since 2015, and which will now be delayed further.

In addition to advice on legislation, cooperation also focused on training and conferences on practical criminal law issues. This in particular affects issues regarding which the Armenian regulations are guided by the German system or which are similar across borders for several countries. The cooperation partners are the Ministry of Justice, the Court of Cassation, the Armenian Bar and, since 2016, the Armenian Investigation Service. In addition to this, projects with the Armenian Chamber of Notaries and the Bar School have reached numerous representatives of these two professional groups.

An important project alongside the support for the Faculty of Law at Yerevan State University is still being conducted in the criminal law field. Firstly, consultation is taking place here on the revision of curricula on probation issues. Secondly, the university programme has been supplemented by practice-oriented guest lectures by experienced German speakers.

Foci of Activity 2016

Constitutional Law / Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Further training seminars in Gyumri und Dilijan for lawyers about the European Convention on Human Rights and its enforceability in co-operation with the Armenian Bar
  • Further training seminar in Tzaghkadzor for staff of the Investigation Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia for the investigation and revelation of cases of torture

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Workshop in Yerevan with the International Department for Civil Law in the Ministry of Justice for the implementation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Administration of Justice

  • Conference in Yerevan on current issues for notaries in the Republic of Armenia and Germany in cooperation with the German Federal Chamber of Notaries

Public Law

  • Participation by two representatives of the Armenian Judges’ Association at the international conference entitled “Safeguarding the uniformity of case-law as a task for the supreme courts” in Chişinău, Republic of Moldova

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Advisory services to the Ministry of Justice in preparing a draft of the new Penitentiary Code
  • Workshop in Tzahkadzor with the International Legal Assistance and Foreign Relations Department of the Republic of Armenia on various aspects of extradition law
  • Discussions with the Correctional Department of the Armenian Ministry of Justice on possible cooperation between correctional facilities in Armenia (Armavir) and Germany
  • Advisory services to the Juvenile Justice Board of the Armenian Ministry of Justice for the coordination of the reforms in juvenile criminal law
  • Advisory services to the Faculty of Law at the State University of Yerevan on teaching in the field of probation
  • Guest lecture on practical aspects of the probation service at the State University of Yerevan
  • Moot court in criminal law in Aghveran for students in cooperation with the State University of Yerevan

Basic and Further Training

  • ”Training of trainers” for the Armenian School of Advocates in cooperation with the German Bar Academy in Tzaghkadzor
  • Continuation of German courses for students of the Faculty of Law at the University of Yerevan
  • Participation by two Armenian lawyers at the IRZ’s summer school “German law” in Brühl and Bonn
  • Participation by a lawyer at a German course for lawyers offered by the Goethe Institute in September in Bonn

Outlook

An important topic in the cooperation with the Ministry of Justice in 2017 will probably be the reform of juvenile criminal law. Initial consultations have taken place in this context, which can form the basis for close support and advice on legislative and structural reforms in this field. In any case, the draft of a reformed Penitentiary Code will be submitted in the coming year. Activities will otherwise mainly follow on from existing work as far as content is concerned.

Download the entire IRZ annual report in PDF format here: annual report 2016.