Tag Archives: rights

For many years civil society organisations, activists, individuals have been fighting for having Law on Gender-Based Violence in Armenia. The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women together with its lawyers drafted a law and presented it to the Ministry of Justice years ago; however, there was no progress with the initiative.
The European Union has offered Armenia human rights budget support for 2017 with conditionalities attached, one of which is that the country adopts a law on gender-based violence in 2016. This condition reflects the importance of stopping violence against women, a value to which the EU strongly prescribes and which it promotes both at home and abroad.
On 14 October 2016, the Ministry of Justice organised a consultation with civil society organisations to engage in the process of drafting and defining the key elements of a law on gender-based violence.
The meeting was moderated by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Vigen Kocharyan, who welcomed this participatory process: ‘This draft law was prepared by a special group and initiated by the Armenian government. This is the first draft to be discussed with CSO representatives. Their years of practice and experience will be highly relevant. We welcome criticism, but mostly we want to listen to what civil society has to offer, both conceptually and detailed analysis of the provisions of the law itself. We are open for dialogue and, while this consultation is the first, it will not be the last’.
CSOs represented included different NGOs and members of Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women. Susanna Vardanyan, Head of the Women rights Centre and a member of the Coalition, welcomed the invitation: ‘We appreciate this meeting and initiative, as we have been fighting for this issue for many, many years. We are happy that the initial draft which we prepared and presented to the government has been partly reflected in the new version. We have discussed it with our lawyers, and prepared some offers and observations’.
The meeting concluded with the decision to organise a second consultation with CSO representatives once the feedback has been incorporated and the draft finalised to engage in a final round of discussions.

Twenty-two trainers from the Justice Academy of Armenia received certificates on 4 October 2016 for successfully passing training-of-trainers courses. The certificate award ceremony was organised as part of the “Supporting the criminal justice reform and combating ill-treatment and impunity in Armenia” project, which is implemented by the European Union and Council of Europe’s Programmatic Cooperation Framework for Eastern Partnership Countries 2015-2017. The European Union provides EUR 377.415 (90%) of the funding for the project.
The training of 22 future trainers will help boost the knowledge and implementation of core human rights standards in Armenia in line with the Criminal Justice Reform process. The project and the development of a training programme, training material and the instruction of the 22 trainers are based on a thorough assessment of knowledge gaps and investigative practices among investigators and prosecutors conducted in 2015. The new teaching programme covers general criminal investigative methodology, investigations of alleged torture and ill-treatment, cases involving the right to life, investigations involving vulnerable victims/witnesses and suspects such as children and women and pre-trial detention, and other related investigatory issues courses. Additionally, the training sessions also helped them to link their newly acquired knowledge with their practical experience, further enhancing their skills.
The ultimate goal of the new courses to be offered is to contribute to the fight against impunity, strengthen human rights protection and the rule of law in the country.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia Ambassador Piotr Świtalski was present at the award ceremony and spoke about the EU’s support for justice reform: ‘The EU is very pleased to be associated with this project. In the past the EU has spent almost €50 million supporting the justice sector in Armenia. We are satisfied with how we contribute to reforms in Armenia, but we want to continue our engagement by working with the new Armenian government to determine and define new areas of cooperation on justice. This is an important project and Armenia needs good investigators. Thanks to this project Armenian investigators have learned about new developments in the standard-setting process, led by Council of Europe. I hope that Armenian law enforcement and justice agencies will benefit from this project and will be able to deal with the problems that exist not only in Armenia but also in Europe’.
Natalia Voutova, Head of the CoE office in Yerevan, highly appreciated the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the Justice Academy, highlighting the importance of well-researched courses and an established pool of trainers.
The new training material is publicly available and can be browsed or downloaded here:

