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TITLE:  ARMENIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                            ARMENIA


Since achieving independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, 
Armenia has been striving to create a democratic, multiparty 
republic with a parliamentary system of government.  
Legislative power is vested in the Parliament whose members 
were chosen in 1990 elections, which, in spite of being 
conducted under Soviet procedures, proved relatively free.  
However, Parliament's continued inability to adopt a new 
constitution has inhibited political and economic reform.  
Levon Ter-Petrosyan was elected President in free and fair, 
multicandidate elections in 1991.  The President appoints the 
Prime Minister, who presides over the Government.  Armenia's 
judiciary is not fully independent of the other branches of 
government.

The police are responsible for maintaining order throughout the 
country and are generally subordinate to governmental 
authority.  Like its predecessor, the Committee for State 
Security or KGB, the State Directorate for National Security of 
the Republic of Armenia is responsible for combating both 
external and internal threats.

The ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, an overwhelmingly 
ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, has been the most 
serious territorial dispute in the former Soviet Union in terms 
of casualties and suffering.  Since 1988 when the enclave voted 
to secede from Azerbaijan and join Armenia, thousands have 
died, thousands more have been injured, and hundreds of 
thousands made refugees.  Armenian support for the separatists 
has led to a crippling Azerbaijani economic embargo which 
strangles landlocked Armenia.  

The conflict itself, the attendant Azerbaijani and Turkish 
embargoes, and chaos in Georgia have exacerbated the Armenian 
economic crisis produced by the breakup of the Soviet Union.  
Industrial production continued to decline from its already 
minimal 1992 level, although at a slower rate during 1993.  
Unemployment and inflation rates remained very high.  
Electricity and fuels continued to be in critically short 
supply, and the health of large segments of the population, 
particularly the very old and the very young, was significantly 
affected by the difficult living conditions.  The Government 
has privatized agricultural holdings and is moving to privatize 
the distribution sector, but most other segments of the economy 
remain under state ownership.


In the absence of a new constitution and the full panoply of 
laws protecting human rights, the International Covenant on 
Civil and Political Rights, adopted by Parliament's 1991 
resolution as the supreme law of the land, aims to ensure the 
protection of human rights.  Armenia also relies on parts of 
the Soviet Constitution.  Within this framework, Armenia 
generally respects human rights, although there were several 
reports of police brutality during the year.  The press is 
free, and a wide spectrum of viewpoints is represented.  
Citizens are free to conduct public meetings and 
demonstrations.  The Soviet-era criminal code, however, is 
still in force and allows suspects to be detained for up to 72 
hours without charge; and judges do not appear to be 
sufficiently insulated from political pressure.  The law on 
religion forbids proselytizing and appears to place 
restrictions on the kinds of religious organizations that may 
be officially registered.  Although citizens are free to 
emigrate, Armenians must still have official invitations if 
they wish to obtain a passport for travel abroad.  After the 
flight of almost all Azeri inhabitants of Armenia to 
Azerbaijan, Armenia's remaining national minorities do not 
appear to suffer discrimination.  Deeply ingrained attitudes 
ensure that women are frequently the objects of discrimination.
Appreciation of the rights of the handicapped remains very 
rudimentary.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

No political or other extrajudicial killings are known to have 
occurred in 1993.  However, at least one person died while in 
official custody during the year.  The trial of the policemen 
involved was under way at year's end.

     b.  Disappearance

No abductions by government or other forces are known to have 
been committed.  Hostage-taking by both parties to the 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues (see the Azerbaijan country 
report).


     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

In 1993 seven members of Armenia's police forces were 
officially charged with brutality.  The number of actual 
beatings or instances of mistreatment may be higher.  
Allegations of police brutality are investigated by the 
procurator's (attorney general's) office.  If investigation 
reveals evidence to support the allegations, and if there is a 
serious violation of the law, criminal charges are filed.  Less 
serious cases are referred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs 
for administrative action.  Information on prison conditions 
was not available, but they are believed to be harsh.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Parliament has yet to pass a law on judicial reform, although a 
proposal is under consideration.  According to the Armenian 
Criminal Code, much of which dates from the Soviet era, 
suspects may be held without charge for up to 72 hours.  A 
suspect has the right to be represented by a lawyer, and the 
police must notify the suspect's relatives if requested.  After 
arrest, the suspect may be jailed for up to 3 months until 
completion of the investigation, or up to 9 months by special 
order of the procurator.  If no charges have been filed after 9 
months, the suspect must be released.  There is no provision 
for bail or for trial by jury in Armenian law.  Once criminal 
or civil charges have been filed, the case should by law go to 
trial within 1 month.  In practice, due to current difficult 
conditions in Armenia, the deadline is often not met.  

