Armenia – annual report 2022

EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin (l.) and Deputy Minister of Justice Yeranuhi Tumanyants (r.) at the Closing Conference on Judicial Reform and Access to Justice in the context of the EU Grant “Consolidation of the Justice System in Armenia”.
EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin (l.) and Deputy Minister of Justice Yeranuhi Tumanyants (r.) at the Closing Conference on Judicial Reform and Access to Justice in the context of the EU Grant “Consolidation of the Justice System in Armenia”.

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Armenia finds itself in a difficult and tense position in regard to its domestic and foreign policies. This has applied not only since Russia launched its war of aggression on Ukraine. The country is caught between the dichotomous poles of adopting a pro-Western reform course on the one hand and its dependence on Russia as a “security power” in Nagorno-Karabakh on the other, where Russia has been tasked with ensuring compliance with the ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia since 2020. Moreover, strategically ­important sectors of the economy are controlled by Russian investors. With this in mind, Armenia has been highly reticent in its public statements since the start of the Ukraine war and has not adopted a clear stance in international forums. Recent high-level talks have tried to ease the tensions in Armenia’s relationship with the neighbouring countries of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Despite the tension on the domestic and foreign policy fronts, the government of Armenia has continued to focus on convergence with the European Union and is implementing suitable reforms with regard to the introduction of EU standards.

Overall Concept

IRZ supports the process of EU legal harmonisation and is involved in Armenia both within the framework of EU-funded projects – including more recently the EU Grant project “Consolidation of the Justice System in Armenia”, which ended in August 2022, and currently in a Twinning project in the area of anti-corruption policy – as well as in projects funded with grants from the Federal Ministry of Justice. Consultations within the scope of this funding have traditionally prioritised the areas of criminal and penitentiary law. The new Armenian Penitentiary Code, for which IRZ provided ongoing advice, entered into effect in the summer of 2022. In this context, IRZ has, since the end of 2021, also been advising a working group tasked with planning the construction of a new penitentiary institution in Yerevan on compliance with European penitentiary standards.

Focus of Activity in 2022

Constitutional Law, Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Technical advice to the Office of the Human Rights Defender on preparing the annual report on “Rights and protection of young people and persons with disabilities” (several advisory meetings, partly online, hybrid and a face-to-face format, as well as written opinions on technical issues)

Criminal and Penitentiary Law

  • Several expert talks with the Ministry of Justice working group tasked with planning the construction of a new penitentiary facility in Yerevan in compliance with European penitentiary standards (two in hybrid format and three face-to-face)
  • Study trip to Germany within the framework of the expert advice provided to the Ministry of Justice working group regarding practical implementation of European penitentiary standards
  • Workshop on modern penitentiary concepts at the Vanadzor ­penitentiary institution

Basic and Further Training

  • Autumn School in criminal law and criminal procedure law in cooperation with the Law Faculty at Yerevan State University

Projects funded by the European Union:

EU Twinning project “Fostering integrity and preventing corruption in the public sector in Armenia”

IRZ has been implementing a 24-month EU Twinning project to benefit the Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC) of Armenia since June 2022 in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Latvia and the Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) as junior partner.

The overarching objective of this project is to promote integrity and prevent corruption in the public sector in Armenia. Specifically, the project aims to develop and implement educational and awareness programmes for policy to combat corruption. At the same time, it is also involved in capacity building to strengthen the integrity of Armenia’s public sector. Other objectives include advancing implementation of the anti-corruption strategy, in particular by expanding the monitoring tasks performed by the Department of Anti-Corruption Policy Development and Monitoring at the Armenian Ministry of Justice.

The project consists of four components:

The first project component aims to strengthen the institutional capacity of CPC to develop and support implementation of policy to prevent corruption (promote integrity) and of public awareness programmes in Armenia. IRZ experts work on developing programmes for the general education system, the higher education system and a system for the purposeful further training of government officials.