Every year, the EU Delegation to Armenia, the US embassy, the OSCE, Council of Europe and the UN Armenia offices in Yerevan, honour individuals working to promote human rights, accountable governance, the rule of law, local government reform, women’s rights, inclusion and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards ceremony. The ceremony has taken place annually since 2012, and is the first initiative of the international community to highlight the contributions of Armenia’s civil and political rights activists, government officials, media and civil society representatives to the promotion of human rights.
ARS_0167The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, awarded Lori District Court Judge Narine Hovakimyan with the new “Promoting Justice for All” award in recognition of her principled decisions. These decisions have demonstrated to citizens that the rights guaranteed by their Constitution are upheld in real life. ‘I am very honoured today because I am introducing a new category – an award which promotes justice for all. Justice is not just a pillar of government, it is precondition for everything. There is no democracy, no human rights protection, no fair business, and no harmonious society without independent, fair and efficient justice. For many years the EU has supported the judiciary in Armenia; we are happy that many positive changes have been made, the independence of the judiciary must still be promoted. Therefore, today we are honouring Narine Hovakimyan, a judge from Lori, for her courage and efforts for justice in Armenia,’ stated the Ambassador.
The Ambassador of the US to Armenia, Richard Mills, presented the “Media Excellence” award to the “Photolure” photo agency in recognition of its outstanding professionalism and commitment to covering the “Electric Yerevan” public protests in 2015. The Ambassador of the UK and Northern Ireland, Judith Farnworth, gave the “Freedom Defender” award to the “Citizen Observer” initiative for its efforts pursuing free and fair elections and the rule of law. The UN Resident Coordinator ad interim, Cristoph Biewirth, presented the “Government Reformer” award to Vache Terteryan, the Armenian First Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Development, for his commitment to putting in force the Law on Alternative Service and applying new approaches and reforms to local self-governance. The Head of the Council of Europe office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, handed over the “Promoting Inclusion” award to Zaruhi Batoyan for her commitment to creating equal opportunities for people with disabilities and building a more inclusive society. Ambassador Argo Avakov, the Head of the OSCE office in Yerevan, presented the “Woman of Courage” award to Jemma Hasratyan in recognition of her brave, long-term advocacy for equal rights and equal opportunities for women, and gender equality.

On 22 February 2016, the EU and UNICEF launched a joint Child Rights Toolkit in Armenia. The launch was marked by a two-day expert training course on best practices to integrate children’s rights in all aspects of political reform and economic development government, civil society, development partners and private sector experts. The Head of the EU Delegation, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, three ministers of the Government of Armenia, and UNICEF’s country representative in Armenia expressed strong support to implementation of the EU-UNICEF toolkit.
ARS_6293Ambassador Świtalski stressed the human rights aspects of children’s rights: ‘The joint EU-UNICEF Child Rights Toolkit is a testimony that child rights are very important for the EU here in Armenia. We are committed to help the Armenian government, civil society, and public institutions to make further progress in advancing child rights. No meeting about child rights can pass without mentioning Janusz Korczak, a person whom I truly admire for his insights, dedication and forward thinking on the care and rights of children. He once said that there are no children – only people, but people with different experiences, different drives and reactions. This toolkit is about simple things: how to provide children with the healthcare they need, how to prevent them from going hungry or becoming malnourished, how to reduce family violence, how to give them a good education and a better start in life. This toolkit is also about building awareness, which is very important. As part of the new EU human rights budget support we will also focus on strengthening the laws and institutions. Let’s use this event and discuss not only how to raise awareness, but also how to strengthen laws in Armenia and how to build stronger institutions to advance child rights – including independent ones like the Ombudsman’s institution. The experience of other countries shows that strong laws are central to promoting human rights’.
The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Artem Asatryan, talked about the importance of cooperation between different institutions: ‘There should be inter-agency cooperation on child protection. Last year, the government approved the decision of the Interdepartmental Regulation; however, for implementation there should be guidelines and toolkits to allow social workers, doctors, teachers, NGOs and community representatives to inform relevant institutions about concrete cases and ensure that no child is left alone’.
The launch of the EU-UNICEF Child Rights Toolkit in Armenia and the expert training is also a good way to ensure that Armenia ensures the child protection and development aspirations agreed within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The UNICEF representative in Armenia, Tanja Radocaj, said that, whether intended or not, every policy or reform programme positively or negatively affects the lives of children: ‘Through this toolkit and expert training we aim to support national development experts in their everyday work, so that they can make informed and strategic decisions that will make a positive difference in the lives of children, especially the most vulnerable’.
ARS_6252Arpine Hovhanisyan, Armenian Minister of Justice, welcomed all participants that had united to improve the future for children in Armenia: ‘This event shows that all of us know that the future of the countries and the world in general are children: their physical and mental development; their short and long term rights. On behalf of my ministry I can tell you that we have a very important mission to take forward on this issue and, taking into consideration our cooperation with the EU, I want to stress that the child rights is one of the most important issues in the budget support which we signed last year’.
The two-day training course will provide national development experts with practical guidance on how to develop rights-based, child- and youth-focused policies and change the daily lives of Armenian children.

