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TITLE:  ARMENIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                            ARMENIA


After declaring its independence from the Soviet Union in 
December 1991, Armenia began to establish the foundations of a 
parliamentary democracy.  Legislative power is vested in the 
Parliament, which, because no party or combination of parties 
can consistently muster a majority or even a quorum, has been 
unable either to approve a constitution or to pass crucial 
legislation.  The President appoints the Prime Minister, who 
presides over the Government.  The judiciary is not fully 
independent of the other branches of government.  Parliamentary 
elections are scheduled for May 1995, although Parliament has 
yet to pass an election law.  Democratically elected President 
Levon Ter-Petrosyan will face reelection in 1996 upon 
completion of a 5-year term.  In December, President 
Ter-Petrosyan temporarily suspended the activities of the 
opposition Dashnak party on the grounds that a clandestine 
terrorist organization subordinate to it was engaging in 
political assassination, drug trafficking, and espionage.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the police, which 
is responsible for maintaining order throughout the country.  
Several police officers were charged with brutality in the past 
year, and a number of cases go unreported.  The State 
Directorate for National Security, while still responsible for 
combating both external and internal threats, was reorganized 
in January and is subordinate directly to the Office of the 
President.

The 6-year-old conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in 
neighboring Azerbaijan continues to dominate Armenia's 
political and economic landscape.  After the hard-fought 
offensive of the winter of 1993-94, which resulted in few 
strategic gains despite thousands of casualties, the parties 
reached an informal cease-fire agreement in May.  Formally 
confirmed in July, the cease-fire was holding by year's end.

Landlocked Armenia has faced longstanding economic 
strangulation due to instability in neighboring Georgia and 
embargoes imposed by both Azerbaijan and Turkey as a result of 
the conflict.  This, coupled with the economic chaos produced 
by the breakup of the former Soviet Union, has devastated the 
largely state-owned economy.  Critical shortages of fuel, 
electricity, and raw materials severely reduced industrial 
production, resulting in widespread unemployment.  
Nevertheless, progress toward economic reform included moves to 
privatize industrial enterprises and land and to liberalize 
prices.  An agreement with the International Monetary Fund was 
reached in November, calling for far-reaching economic reforms 
in exchange for $395 million in international and bilateral 
concessional loans.

In the absence of a new constitution, Armenia relies on the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted 
by a 1991 parliamentary resolution, and those parts of the 
Soviet Constitution still in force to protect human rights.  
The Soviet-era Criminal Code allows suspects to be detained for 
up to 72 hours without charge; and judges do not appear to be 
sufficiently insulated from political pressure.  Within this 
framework, the Government generally respects human rights, 
although the suspension of major opposition newspapers as part 
of a suspension of the Dashnak Party's activities has tarnished 
the Government's record on respect for freedom of the press.  
There were several instances of police brutality toward 
detainees, many instances of forcible conscription of draft-age 
men, and suspected executions of Azerbaijani prisoners of war.

The law forbids proselytizing, and the Government further 
restricts the activities of "foreign and unregistered" 
religious groups.  Armenian citizens are free to emigrate, but 
those wishing to travel abroad are required to secure exit 
permits from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  In addition, 
deeply ingrained attitudes result in societal discrimination 
against women.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The only known extrajudicial killings in 1994 were the probable 
executions of eight Azeri prisoners of war being held in 
Yerevan.  The report of the Armenian Special Investigator 
claims that the prisoners committed suicide (seven with the 
same gun) after their escape attempt failed.  An independent 
British forensic specialist, who examined the bodies after they 
were returned to Azerbaijan, said the evidence pointed 
overwhelmingly to execution, but he admitted that the 
possibility of mass suicide could not be absolutely ruled out.

Representatives of independent international agencies maintain 
that many would-be prisoners of war on both sides in the 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are summarily executed at military 
front lines.  Policemen who were awaiting trial in connection 
with the 1993 death of a detainee in custody were released with 
the understanding that they would not leave Yerevan.  All 
subsequently fled and are now wanted.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

In 1994 the General Prosecutor's office officially charged 
three members of the police force with brutality, although many 
cases go unreported.  The General Prosecutor's office 
investigates allegations of mistreatment and files criminal 
charges if its investigation reveals evidence to support the 
allegations and if there is a serious violation of the law.  It 
refers less serious cases to the Ministry of Internal Affairs 
for administrative action.  Two of the officers accused of 
brutality were administratively disciplined, while the third 
faces criminal charges.

Information on prison conditions is not available, but they are 
believed to be harsh.  The International Committee of the Red 
Cross had access to prisoners of war from the Nagorno-Karabakh 
conflict until October.  At the end of the year, it was still 
discussing with the Armenian authorities renewed and regular 
access to all prisoners held in connection with the conflict.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

According to the Criminal Code, much of which dates from the 
Soviet era, suspects may be detained and 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, a suspect may be jailed for up to 
3 months pending trial and completion of the investigation, or 
up to 9 months by special order of the Prosecutor.  If no 
indictment is handed down during that time, a 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 law 
requires a trial within 1 month.  In practice, due to current 
conditions in Armenia, the deadline often is not met.  In most 
cases, however, pretrial detention will not exceed 3 months.

The Criminal Code permits the exile of citizens under certain 
circumstances, but no one has been exiled since Armenia became 
independent.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Armenia's criminal justice system, including its courts, laws, 
and procedures, follows the former Soviet model.  The courts of 
general jurisdiction may hear criminal, civil, and juvenile 
cases.  District courts try the overwhelming majority of such 
cases, but a Supreme Court tries some.  Both may act as the 
court of first instance, depending on the nature and 
seriousness of the crime.

