Two IRZ projects for students in Armenia in cooperation with Yerevan State University

The IRZ concluded its work in Armenia for 2016 with two important projects for students. As in previous years, a guest lecture was held for students on the criminology masters programme, which focussed this year on probation services. On 6 and 7 December, the speaker Wolfgang Eichstädter provided an insight into the practical work of probation officers in Germany.

The lecture focussed on discussions with subjects, as well as issues concerning the organisation of the working day. He cited a few examples of cases from his long-standing career as a probation officer in Berlin and held discussions with the participants on dealing with subjects in these situations.

A new law on the probation service entered into force in Armenia a few months ago, introducing fundamental changes to regulations governing the role and tasks of probation officers. These practical insights were therefore of great interest, and not only for the students. A few active probation officers also attended the lecture and took an active part in the open discussions.

The moot court in criminal law, which was held from 8 to 10 December in the Aghveran mountain resort, was of a more competitive nature. Six groups of students from five different universities in Armenia had qualified for the final round in a written competition. They took it in turns to take on the role of Public Prosecutor and the Defence and had to make a convincing case for their arguments in front of a jury of six highly experienced Armenian and German judges and lawyers. From the German side, Erich Joester, a criminal defence lawyer and notary from Bremen, and Jan F. Orth, Presiding Judge at the Regional Court of Cologne, put the rhetorical and strategic abilities of the students to the test with some tricky questions. The team of five from Yerevan State University won the competition but this intense event will be remembered by all the participants as a special highlight of their training. If possible, the IRZ plans to hold the competition again next year.

Notaries’ conference in Armenia

A conference on the current developments in Armenian notary services was organised by the IRZ in Yerevan on 11 July 2016. This conference was held in partnership with the Armenian Chamber of Notaries, which was represented by its President, Vanine Hovsepyan, and some of its board members. From the German side, the Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries, Richard Bock, himself a notary and also Chairman of the Koblenz Chamber of Notaries, took part in the one-day conference. Over 30 Armenian notaries from Yerevan and many other regions as well as representatives of the Ministry of Justice also took part in the event. This was the first event organised by the IRZ with the Armenian Chamber of Notaries.

One of the objectives of the conference was to discuss digitalisation and people-friendly processes, which are currently part of the reform of notary processes in both Germany and Armenia. It was also the occasion to talk about some of the new developments in notarial matters in Armenia, the subject of reforms to Armenian notarial law, which has existed for several years already and is now undergoing revision by the Ministry of Justice.

With regards to digitalisation, Richard Bock gave an outline of the electronic systems already used in German notary processes in the field of the land and commercial registers, as well as the upcoming digital archiving of notarial documents across Germany, which was initiated by the German Federal Chamber of Notaries. Vardan Hovhannisyan, an IT expert at the Armenian Chamber of Notaries explained the “One Window” system, an electronic system simplifying notaries’ applications with various authorities, which has recently been introduced in Armenia. Other lectures covered subjects including the enforcement of notarial deeds, notarial liability and the responsibilities of notaries in certification processes. The short lectures by German speakers and their Armenian colleagues were followed by lively and often very controversial discussions. This showed how interested the participants were in the subjects that were discussed and enabled an intense exchange of opinion between the experienced practitioners and the Ministry of Justice.

Working group meeting on the new legislation concerning the execution of prison sentences in Armenia

On 19 and 20 March 2016, members of a working group and other representatives of the Armenian Ministry of Justice met with the German expert Dr. Stefan von der Beck in Zaghkadsor, Armenia, to discuss the draft legislation concerning the execution of prison sentences. The Deputy Minister of Justice, Suren Krmoyan, who is coordinating the project on behalf of the Armenian Ministry of Justice, also attended the meeting, which took place as part of the cooperation between the IRZ and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia.

Discussions during the two-day meeting focussed on the well-advanced draft legislation on the probation service, as well as the draft legislation concerning the execution of prison sentences. Both laws have until now been the focus of work by various structures and authorities and are now thought to be ready for incorporation in legislation. The discussions took place at a highly professional level and it soon became clear that all the participants want to agree on a single solution.

The IRZ has been supporting the Armenian Ministry of Justice in its reform of the legislation concerning the execution of prison sentences since the end of 2014. As well as various meetings between the working group and Dr. von der Beck, a working visit to Oldenburg also took place at the end of 2015. This presented an opportunity, amongst other things, for participants to gain a direct insight into German penal institutions. There are plans for further meetings to look in detail at the texts for the definitive proposed legislation and these will take place over the next few months between the working group and the German expert.