On December 22, the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia, together with the project “Your future looks great”, organised an event in Masis Medical Center dedicated to International Human Rights Day. During the event, women and child rights awareness training was held for mothers with 0-3 year old children.
The trainer, lawyer Gagik Sahakyan, talked in details about the rights of children in the family, in particular Children’s Rights within the European Convention on Human Rights, Child Protection Law of the Republic of Armenia.
“Your future looks great” is funded by the European Union with EUR 190 000 (AMD 102 220 000) and is being implemented by the “Swedish Support Medical Association” and “Trust” health NGOs. It’s a 2-year-long educational project for urban and regional populations with the aim to promote awareness of women’s and children’s rights.
The program started in June 2015. Since then, there have already been organised 223 courses with the participation of 770 mothers, 455 teenagers, 293 pregnant women and 181 elderly people.
Project Coordinator Susanna Harutyunyan said that there was a need for such trainings. “A new concept of rights protection has been established within the framework of the project, and Family Centers have been founded in seven regional clinics, in Hrazdan, Charentsavan, Abovyan, Ashtarak, Vagharshapat, Masis and Vedi, where already operational meeting rooms have been equipped with playrooms. Family Center is a place where women can exchange views, discuss their needs and get support from specialists to solve their problems. With the help of methodist educators, children can play, study painting, handicrafts and participate in various social activities in the playrooms, “said Ms. Harutyunyan.
Playrooms that have been renovated and equipped with the support of the project are being used not only by the children of mothers who attend the trainings, but also by children undergoing treatment in hospitals. Playrooms will continue to operate after the end of the project.

On 10 December, International Human Rights Day, the international community in Armenia jointly organised “HuRiCamp’ unconference dedicated to human rights. Representatives of the European Union, UN, Council of Europe and OSCE spoke informally on human rights topics to students and civil society representatives.
ARS_9680The EU Delegation was represented by Dirk Lorenz, Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation: ‘The EU has many projects dedicated to human rights issues in Armenia, but today I want first talk about my personal background. It is important to be active in what you want to achieve. We shouldn’t be afraid that we can’t make a difference; my message today to all of you is to always try to make a difference. It is great to have the international community behind you; we are implementing many projects, providing financial assistance, etc. However, human rights will never become reality if we don’t feel on an individual level that we are the ones who can make difference in the world. There are many changes that have taken place in Armenia in recent years. It shows that there is hope and motivation. I want to encourage you to be active and know that you can make a contribution to all these good causes in Armenia’.
Human rights activists and defenders from a wide range of backgrounds came together to speak on various human rights issues in a friendly, cooperative environment designed to educate, share learning, and inspire collaboration. In parallel sessions, leading personalities talked about their work in human rights areas and shared their experience.