In July the former Minister of Civil Aviation and his deputies, 
who in 1992 had allegedly been arbitrarily detained, were 
released on their own recognizance pending trial.    

Although the Soviet-era Criminal Code, which allows for the 
exile of citizens under certain circumstances, remains in 
effect, no one has been exiled since Armenia became independent.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The court system in Armenia comprises a number of district 
courts, a Supreme Court, and a military tribunal.  District 
courts try the overwhelming majority of cases.  The Ministry of 
Internal Affairs continues to conduct preliminary investigations
of criminal cases.  The Soviet-era Criminal Code and procedures 
still obtain in Armenia.  


The Supreme Court is divided into three separate sections.  The 
first tries especially serious cases (murder, rape, and all 
crimes committed by high-level officials).  The Presidium of 
the Supreme Court reviews all cases tried by the first section 
and provides final rulings on any contested verdicts.  The 
second, civil law section hears lawsuits, civil appeals, and 
commercial suits.  The third, appellate section of the Supreme 
Court reviews district court verdicts.  The Ministry of Justice 
nominates Supreme Court judges, whose candidacies are vetted by 
a panel of their peers before being forwarded to Parliament for 
approval.  Presiding district court judges were elected to a 
5-year term in 1986.  Their tenures have been extended pending 
the adoption of a new constitution.  Neither group as yet 
functions fully independently from the other branches of 
government.

The military tribunal operates essentially as it did in the 
Soviet era.  A military procurator performs the same functions 
as his civilian counterpart, operating in accordance with the 
Soviet-era legal code.

Trials are public except when government secrets are at issue.  
Defendants are required to attend their trials unless they have 
been accused of a minor crime not punishable by imprisonment.  
They may confront witnesses and present evidence.  The court 
appoints an attorney for any defendant who needs one.  
Defendants have the right of appeal.  

There are no known political prisoners in Armenia.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Apart from the provisions of the International Covenant, there 
is no legal protection for the privacy of citizens, their 
communications, and their correspondence.  Procedurally, the 
Directorate of National Security must petition the procurator's 
office for permission to tap a phone or intercept 
correspondence.  The procurator's office purportedly must find 
a compelling need for the wiretap before it will grant the 
agency permission to proceed.


Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.   Freedom of Speech and Press

The law on information provides for freedom of speech and 
press.  These freedoms were widely exercised.  

The press is generally free and contains a wide variety of 
political opinion and criticism of the Government.  All 
publications must register with the Ministry of Justice and 
state their general subject matter.  The Ministry of Justice is 
required to act on a publication's application for registration 
within 1 month of its receipt.  

There is no prepublication censorship.  However, the Government 
reportedly supplies all mass media editors with a list of 
forbidden subjects.  It comprises sensitive military 
information in categories such as the draft and army 
recruitment, information on military structure, civil defense 
arrangements, finance, communications, transport, and science 
and technology.  There were no known prosecutions in 1993 for 
violations of this injunction.  In an unsettling development, 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November banned 
correspondents from three opposition media organs from 
attending any briefings and meetings sponsored by the Ministry.

Shortages of paper, fuel, electricity, and other supplies 
sometimes delayed or prevented the publication or distribution 
of the print media.  There is no indication that the Government 
uses such problems to control or influence the media. 

Broadcasting is entirely controlled by the Government.  There 
are no independent radio or television stations, although there 
are several small independent cable television companies.  
Several independent radio stations were allotted frequencies 
and are awaiting equipment and final approval from the Ministry 
of Communications before they begin broadcasting.

Each week, the government broadcaster provided a total of 15 
minutes of television air time for all opposition political 
parties.  The state radio company established a similar 
system.  Representatives of opposition parties also appeared 
regularly on political discussion programs.  A shortage of 
electricity limited broadcast time for Armenian television to 
about 5 hours per day.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association


In the absence of an Armenian law, freedom of peaceful assembly 
and association is provided for by the International Covenant.  
Public demonstrations, meetings, and marches occurred 
frequently in 1993, without any apparent interference by the 
authorities.  The Soviet-era law on meetings remains valid and 
requires those wishing to stage marches or demonstrations to 
obtain a permit from the regional executive committee.  The 
procedure for obtaining a permit is not onerous, and there were 
no instances of its arbitrary use.

