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.

Armenia - annual report 2015

Länderbericht Armenien 2015Attendees at the autumn school on the European Human Rights Convention in Armenia in September

Strategic framework

Legal policy starting point

As had been planned, Armenia acceded to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in 2015, the other members of which are Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan and Belarus. This means that Armenia has turned away from the EU in terms of economic and security policy, whilst the country is nonetheless maintaining its relations with Europe and striving to bring both aspects into harmony.

Armenia continues to be highly dependent on Russia in economic terms. A large share of foreign investment comes from Russia, and major sectors such as energy and telecommunication are also dominated by Russian companies. The collapse of the Russian economy in the last year as a result of political developments was also felt in Armenia. The Government's announcement of energy price increases in the summer led to massive protests within the population, involving sit-down blockades and protest marches which went on for days, but which faded away again after a few weeks.

The commemorative events concerning the incidents which took place in Turkey 100 years ago also attracted considerable attention in Armenia in 2015. Its international recognition as genocide is a major concern for the Armenian people.

The resignation of the Justice Minister Hovannes Manukyan in July was surprising news with regard to the IRZ's specific project work. During his 14 months in office, he had pushed forward the reforms in the legal field, and he had been highly supportive of the IRZ's cooperation projects.

Overall concept

The IRZ has worked with the country's most important judicial institutions in the past five years of cooperation with Armenia. The most important partners continue to include the Ministry of Justice, the Court of Cassation, the Law School of the State University of Yerevan, as well as the Armenian Young Lawyers Association (AYLA). The IRZ obtained the Armenian Bar as a new partner in 2015. Two-day specialist discussions took place with the Bar at the end of this year on topics related to professional ethics in cooperation with the Federal Bar (BRAK). Possibilities for future cooperation were also discussed.

Since the IRZ is concerned to promote regional cooperation, it furthermore organised a roundtable discussion at the end of the year in Tbilisi between the Bars from Armenia, Georgia and Germany, to which the Armenian Bar sent five representatives.

Furthermore, the IRZ held a further training seminar for lawyers on the ECHR and on the modalities for lodging an application with the ECtHR. All events benefiting Armenia's legal profession were funded by the Federal Foreign Office.

However, cooperation with the Ministry of Justice shaped the IRZ's work with Armenia in 2015. The project on the drafting of a new Penitentiary Code that had been started in the previous year was continued. To this end, the working group which was assigned by the Armenian Ministry of Justice to draft the Code met the IRZ expert in Yerevan several times in order to work out a concept for the Act and to discuss central points. These discussions were continued during a one-week stay by the group in Germany and by gaining an insight into German practice while visiting prisons.

This year too, the IRZ's cooperation also focussed once more on the basic and further training of young lawyers by continuing the German language courses at the State University for law students. Furthermore, a guest lecture was held on juvenile justice within the Masters course on criminology. Finally, the IRZ successfully complemented the previous years' summer schools with a one-week autumn school on the ECHR for law students.

Foci of activity in 2015

Constitutional law / human rights and their enforceability

  • One-week autumn school in Arzakan, Armenia, for law students on the ECHR
  • Two-day further training seminar in Yerevan, Armenia, for lawyers on the ECHR and on the procedure for lodging an application with ECtHR

Administration of justice

  • Specialist discussions in Yerevan between the German Federal Bar and the Armenian Bar on topics related to professional ethics
  • Attendance by five representatives of the Armenian Bar at the roundtable discussion between the Bars in Tbilisi

Public law

  • Attendance by two representatives from the Armenian Judges' Association at the international conference of the Memorandum Group of Judges' Associations on the topic of "Administrative courts as a tool of the rule of law" in Chişinău, Moldova, supported by the IRZ

Penitentiary Law

  • Advisory services to the Ministry of Justice in drawing up a new draft of the Penitentiary Code in Yerevan
  • Study visit to Oldenburg by a delegation of the Armenian Ministry of Justice (Working Group on the Penitentiary Code) on the topics of the penitentiary system and probation
  • Guest lecture on juvenile justice within the Masters degree course on criminology at the Law School at the State University of Yerevan
  • Specialist discussions between the Armenian Offender Rehabilitation Centre and the Georgian Crime Prevention Centre in Tbilisi

Basic and further training

  • Implementation of two one-year language courses in "German for lawyers" at the State University of Yerevan
  • Attendance by an Armenian law student at the IRZ's "German law" summer school in Brühl and Bonn

Outlook

The IRZ's cooperation in Armenia will continue to focus on criminal law in 2016. The new Penitentiary Code is to be presented to Parliament in 2016. The IRZ will continue its advice here, and will support the working group. The basic and further training of lawyers and students on the ECHR will continue to be at the centre of cooperation in the coming year.

As to the political framework, it remains to be seen how the constitutional reform from a presidential towards a parliamentary system, which had been planned to take place in 2015, will affect the judicial reforms in Armenia and how the reforms will be furthered in the judicial field under the new Justice Minister, who has been in office since September 2015.