In addition, the second component aims to establish strategic communication and cooperation mechanisms to improve CPC’s communication with civil society and the media, as well as with external stakeholders and the public. This component is also intended to provide further training to CPC staff in the area of public relations.

The third project component focuses on supporting the Armenian Ministry of Justice in the implementation of its anti-corruption strategy. Included in this are the development of policy to combat corruption and its legal framework, as well as the development of monitoring methodology in order to put this strategy into practice. At the same time, the aim is to sustainably strengthen implementation of international commitments in regard to policy to combat corruption.

The fourth and last project component promotes the development of integrity measures for state enterprises and public sector institutions. IRZ experts will perform an evaluation of the policy to combat corruption in state enterprises and develop a plan to improve corporate integrity in Armenia.

EU-Grant project “Consolidation of the Justice System in ­Armenia”

Dedicated to general consolidation of Armenia’s judicial reform, IRZ successfully completed this EU project in August 2022 after more than two years of operation. Expertise France and the Latvian Court Adminis­tration were its partners.

Despite the initially adverse project circumstances that necessitated an exclusively digital launch in the summer of 2020, the project significantly promoted the country’s ongoing judicial reform within the framework of three project components in relatively short term. For instance, the project assisted with a number of legal reforms and legislative initiatives that are intended to contribute to faster decisions in civil and administrative procedures – especially if the facts of the matter are simple. This is viewed as essential to ease the strain on the courts and to speed up the process of establishing legal repose. The promotion of alternative dispute resolution methods – another focus area within the project – will contribute to this process as well. In this context, the expert team advised the Ministry of Justice on important amendments to the Mediation Act, supported the development of a training concept for future mediators and conducted an initial intensive course for this group. Another focus was on the establishment of a national arbitration centre. In this regard, the project was used to provide detailed advice at the explicit request of the Ministry of Justice in order to create a valid legal and practical framework with due consideration of European best practices.

The further training component was another priority of the consulting. Based on a comprehensive needs assessment, the project supported the Armenian Academy of Justice in establishing more professional structures for the concept, design, implementation and evaluation of its further training programme for members of the judiciary in line with European standards. The key outcome of this intense advisory cooperation was a practical training manual, which is available in English and Armenian and was used by the academy during the project. Accompanying this, the project also involved holding over 100 training events, which benefited around 3,000 participants in total from all stakeholder groups within the legal profession. Further training activities are rarely intended for judges at the Constitutional and Insolvency Courts, which is why the participants rated these activities as particularly relevant.

Another aim of the project was to strengthen the professional ethics and integrity of judges and public prosecutors, especially in the form of consultations on rules of conduct for professionals with regard to their political activities, acceptance of gratuities, conflicts of interest and dealing with (social) media, as well as concerning disciplinary measures against members of the judiciary and the public prosecutor’s office in the dichotomous field between disciplinary responsibility and personal independence. The findings and results of the consultations were incorporated into another manual, which is intended to help Armenian professional bodies and also practitioners to read and interpret the relevant laws in the light of international standards.

Other important project contents included modernisation and digitisation efforts within the judiciary, examining the work of courts according to Council of Europe European Commission standards for the efficiency of justice (CEPEJ standards to improve transparency), reform of the Regulatory Offences Act and support for the newly established Anti-Corruption Court or its future judiciary. Aside from the core team – which consisted of a team leader and three long-term experts – 32 local and 27 European experts were deployed in 60 missions, primarily on the ground in Armenia. The extremely positive feedback from project beneficiaries, who described the close, collegial and transparent cooperation between the local actors and the project team as exceptional, stands as proof that these efforts were worthwhile.

