- Published: July 10, 2019
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.
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
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.