The Ministry of Justice registers social and political 
organizations, but the Government does not attempt to control 
the opposition through the registration process.  Many 
political parties have been registered, and in 1993 the 
Ministry of Justice registered the three organizations that 
applied.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The 1991 law on religious organizations provides for freedom of 
conscience and the right to profess one's faith, but there are 
some restrictions on religious freedom.  The law forbids 
proselytizing and refuses registration to organizations whose 
doctrine is not based on "historically recognized holy 
scriptures."  It also requires that petitioning organizations 
"be free from materialism and of a purely spiritual nature" 
before they may be registered.  It establishes the separation 
of church and state but recognizes the Armenian Apostolic 
Church, to which over 80 percent of the population at least 
nominally belongs, as the dominant denomination.  A religious 
organization refused registration cannot publish a newspaper or 
magazine, rent a hall or other meetingplace, have its own 
program on television or radio, or officially sponsor the visas 
of visitors to Armenia.

The 1991 law was supplemented on December 22 with a 
presidential decree on religious activities which appears to 
further strengthen the position of the Armenian Apostolic 
Church.  The decree enjoins the Council on Religious Affairs to 
investigate the activities of the representatives of registered 
religious organizations and to ban missionaries who engage in 
activities contrary to their status.  It is not yet possible to 
gauge what effect the enforcement of the decree may have on the 
exercise of freedom of religion in Armenia.


     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict internal or international 
travel for political reasons.  Travel passports are still 
withheld, however, from Armenians lacking invitations from the 
country that they wish to visit, from those possessing state 
secrets, and from those whose relatives have made financial 
claims against them.  The Soviet-era Office of Visas and 
Registrations (OVIR) continues to impede travel and emigration 
through delays and the creation of various bureaucratic 
obstacles.

Some 200,000 people, virtually the entire ethnic Azeri 
population of Armenia prior to independence, remain refugees in 
Azerbaijan.  After the 1988-89 anti-Armenian pogroms in 
Azerbaijan connected with the conflict over control of 
Nagorno-Karabakh, these people were subjected to discrimination 
and intimidation, often accompanied by violence intended to 
drive them from the country.  Many were forcibly deported, and 
the rest fled.  It is unclear but increasingly unlikely that 
these people will be able to return, as is also the case for 
the nearly 400,000 Armenian refugees who fled Azerbaijan after 
the pogroms.  

The Government does not in any way actively hinder emigration.  
Members of Armenia's small Jewish and Greek communities 
continued during 1993 to emigrate at a rapid rate.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Although democracy is not yet firmly established in Armenia, 
citizens have exercised their right to change their government 
peacefully.  The 1990 parliamentary elections were relatively 
free in spite of being conducted according to Soviet election 
procedures.  The Armenian National Movement (ANM) defeated the 
Communist Party.  As Parliament began to function, its members 
affiliated themselves with new parties being formed.  At 
present, 12 parties and associations are represented in 
Parliament, and many others dot the political landscape.  The 
ANM, which supports the President, does not have a majority of 
deputies in Parliament.  Because of frequent defections and 
splits, the relative strength of the other parties in the 
legislature varies.


In 1991 the Armenian electorate chose Levon Ter-Petrosyan as 
its President in a multicandidate election.  By law, members of 
the executive branch, including the President himself, may not 
belong to any political party.  The next parliamentary and 
presidential elections are now scheduled for 1995.  They may be 
called earlier if a new constitution is ratified.

In the absence of a new constitution, the Government's 
legitimacy rests on the 1990 law on the Presidency and the 1991 
law on Parliament.  The law on Parliament established a 
multiparty system.  The large number of seats won by those 
occupying full-time jobs in local government offices around the 
country and Armenia's economic problems have frequently made it 
difficult to muster a quorum and have correspondingly limited 
the effectiveness of Parliament.  In an effort to enhance 
interparty comity and increase efficiency, the President has 
frequently induced members of other parties to serve in his 
Government.  

Largely due to traditional social attitudes, women play a very 
limited role in government and politics.  The Minister of the 
Environment is the highest ranking woman in government, and 
there are several women serving as mayors and Members of 
Parliament.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are several fledgling human rights organizations in 
Armenia.  The Government does not impede investigations, by 
either domestic or international human rights organizations, 
into alleged charges of human rights abuse.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Discrimination is prohibited by the International Covenant.  
Since independence, laws have been passed to protect against 
discrimination based on religion or language.  Armenia signed 
the Convention on the Protection of Women from All Kinds of 
Discrimination on June 9, 1993.

     Women

Armenia remains a male-dominated society.  Women are typically 
expected to do the housework and raise the family even if they 
have a full-time job.  In the workplace, they are generally not 
afforded the opportunities for training and advancement given 
to men.  The 1992 law on employment does, however, prohibit 
discrimination in employment.  The extremely high unemployment 
rate makes it difficult to gauge how effectively the law has 
been implemented to prevent discrimination.  