EU Technical Assistance project “Development and Introduction of E-Justice Solutions in Armenia”

IRZ has been involved in implementation of the EU project “Development and Introduction of E-Justice Solutions in Armenia” under the leadership of the French partner SOFRECO since November 2021. The project is scheduled to run for 24 months and is endowed with a volume of just under €1,270,000. This EU project aims to develop a uniform e-justice system to guarantee digitisation of all paperwork circulated within the judicial system. Furthermore, the project envisages the establishment of an e-justice portal, which will bring the judiciary closer to the people and improve transparency and efficiency within the judicial sector while reducing the cost of court proceedings. Not only will the e-justice portal facilitate access to current systems in the judicial sector, it will also enable the e-services created within the framework of the project.

The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of High-Tech Industry in the Republic of Armenia take centre stage as the beneficiary authorities, in ­addition to the Supreme Judicial Council and the public prosecutor’s offices.

Jointly organised with the Armenian Ministry of Justice and attended by the Armenian Deputy Minister of Justice and the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia, an event was held in Yerevan in mid-April 2022 to present the e-justice portal to potential users.

Outlook

Cooperation with the Armenian partners in the field of criminal and penitentiary law, as well as the new cooperation with the Office of the Human Rights Defender, will be continued, deepened and regionally expanded. A large number of measures will again be implemented in 2023 within the EU Twinning project on preventing corruption. Moreover, further training for young legal professionals will remain an important priority for IRZ’s cooperation with partners such as the Yerevan State University and the Academy of Justice.

Please find the Annual Report 2022 here: Media centre – Annual reports.

Armenia – annual report 2020

Final conference of the pilot project on “Practical issues in the enforcement system: Developing tailored approaches to the most pressing issues at four penitentiary institutions” in Yerevan: Artak Haratyunyan, First Deputy Head of the Penitentiary Department at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Thomas Müller, Senior Government Official, Head of the Karlsruhe Correctional Facility; Arpine Sarsgyan, Head of Department of Prison Policy at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Heinz Brüche, Head of Training at the Baden-Württemberg Prison Training Centre; Nelly Tumasyan, IRZ Project Coordinator in Armenia (from right to left)
Final conference of the pilot project on “Practical issues in the enforcement system: Developing tailored approaches to the most pressing issues at four penitentiary institutions” in Yerevan: Artak Haratyunyan, First Deputy Head of the Penitentiary Department at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Thomas Müller, Senior Government Official, Head of the Karlsruhe Correctional Facility; Arpine Sarsgyan, Head of Department of Prison Policy at the Ministry of Justice; IRZ expert Heinz Brüche, Head of Training at the Baden-Württemberg Prison Training Centre; Nelly Tumasyan, IRZ Project Coordinator in Armenia (from right to left)

Strategic Framework 

Legal Policy Starting Point 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government has focused on ambitious reform plans in the judicial field especially since the Velvet Revolution in 2018. Key projects include the establishment of stable democratic institutions, policies to combat corruption and reforms in the areas of criminal law, penitentiary law, criminal procedure law and constitutional law.

Although reforms are moving forward at a fast pace and the government is doing a lot to convince the population of their necessity, these upheavals are not always uncontroversial. The Constitutional Court came under particular criticism in 2020 because the majority of its judges had been appointed for life according to a now defunct procedure. Initial attempts to incentivise judges to step down failed. A referendum scheduled for early April 2020 was to vote on a constitutional amendment that would have permitted the immediate dismissal of seven of the nine judges. But the referendum was postponed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, so parliament, in which the ruling party has an absolute majority, ultimately passed the constitutional amendment. Three constitutional judges had to resign immediately and were replaced; other dismissals will follow. The office of the president was taken away from the former incumbent, although he remained as a judge.

In addition to judicial reform, domestic and foreign policy during the reporting year were largely dominated by management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. It remains to be seen how these two crises will affect the current reform course.

Overall Concept

During 2020, topics such as notary law were added to the bilateral advisory measures, which have traditionally prioritised the areas of criminal law and penitentiary law until now. This enabled the inclusion of new partners, among them the Supreme Judicial Council that was established in 2018.