Armenia - annual report 2013

Länderbericht Armenien 2013David Avetisyan, President of the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation (on the left) and Gevorg Danielyan, advisor to the Constitutional Court, on the occasion of the International Conference of the State University of Yerevan

General - Conceptual orientation

Presidential elections took place in Armenia in February 2013. President Sersch Sarkisjan was re-elected, as had been anticipated. Since the parliamentary elections in May 2012, his party, the Republican Party of Armenia, has had an absolute majority in Parliament. In its reforms in the legal sphere, the Armenian Government continues to take as an orientation its reform strategy paper, which covers the period from 2012 to 2016 and provides for reforms in almost all legal fields. Armenia continues to find itself in a difficult economic and foreign policy situation. There is still considerable population emigration, primarily to Russia, Europe as well as the USA. Armenia also continues to suffer from its geographical isolation, caused by ongoing tense relations with its neighbours Azerbaijan and Turkey. Moreover, the international trade embargo on Iran hinders Armenia's North-South trade links. The meagre natural resource base furthermore means that Armenia is very largely dependent on gas supplies from Russia, which explains Armenia's accession to the customs union with Russia, Belorus and Kazakhstan in 2013. Armenia, which has been a member of the EU's Eastern Partnership since 2009, nonetheless repeatedly stresses its intention of achieving approximation to Europe and the European Union, and is making considerable attempts to tackle and indeed implement reforms towards Western standards.

Cooperation to date

Since beginning cooperation with Armenia in 2011, the IRZ has been able to organise a large number of events: further training seminars and local conferences, as well as several specialist discussions in Germany. The project work with Armenia is primarily characterised by the good, trust-based cooperation with various partner institutions from the judiciary and the further training system. Further partners have been added in the past three years, which makes it clear that the IRZ has successfully established itself in Armenia. All in all, the IRZ is orientated within its consultations in Armenia following the lines of the above mentioned reform strategy paper which the  overnment adopted in 2012. Major partners of the IRZ in Armenia are the criminal chamber as well as the Judicial Department of the Court of Cassation. The IRZ cooperated with the Court of Cassation, in particular in electronic court management. The IRZ is working with the Ministry of Justice on the reform of the Home Ownership Act as well as of the prison system. The Law Institute of the Ministry of Justice, responsible amongst other things for the further training of trainers in the prison system, is also a partner of the IRZ. The IRZ was able to further intensify its cooperation with AYLA on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and arbitration jurisdiction. 

Major partners

  • Ministry of Justice
  • Court of Cassation (criminal chamber and judicial department)
  • Prosecutor's School
  • Armenian Young Lawyers Association (AYLA)

Foci of activity in 2013

Constitutional law/human rights and their enforceability

  • One-week summer school for law students on the European Convention on Human Rights and European law in Arzakan, Armenia Civil and commercial law
  • Fact-finding visit to Berlin by a delegation from the Armenian Ministry of Justice on the reform of the Home Ownership Act with the involvement of the Federal Ministry of Justice and of Berlin Regional Court, amongst others
  • Participation by three staff members of the judicial department of the Armenian Court of Cassation at the international conference on the Hague Convention in Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Conference on arbitration jurisdiction for lawyers as well as representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises in cooperation with AYLA and the Chamber of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia

Administration of justice

  • Study visit by a delegation from the judicial department of the Armenian Court of Cassation on electronic court management to Tbilisi, Georgia
  • EU twinning project "Approximation process of EU Acquis and policies on Judicial Cooperation and capacity building of the Translation Centre on Judicial Sector terminologies and methodologies"
  • Participation by the Chairman of the Committee on State and Legal Affairs of the Parliament of the Republic of Armenia to the III Interna-tional Conference of Parliamentary Committees on Legal Affairs in Berlin

Public law

  • Further training seminar "Civil service law and further training in the civil service" in cooperation with the Academy for Public Administration of the Republic of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia
  • Support for the international conference "Modern Issues in the Improvement of Legal Regulation: National and International Legal Aspects" on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Law School of the Yerevan State University in Dilijan and Yerevan, Armenia

Criminal law and the law on the prison system

  • Study visit to Germany by a delegation of the Prosecutor's School on the powers and tasks of investigation authorities and judicial academies in Germany with the involvement of the Local Court, the public prosecution office and Dortmund police headquarters, as well as the North Rhine-Westphalian Judicial Academy
  • Two further training seminars for public prosecutors as well as criminal court judges on criminal fiscal law in cooperation with the criminal chamber of the Court of Cassation of the Republic of Armenia in Zarkadzhor and Yerevan, Armenia
  • Armenian-Georgian train-the-trainer seminar for trainers in the prison system in cooperation with the Armenian Law Institute and the Georgian Penitentiary and Probation Training Center in Zarkadzhor, Armenia
  • Funding for the publication "Social work in the criminal law system"

Basic and further training

  • Participation by a professor at the Law School of the University of Armenia at a language course for legal experts of the Goethe Institute in Bonn
  • Participation by two Armenian law students at the IRZ's German law summer school in Brühl
  • IRZ internship for lawyers for an Armenian lawyer

Outlook

The IRZ will continue to advise Armenia on the reform of criminal law as well as of the prison system in 2014 and intensify its cooperation with the criminal chamber of the Court of Cassation and the Ministry of Justice. The consultations on the development of a probation service concept for juveniles are also to be continued. The consultation and support of the new centre for the work on juvenile delinquents which was established in the Ministry of Justice at the end of 2013 will certainly be a focus here. It was unfortunately necessary to cease the extremely constructive cooperation with the Prosecutor's School in the recent years since it was dissolved at the end of 2013 and replaced by a newly-established national Judicial Academy which is to commence operations in January 2014. We have however already had talks with the newly-established Academy, so that the IRZ hopes to be able to gain a new cooperation partner here. The scope of the cooperation has not yet been defined, but will be in the field of basic and further training of public prosecutors as well as judges. The cooperation with the judicial department of the Court of Cassation in the field of the archiving of court files and the allocation of judges' posts is to be continued, as is cooperation with the AYLA, which has been running since 2010. It is planned with the latter to continue the summer school on the ECHR and on European law, which was carried out extremely successfully in July 2013. Furthermore, the IRZ has discussed various potential projects in the field of academic teaching with the Law School of Yerevan State University.