Armenia - annual report 2019

Workshop in Tsaghkadzor with the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia on the professional ethics for lawyers: Ara Zohrabyan (3rd from left), President of the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia; Jan Helge Kestel (to the right), lawyer at the law firm Caemmerer Lenz in Erfurt and President of the Bar Association of Thuringia
Workshop in Tsaghkadzor with the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia on the professional ethics for lawyers: Ara Zohrabyan (3rd from left), President of the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia; Jan Helge Kestel (to the right), lawyer at the law firm Caemmerer Lenz in Erfurt and President of the Bar Association of Thuringia

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Following the 2018 peaceful revolution in Armenia, the focus was on reorientation of the country and therefore on reforms, particularly in the judicial field. Changes in the areas of criminal law, penitentiary law and criminal procedure law, among others, were pushed forward at great speed. The relevant draft legislation is scheduled for adoption in early 2020. Nevertheless, political reforms are also progressing. For instance, the new government has significantly reduced the number of ministries.

However, the legal reappraisal of the previous government‘s legacy has not been without incident and it reflects the rapid changes in the country. There have been demonstrations in front of, and nationwide blockades of courts to protest the release of former President Robert Kocharyan from pre-trial detention.

The Judicial Code (law on reform of the judiciary), which entered into force in April 2018 during the peaceful revolution and which included a constitutional reform, limited the term in office for judges at the Constitutional Court to 12 years. Shortly before these changes came into force, the current president of the Constitutional Court was appointed to office for life under the old rules. This process is viewed critically by the current government, as it contests its legitimacy. Draft legislation presented at the end of 2019 is now intended to enable the early retirement of constitutional judges. As expected, the government‘s plan met with strong resistance from the Constitutional Court and the opposition.

Overall Concept

Criminal law remains the main priority of IRZ‘s cooperation in Armenia. Consultations on a fundamentally new law on penitentiary system were brought to a conclusion in 2019. IRZ will now accompany practical implementation of the reforms by developing tailor-made concepts for the penitentiary system and probation in cooperation with the competent authorities and institutions in Armenia.

Besides the criminal law issues, IRZ has intensified its consultations with other partners. In addition to the Ministry of Justice, other partners are the Court of Cassation, the Academy of Justice, the Chamber of Advocates, the School of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia, the Federal Chamber of Notaries, the Penitentiary Department and the Armenian Special Investigation Service, as well as the Yerevan State University.

In addition, IRZ was cooperating with the Yerevan Press Club on the project “@Media Societies - Armenia 2019“. The media law project is funded by the Federal Foreign Office.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Administration of Justice

  • Workshop in Yerevan for probation officers to develop a specific curriculum and create a specific training concept
  • Seminars “Dealing with the media, public relations of the Chambers of Advocates“ in Yerevan and Gyumri with Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia
  • Workshop in Tsaghkadzor with the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia on the professional ethics for lawyers
  • Practical visit to Berlin for mentors and multipliers in the probation service
  • Continued cooperation with the Court of Cassation of the Republic of Armenia on disciplinary law

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Three workshops for the development of tailor-made concepts for the Sevan and Artik prisons
  • Consolidation phase at the prisons in Armavir and Abovyan
  • Advising of the Armenian Ministry of Justice on the analysis of draft legislation on asset recovery
  • Advising of the Armenian Ministry of Justice on the draft of the law on penitentiary system
  • Organisation of a nationwide moot court in Agvheran on criminal law
  • Expert talks in Tsaghkadzor with the staff of the Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Armenia on the issues:
    • Policy to combat corruption
    • Confiscation of illegally acquired propertyEstablishing a system of requests for mutual legal assistance
  • In cooperation with the GIZ in Georgia: Publication of the South Caucasus Law Journal, Vol. 9/2018/2019 (topic: Juvenile criminal law

Basic and Further Training

  • Participation of three participants in the “IRZ Summer School on German Law“ in Bonn
  • Participation of one Armenian judge in the IVth Multilateral Internship Programme for English-speaking Civil and Commercial Judges
  • Participation of one judge in the International Conference of the Memorandum Group of several national associations of judges
  • During the project “Media diversity and pluralism of opinion“:
    • Kick-Off conference in Yerevan
    • Two workshops on transparency in the media in Aghveran and Tsaghkadzor
    • Two workshops on online media in Aghveran and Tsaghkadzor
    • Closing conference in Yerevan

Outlook

An important issue in the cooperation with the Armenian Ministry of Justice during 2020 will be the reform of the law on penitentiary system and its practical application. Within the field of the penitentiary system, there are plans to continue and intensify the counselling provided to individual penitentiary facilities. Expert counselling will also continue in the area of the probation service. IRZ will expand its support for the Yerevan State University to include comprehensive advice on the introduction of case-based pedagogical methodologies and the development of materials for a greater practical orientation in teaching. Moreover, IRZ is considering conducting Seasonal Schools on various legal topics together with the Yerevan State University.

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.