How is a penitentiary institution built according to the standards of the European penal system?

Working group from the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia for the new penitentiary institution in Armenia; 3rd from the left: Arpine Sargsyan, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia
Armenia

IRZ organised a study strip to Baden-Württemberg from 20 to 24 June 2022 as part of the technical assistance provided to the Armenian Ministry of Justice regarding the planned construction of a new correctional facility. The itinerary included visits to the penitentiary institutions in Karlsruhe, Offenburg and Stuttgart, as well as to the Bildungszentrum Justizvollzug Baden-Württemberg, a training centre for prison staff in Germany.

The technical assistance aims to accompany the construction of a new correctional facility in Armenia according to the latest standards of a humane penitentiary system as early as during the planning phase.

Intense discussions between the Armenian delegation and the German team of experts in the respective correctional institutions focused on prison concepts and their structural feasibility and were followed by on-site visits.

Led by the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, Arpine Sargsyan, the Armenian delegation consisted of the penitentiary expert team from the Armenian Ministry of Justice, the commissioned architect and the president of the NGO Social Justice.

The following consultants were involved in the discussions on the German side:

  • Thomas Müller, Prison Director at the Karlsruhe Penal Institution,
  • Hans-Peter Wurdak, Prison Director at the Offenburg Penal Institution,
  • Matthias Nagel, Prison Director at the Stuttgart Penal Institution,
  • Heiko Oberle, Deputy Prison Director at the Karlsruhe Penal Institution,
  • Dr Joachim Obergfell-Fuchs, Director of the Bildungszentrum Justizvollzug Baden-Württemberg,
  • Heinz Brüche, correctional officer, Bildungszentrum Justizvollzug Baden-Württemberg.

IRZ has advised the Armenian Ministry of Justice on reforms of the Armenian penitentiary system for several years (on the draft of the new Penitentiary Code, which entered into force on 1 July 2022, on staff training at various penitentiary institutions and on other matters).

Key support in questions of penitentiary law relating to the new correctional facility building is entrusted to IRZ expert Thomas Müller, who has provided advice on the penitentiary system for several years together with Heinz Brüche.

Expert talks on the rights and protection of mentally ill persons in the penal system

left to right: IRZ Project Coordinator Armenia; Arman Tatoyan, Ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia, Laura Gasparyan, Coordinator for the Implementation of the National Preventive Mechanism and Director-General of the Department for the Prevention of Torture and Ill-Treatment at the Ombudsman's Office of the Republic of Armenia
Armenia

“Rights and protection of mentally ill persons in prisons and the penal system" - this was the topic of an event organised by the IRZ for the first time with the Ombudsman’s Office of the Republic of Armenia, an independent institution tasked with protecting human rights and freedoms in Armenia or to ensure it is restored in the event of a violation of the law.

The expert discussion took place from 3-4 December 2021 in a hybrid format: the German experts and representatives of the IRZ connected online to the contingent in Germany with the participants in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia.

Representatives of the following institutions took part in the expert talks:

  • Employees of the Ombudsman’s Office
  • Representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Penal Department at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia
  • Employees of the various correctional facilities
  • Representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs
  • Employees from psychiatric departments of various hospitals (also from the surrounding regions) and
  • Employees of specialised children's homes

The event was opened by Armenia's Ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, and the IRZ Head of Section, Frank Hupfeld. Laura Gasparyan, Coordinator for the Implementation of the National Preventive Mechanism and Director-General for the Prevention of Torture and Ill-Treatment at the Ombudsman Office of the Republic of Armenia, then reported on the situation in Armenia and on the status of the rights and protection of persons with mental illnesses in Armenia.

The two German speakers, Silvia Hawliczek, a specialist psychologist for forensic psychology, former social director and Tina Hübner, a psychologist at the Berlin Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, first presented the health system in the German penal system and the forensic psychiatric hospital.

The expert talks then took place on the following topics:

  • Mechanisms to protect the mentally ill
  • Ways to eliminate the stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness
  • Recording and registering the neglect and problems of mentally ill people and the institutions responsible
  • Methods for finding solutions to problems
  • Raising awareness of personnel regarding the rights and protection of the mentally ill

Intensive expert discussions took place and the representatives of the participating institutions emphasised the importance of the event and the continuation of the cooperation in the coming year.

Successful continuation of Criminal Moot Courts in Armenia

Hovsep Sargsyan, a member of the Bar Association; Davit Harutjunyan, a judge at the Court of First Instance of the City of Yerevan; Vazgen Rshtuni, a judge at the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Armenia; Prof. Anna R. Margaryan, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at Yerevan State University, Nelly Tumasyan, IRZ Project Coordinator in Armenia (from right to left)
Hovsep Sargsyan, a member of the Bar Association; Davit Harutjunyan, a judge at the Court of First Instance of the City of Yerevan; Vazgen Rshtuni, a judge at the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Armenia; Prof. Anna R. Margaryan, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at Yerevan State University, Nelly Tumasyan, IRZ Project Coordinator in Armenia (from right to left)
Armenia

On 24 and 25 September 2021, a Criminal Moot Court was held in Aghveran, Armenia, for the sixth time since 2016. This highly successful annual event is organised by IRZ together with the Faculty of Law at Yerevan State University. Students at Armenian universities as well as representatives of other organisations can apply to participate in this competition. The aim of the Moot Court is for participants to actively experience a court hearing through role play and thereby gain practical experience in the various legal professions. 

This year's event was opened by Anna R. Margaryan, Professor of Criminal Law and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at Yerevan State University, and IRZ Head of Section Frank Hupfeld. Professor Margaryan then explained how the Moot Court works.

A total of ten groups of three people applied to participate in this year's court competition. The groups from the following five institutions passed the written selection tests and participated in the Moot Court:

  • Yerevan State University
  • Artzakh State University (Nagorno-Karabakh)
  • Police Academy of the Republic of Armenia
  • French University in Armenia
  • Armenian-Russian University in Armenia 
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Participants in the Moot Court

During the Moot Court, each group was supervised by a trainer. For the five role plays in the first phase of the Moot Court, each group took on both the prosecutor and the defender role once. The two winning groups from the first phase competed against each other in the subsequent final competition. The participants' performances were judged by an Armenian-German jury: 

  • Vazgen Rshtuni, a judge at the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Armenia
  • Davit Harutjunyan, a judge at the Court of First Instance of the City of Yerevan
  • Hovsep Sargsyan, a member of the Bar Association
  • Dr. Arnd Weishaupt, a judge at the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf and IRZ expert

After the results of this year's court competition had been announced, there was a festive award ceremony. For once, two groups won this year's Moot Court – from the French University in Armenia and from the Yerevan State University. 

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Two groups that competed against each other during the Moot Court

The award ceremony was attended by the above-mentioned jury members and representatives of Yerevan State University, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof. Gagik Ghazinyan, and his deputy, Prof. Anna Margaryan. The ceremony was also attended by a group of people who travelled especially for the occasion:

  • Arman Tatoyan, Ombudsman of Armenia
  • Dr Artur Israelyan, Vice-Rector for International Cooperation and Public Relations at Yerevan State University
  • Elen Hakobyan, a representative from the Judicial Academy
  • Armen Asatryan, a representative from the Bar Association
  • Vahe Engibaryan, a representative from the Judges' Association

Their presence reflects the popularity of this series of events in Armenia.

Since the representatives of the participating institutions explicitly emphasised the importance of the moot courts in Armenia, IRZ plans to continue the series of events next year.