German expertise was used to support reforms in the penitentiary system through the organisation of training and workshops at correctional facilities during the intensification phases. Unfortunately, it was only possible to continue these practical measures for two new correctional facilities in a restricted, virtual setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

IRZ places a focus on the further training of young legal professionals in cooperation with the Yerevan State University. In a project funded by the Federal Foreign Office, students received training from German experts, for instance by participating in an autumn school in a hybrid format on the topics of human rights, European law, constitutional law and media law.

An EU Grant Project has also been running since 2020 in addition to the bilateral activities. This aims to continue consolidating the Armenian judiciary. The bilateral measures were coordinated with the Grant Project activities in order to prevent duplicate work and to harness synergy.

Focus of Activity in 2020

Administration of Justice

  • Advisory measures for the Notary Chamber as a hybrid event on notarial law issues, digitalisation and the prevention of money laundering
  • Online seminar with the Lawyers’ Association of the Republic of Armenia on public relations for lawyers and on lawyers as public figures
  • Hybrid seminar with the Supreme Judicial Council of the Republic of Armenia on “Recruitment procedures for new judges” and “Judicial immunity” in Tsaghkadzor

Criminal and Penitentiary Law

  • Two workshops and a final conference on practical issues of the penitentiary system for the development of tailored concepts for correctional facilities in Armenia – intensification phase at Sevan and Artik correctional facilities
  • Two hybrid workshops at two further correctional facilities as part of a pilot project in the penitentiary system on the aforementioned topic
  • Hybrid seminar with the Special Investigation Service “Recovery of illegally acquired assets from abroad, money laundering, etc.” in Tsaghkadzor

Basic and Further Training

  • Two online guest lectures on the penitentiary system at the University of Yerevan Faculty of Law
  • Organisation of a nationwide hybrid moot court on criminal law and criminal procedure law in cooperation with Yerevan State University
  • Online seminar for prospective and active judges and public prosecutors on the topic of “Presumptions and burden of proof in criminal proceedings” in cooperation with the Judicial Academy
  • Four one-week autumn schools for students in a hybrid format on the topics of “Human rights, European, constitutional and media law”, funded by the Federal Foreign Office

Project funded by the European Union 

EU Grant Project: “Consolidation of the Justice System in Armenia” 

IRZ has been in charge of implementing this EU Grant Project in Armenia since June 2020. Endowed with a total volume of € 2.2 million and scheduled to run for 24 months, this project is focused on general consolidation of the Armenian judicial reform and is being conducted in partnership with the French organisation Justice Cooperation International (JCI) and the Latvian Court Administration.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary to postpone the start of the project until June after the contract had been awarded in February 2020. Two national and two international long-term experts have worked on the project since then, albeit mainly online. The challenging tasks of establishing a digital office and project infrastructure as well as the predominantly virtual contact with partners and institutions have been successful.

A particular priority of this project is on the support and implementation of the judicial reform strategy “Strategy for Judicial and Legal Reforms 2019–2023”, which was adopted by the Armenian parliament in autumn 2019. Aside from the target groups of judges, public prosecutors and lawyers, this cooperation with numerous actors within the Armenian judiciary, predominantly the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Academy, also addresses non-judicial court staff and civil society stakeholders.

The overarching objective is to raise the confidence of the Armenian population in the judicial system. For this reason, a strategy of bolstering the integrity, transparency and efficiency of the judicial system is pursued. Key measures therefore include support in the successful implementation of the intended reform, policies to combat corruption and the comprehensive improvement of alternative legal education and training. Another component is to establish a comprehensive system of court monitoring and vetting for judges and public prosecutors.

Outlook

Cooperation with the Armenian partners in the field of criminal law and penitentiary law will continue, alongside collaboration in the area of probation services. In addition, further training of young legal professionals will be another important priority in 2021. Through the implementation of the Grant Project the chance is given to accompany the reform on a larger scale in 2021.

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.