Within the framework of the EU-funded “Multi-faceted anti-corruption promotion” project, the Annual Anti-corruption Award Ceremony took place on 9 December 2015.
Representatives from international organisations, NGOs, the Armenian government and embassies of EU member states attended the event.
IMG_8876The Deputy Head of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation, Jose-Maria Medina Navarro, made a speech in which he stressed the importance of fighting corruption: ‘Today we are celebrating International Anti-corruption Day and also have an award ceremony for recognising people who are may be not so visible but are doing great work. As Ambassador Switalski once mentioned, there are many challenges in the fight against corruption, but we need deliverable results.’ In order to successfully fight against corruption, active participation from the civil society is very important. EU supports various civil society organisations in increasing their role in promoting anti-corruption reforms and in ensuring the implementation of those reforms. The award ceremony is one of the ways to recognise those, who are contributing to tackling this challenge’.
Suren Krmoyan, the Armenian Deputy Minister of Justice, spoke about Anti-corruption Day: ‘As you may know, 9 December is known as Anti-corruption Day all over the world. The fight against corruption has been one of the priorities for the Armenian government for the last ten years. 2015 was very important year: it was full of anti-corruption events and activities which engaged representatives of business, civil society and state authorities in the fight against corruption. The fight against corruption should be an issue for every citizen. During this year we created the 2015-2018 Anti-Corruption Strategy’.
Categories for awards included: “Young citizen of the year”; “Citizen of the year”, “Mass media of the year”, “Business organisation of the year”, “CSO of the year”.

The EU and the Council of Europe (CoE) have agreed to implement targeted cooperation activities in Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine). The idea is to bring them closer to the European standards of human rights, democracy and rule of law. From 2015-2017 projects will be implemented under the programmatic cooperation framework (PCF). Within the framework of this cooperation, 4 country-specific projects for Armenia have started, all co-financed by the European Union. Press conference on the details of the cooperation framework took place on 1 October 2015.
IMG_7349The Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Hoa-Binh Adjemian, underlined the EU’s commitment to supporting Armenia in justice, human rights, and other areas: ‘The EU stands by Armenian citizens by improving society and their livelihoods. We are talking about very important projects in the regional framework – there are so many fields on which we are working together with the CoE, and 4 in particular in Armenia. To have a successful project you need to have financial and technical support, and this is what we are providing. On the other hand, for successful results we need to have an active civil society. This is why the EU always stands next to Armenian civil society organisations’.
The Head of the CoE Office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, opened the press conference by describing the details of the cooperation framework: ‘The main objectives of our cooperation with the EU are to bring all EaP countries closer to European standards. The implementation priorities of the projects in each country are specific and are based on action plans. For the CoE, priorities are based on the CoE action plan for Armenia which will run until 2017. In this context, the CoE is the implementing organisation of the programmatic cooperation framework. We have started all four projects in Armenia, and they are coordinated in close cooperation with the Armenian government, authorities and stakeholders’.
Paruyr Hovhannisyan, Head of the European Department of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mentioned that democracy, human rights, and rule of law are values Armenia shares with the EU and the CoE. He went on to stress that progress on achieving these aims would only happen with good cooperation between partners.
The country-specific projects for Armenia that are being implemented are:
• 1. Strengthening healthcare and human rights protection in prisons in Armenia
This project will assess the needs of prison healthcare in Armenia, revise legislation, procure medical equipment for 11 healthcare units, and provide training on medical ethics and health promotion. The project started in March 2015 and will end in February 2017. The overall budget is €900,000.
• 2. Supporting criminal justice reform and combating ill-treatment and impunity in Armenia
This project will strengthen institutional mechanisms, legislation, and train prosecutors and investigators to combat ill-treatment and impunity in the criminal justice system. The project will be implemented between July 2015 to July 2017. The overall budget is €500,000.
• 3. Strengthening integrity and combating corruption in higher education in Armenia
This project will promote legal mechanisms for ensuring integrity and fighting corruption, as well as provide training courses, and introduce model codes of ethics for educators and students. The project timeframe is January 2015 to December 2016. The overall budget is €400,000.
• 4. Long-term electoral assistance to the election related stakeholders of Armenia:
The project aims to improve legislation, train electoral body staff and judges, and strengthen mechanisms for settling electoral disputes. The project started in January 2015 and will run to December 2017. The overall budget is €95,000.
Arkadi Sytine, PCF coordinator, made a presentation about the ongoing projects and described all of the details of the framework.

