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From 22 to 27 October 2017, the President of the Armenian Court of Cassation, Armen Mkrtumyan, was invited by the IRZ to visit Berlin and Karlsruhe with a delegation from his court for expert talks. Similar to the German Federal Court of Justice, the Armenian Court of Cassation is the highest ordinary court in the country. Its case law therefore plays a crucial role in the further development of the Armenian legal system.
Armenian judges are facing a radical change, since the rules for appointing judges and for their terms of office, in particular for presiding judges, have been changed fundamentally and judges see these changes as endangering their independence. For this reason, the issue of defining the independence of the justice system in Germany and Armenia, in particular concerning the assessment, promotion, election and terms of office of judges, dominated talks at the BMJV (German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection), where the delegation was welcomed by head of department, Marie Luise Graf-Schlicker, and at the Regional Court in Berlin. Here, Regional Court President Gabriele Nieradzik gave an introduction to the topic, which was followed by discussions with judges on subjects such as jurisdiction in cases of non-material damage.
There were other appointments with the President of the German Association of Judges, Jens Gnisa, and at the Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg in Mannheim, where the Presiding Judge, Volker Ellenberger, also took time to talk with the delegation.
Finally, at the German Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, the court’s President, Bettina Limperg, along with several of her judges, attended to the expert discussions with their Armenian colleagues, during which they discussed the above-mentioned topics as well as the uniformity of case law.
The informative discussions and cooperative encounters with the German presiding judges and many other judges involved provided important momentum for the continuing work of the Armenian delegation and for the ongoing discussions on reform in Armenia.
Participants in the inaugural seminar on the prison system held in Tsaghkadzor
Practical issues concerning the prison system with a view to international standards were the subjects of discussion at an inaugural seminar, organised by the IRZ on 4 and 5 May 2017 in Tsaghkadzor. The IRZ’s partner for this event was the penal institution department at the Armenian Ministry of Justice.
To speak on behalf of Germany, the IRZ was able to attract senior government official, Thomas Müller, prison director at the Karlsruhe penal institution. During his lectures, Thomas Müller discussed the treatment of prisoners, criminogenic factors, diagnostic possibilities, risk assessment, treatment measures, sentence planning and the organisational structure of prisons using various organisation charts. He also presented special modular treatment programmes for sex offenders and violent criminals and the work opportunities for prisoners in western Europe. Another topic covered during the event involved disciplinary measures against prisoners.
On the Armenian side, Gevorg Simonyan, Director of the Armavir penal institution, outlined the situation regarding work opportunities for prisoners in Armenia.
The majority of the 55 or so participants at the event were representatives from various penal institutions throughout Armenia, as well as employees of the penal institution department at the Ministry of Justice. Encouragingly, the restructured training centre at the Ministry of Justice and the Armenian Ombudsman’s office also showed an interest in the seminar, with representatives from both institutions also taking part.
This inaugural event on the subject of the prison system, which was organised for a large number of participants with many different contact persons, was the first of many seminars, which will be carried out with small groups in the individual penal institutions. In the meantime, the representatives from the penal institutions were asked to discuss selected topics further and present the results at the seminars to be held later on. This will mean that the training sessions will be more targeted and more thorough.
Sergey Arakelyan (on the left), Director of the Armenian Judicial Academy; Alexander Fühling, a judge at the local court of Bonn
On 2 and 3 May 2017, a seminar on sentencing was held in partnership with the Judicial Academy of the Republic of Armenia in Yerevan. German experts contributing to the event for the IRZ were Alexander Fühling, a judge at the local court of Bonn, and Senior Public Prosecutor Wolf-Tilman Baumert, who is head of the department of economic crime and press officer at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Wuppertal.
The “Sentencing” seminar covered the following sub-topics, amongst others:
The fundamentals and objectives of imposing sentences,
Points of reference for sentencing,
Sentencing facts and the ban on double counting,
Review of sentencing by the appeals court,
Special cases of conduct after the crime: perpetrator-victim settlements and reparation for damages, as well as leniency programmes.
Release on licence and prosecution of offences carried out abroad and suspended sentences and provisions for special cases (particularities of provisions for economic, corruption and tax cases and for cases of drug-related and violent crimes) were also discussed.
The two German experts were able to report respectively from the perspective of the judge and the public prosecutor, thanks to their professional activities. This also corresponded with the composition of the seminar attendees, who were trainee judges and public prosecutors. A training course at the Judicial Academy is compulsory in Armenia for both of these professions. The selection of candidates followed by an examination takes place prior to this vocational training.
The Judicial Academy of the Republic of Armenia was represented at the event by its Director, Sergey Arakelyan, amongst others. The participants showed a great deal of interest and were extremely motivated. They asked a lot of questions, joined in with lively discussions and also made suggestions for other events. As this seminar is the first event of its kind to be held with the Armenian Judicial Academy, it would be appropriate to take up the participants’ suggestions and take them into account for future events.