In the first quarter of 1993, only six rape cases were tried by 
Armenian courts.  It is virtually certain that many more 
incidents go unreported.  In 1993 not one charge of spouse 
abuse was filed or tried by a court in Armenia.

     Children

Armenia signed the Convention on Children's Rights on June 1, 
1992.  The Government has taken steps to insulate large 
families (four children or more) from Armenia's current 
difficult economic circumstances, and foreign humanitarian aid 
programs have been similarly targeted at large families.  
Armenia does not have the means, in the current straitened 
economic environment, to provide fully for the welfare of 
children.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

No laws have been passed since independence to protect against 
discrimination based on race or social status.  The small 
communities of Russians, Jews, Kurds, Yezids, Georgians, 
Greeks, and Assyrians still resident in Armenia do not suffer 
discrimination.  The 1992 law on language guarantees linguistic 
minorities the right to publish and study in their native 
language.  There are publications in minority languages.  In 
theory, minorities may use their native languages in court 
cases.  In practice, virtually everyone presently in Armenia, 
including members of its Yezid, Greek, and Jewish communities, 
speaks Armenian.

     People with Disabilities

The Parliament in 1993 passed a law on invalids that in 
principle guarantees the social, political, and individual 
rights of the handicapped.  The law does not mandate the 
provision of accessibility for the disabled, however.  
Appreciation of the rights of the handicapped remains very 
rudimentary.


Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The 1992 law on employment guarantees employees the right to 
strike and to form or join unions of their own choosing without 
previous authorization.  The vast majority of existing trade 
unions are holdovers from the Soviet period and were not freely 
chosen by workers.  About 80 percent of Armenia's work force 
are formally members of unions.  A presidential decree of 
January 1993 prohibits the Government and other employers from 
retaliating against strikers and labor leaders.  It appears to 
be enforced.  In the summer and fall of 1993, teachers from 
some of the country's schools formed a union and struck to 
press their demands for improved working conditions and a wage 
increase.  Yerevan subway workers conducted a 2-hour warning 
strike in November.  The activities of both groups did not seem 
to be hindered in any way by the Government.  Unions are free 
to affiliate with international bodies and to form federations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.

The 1992 Law on Employment guarantees the right to organize and 
bargain collectively.  Nearly all enterprises, factories, and 
organizations remain under state control.  Therefore, voluntary,
direct negotiations cannot take place between unions and 
employers without the participation of the Government.  
Collective bargaining is not practiced in Armenia.  Wages in 
industries, which are overwhelmingly owned and controlled by 
the state, are set by the government with reference to the 
prevailing minimum wage.  The Government encourages profitable 
factories to establish their own pay scales.  They are 
generally set by the factory's directorate, without 
consultation with employees.  Export processing zones do not 
exist.  Wage and other labor disputes are adjudicated through 
the Arbitration Court.  The Court has acted in the past to 
force the reinstatement of employees fired because of their 
labor activism.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The 1992 Law on Employment prohibits forced labor, which is not 
practiced.  This provision is enforced by the local councils of 
deputies, unemployment offices, and, as a final board of 
appeal, the Arbitration Commission.


     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

According to the 1992 Law on Employment, 16 is the minimum age 
for employment.  Children may work from age 14 with the 
permission of a medical commission and the relevant labor union 
board.  Child labor is not practiced.  The Law on Employment is 
enforced by the local councils of deputies, unemployment 
offices, and, as a final board of appeal, the Arbitration 
Commission.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage is set by governmental decree and was 
increased periodically during 1993.  The minimum wage in 
December 1993 was about $0.50 per month.  Employees paid the 
minimum wage cannot support either themselves or their families 
on this pay.  The vast majority of enterprises are either idle 
or operating at only a fraction of their capacity.  Those still 
on the payrolls of idle enterprises continue to receive 
two-thirds of their base salary.  As a result of the economic 
dislocations caused by the breakup of the Soviet Union, the 
1988 earthquake, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the 
resultant disruption in Armenia's trade, the overwhelming 
majority of Armenians are thought to live below the officially 
recognized poverty level.  The standard legal workweek is 41 
hours.  

Soviet-era occupational and safety standards remain in force.  
Labor legislation from 1988 places responsibility on the 
employer and the management of each firm to ensure "healthy and 
normal" labor conditions for employees, but it provides no 
definition of "healthy and normal."  A law that would improve 
safety conditions at the workplace has been drafted and has 
been discussed in committee.

(###)

[end of document]

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