The launch of a new project on criminal justice and fighting ill-treatment and impunity in Armenia took place on 30 September 2015. The new project raises core issues, such as the challenges faced by the Armenian criminal justice system and how the application of European human rights standards can be improved at the national level.
The main objective of the project is to strengthen the implementation of European human rights standards in Armenia. The specific objectives are to support the alignment of human rights policies and practice by ensuring the compliance of legislative and regulatory frameworks with European standards, and to build the capacities of investigators and prosecutors.
ARS_0227Piotr Switalski, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, attended the event and stressed the importance of justice reform: ‘It is a real great pleasure for me to be here at this event, where we are launching a very important project financed by the European Union. Supporting justice in Armenia is one of the priorities for the EU. We have sponsored and implemented a number of projects in Armenia and we are determined to continue our support. Two days ago, when I had a meeting with the Armenian Minister of Justice, I heard a very storng commitment from her to continue the cooperation between the Armenian government and the EU. Indeed, the EU is commited to assisting Armenia in further justice reforms’.
Gevorg Kostanyan, the Armenian Prosecutor General, echoed this sentiment: ‘The implementation of this project is very important for Armenia, because it is aimed at strengthening human rights protection and preventing any kind of physical and psychological torture. The Armenian constitution bans all kinds of torture in our country. The best way to fight against torture is public awareness. There are many issues that can be solved with the support of this project’.
The main target groups of the project are staff from the Armenian Ministry of Justice, criminal justice reform stakeholders, trainers from the Justice Academy, prosecutors, and investigators.
ARS_0196Arpine Hovhannisyan, the Armenian Minister of Justice, spoke out against torture: ‘Human rights abuses or torture of a person acquire special meaning when they are displayed by an official in a criminal investigation. We need to solve this issue through the joint efforts of all stakeholders. This solution to the problem can be successful only in cases where the fight is effective on both the practical and legislative level’.
The project is financed by the EU and the CoE, and the overall budget is ‎€500,000. The duration of the project is 24 months.

The Universal Rights Awards 2015 took place on 4 June 2015 in Yerevan. Such a Ceremony was first organised by the international community in Armenia in 2012 to recognise those individuals and organisations who strive for promotion of equal rights, inclusion and reforms on daily basis. The EU Delegation to Armenia, US Embassy, British Embassy, OSCE Office in Yerevan, Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, and the United Nations Armenia Office honour individuals working to promote human rights, accountable governance, local government reform, and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony.
The Universal Rights Awards Ceremony is the first multi-mission initiative to highlight the contributions of Armenia’s civil rights activists, government officials, and media and civil society representatives to the promotion of human rights. Armenian government officials, foreign diplomats, NGO representatives, and the press attended the event.
The 2015 Universal Rights Awards Ceremony was comprised of six categories, each recognising an individual or an organisation that had made a significant investment in one of the specified fields. The categories for the 2015 Universal Rights Awards were: woman of courage, government reformer, media excellence, local government reformer, promoting inclusion, and freedom defender:
• The women of courage award was presented to the “Coalition to stop violence against women” by Dirk Lorenz, Chargé d’Affaires of the EU Delegation to Armenia: ‘The European Union commends the efforts of the Coalition to stop violence against women, recognising the courageous advocacy for the protection of the rights of women and their assistance to victims of domestic violence in Armenia’. ARS_2261
• The government reformer award was given by Richard Mills, Ambassador of the United States of America, to the anti-trafficking working group.
• The British Ambassador to Armenia, Kathy Leach, awarded Zaruhi Mejlumyan from “Hetq.am”, with the media excellence award.
• The Head of the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, awarded Artsruni Igityan, Mayor of Akhuryan village, with the local government reformer award.
• The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Bradley Busetto, presented the promoting inclusion award to Armen Alaverdyan, the Executive Director of Unison NGO.
• Ambassador Andrey Sorokin, the Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, presented the freedom defender award to Shushan Doydoyan, President of the Freedom of Information Centre.