Prosecutors, like the courts, are organized into offices at the 
district and republic levels and are ultimately responsible to 
the Prosecutor General, appointed by the President.  
Prosecutors and defense attorneys by law have equal status 
before the courts.  In practice, prosecutors still are very 
influential because court proceedings are not conducted in an 
adversarial manner.  Prosecutors direct all criminal 
investigations, which are usually conducted by the Ministry of 
Internal Affairs.

Cases at the district court level are tried before a panel 
consisting of one judge and two lay assessors.  Judges 
frequently send cases unlikely to end in convictions back to 
the prosecutor for "additional investigation."  Such cases may 
then be dropped or closed, occasionally without informing the 
court or the defendant.

In their work, judges are not fully independent of the other 
branches of government.  The Ministry of Justice nominates 
Supreme Court judges, whose candidacies are reviewed by a panel 
of their peers before being forwarded to Parliament for 
approval.

Trials are public except when government secrets are considered 
at issue.  Defendants may confront witnesses and present 
evidence.  The court appoints an attorney for indigent 
defendants.  Defendants have the right of appeal.

There were no reports of political prisoners in Armenia.  A 
former presidential aide and member of the opposition, Vahan 
Avakyan, convicted of attempting to divulge state secrets, was 
sentenced to a jail term of 4 years.  His sentence was upheld 
by the Supreme Court.  The arrest and trial were controversial 
both because of the circumstances surrounding the case and 
alleged procedural irregularities.  Opposition leaders and some 
members of Parliament claim that Avakyan is a political 
prisoner and have called for the creation of an independent 
commission to investigate the case.

     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 General 
Prosecutor's office for permission to tap a phone or intercept 
correspondence.  The General Prosecutor's office purportedly 
must find a compelling need for a wiretap before it will grant 
the agency permission to proceed.  One of the leading 
opposition parties claimed to have discovered unauthorized 
wiretaps on its office telephones, but there was no official 
investigation of these allegations.

There were many instances of interference with privacy during 
waves of army conscription in 1994.  Military recruiters 
appeared at houses where draft-age men were reported to live 
and often threatened or detained the occupants or inflicted 
material damage.  They seized draft-age men in public places, 
such as markets, theaters, and the subway.  There are credible 
reports that Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh officials forcibly 
conscripted refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Law on Information provides for freedom of speech and the 
press, and the Government generally respects these rights.

The press is generally free and contains a wide variety of 
political opinion and criticism of the Government.  However, as 
a result of a December 28 presidential directive, the 
publication of Dashnak Party newspapers and journals has been 
halted.  The Ministry of Justice registers all publications and 
broadcasting organizations, which must state their general 
subject matter.   It is required to act on applications for 
registration within 1 month of receipt.

There is no prepublication censorship.  However, the Government 
reportedly supplies all mass media editors with a list of 
forbidden subjects, including 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 1994 for violations of this 
injunction.

Shortages of fuel, paper, electricity, and other supplies 
sometimes delayed or prevented the publication or distribution 
of the print media.  There was no indication that the 
Government used such problems to control or influence the 
media.  On October 21, the offices of the Ramkavar Party's 
newspaper were firebombed.  Investigations by the Ministry of 
Internal Affairs into this and a series of other attacks on 
journalists and media offices in late 1994 turned up no 
suspects.  Attacks targeted both government-sponsored and 
opposition media outlets.

The Government controls broadcasting almost entirely.  There is 
one functioning independent radio station, one independent 
television company, which rents air time from a state channel, 
and several small independent cable television companies which 
are only licensed to show films.  In December the Government 
voided a contract with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to 
provide local rebroadcasts of Radio Liberty programming.  It is 
widely assumed that the contract was canceled for political 
reasons.

The Ramkavar Party newspaper AZ6 was able to register bylaws 
for a second independent radio station on November 16, but the 
station is not yet operating.  State television provides a 
total of 15 minutes of broadcast time per week for all 
opposition political parties.  However, the opposition NDU and 
Dashnak Parties reportedly were both recently denied their time 
slots.  Representatives of other opposition parties appeared 
regularly on political discussion programs.  A shortage of 
electricity limited television time to about 6 hours per day.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

In the absence of an Armenian law, the International Covenant 
provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association.  
Public demonstrations, meetings, and marches occurred 
frequently in 1994 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.  The procedure for obtaining a permit is not 
onerous, and there were no known instances of its arbitrary 
abuse.

The Ministry of Justice registers social and political 
organizations, but the Government does not attempt to control 
the opposition through the registration process.  The Ministry 
has registered some 661 organizations to date, among them many 
political parties and groups.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The 1991 Law on Religious Organizations provides for freedom of 
conscience but imposes some restrictions on religious freedom.  
It establishes the separation of church and state and 
recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church, with which over 80 
percent of the population is at least nominally affiliated, as 
the predominant denomination.  The law forbids proselytizing 
and refuses registration to organizations whose doctrine is not 
based on "historically recognized holy scriptures."  An 
unregistered religious organization may not own property, 
publish a newspaper or magazine, rent a hall or other 
meetingplace, sponsor television or radio broadcasts, or 
officially sponsor the visas of visitors to Armenia.

A 1993 Presidential Decree according the right to "restore and 
develop the spiritual life of the Armenian people" to the 
Armenian Apostolic Church supplements the 1991 Law.  By 
enjoining 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, the decree called into question the 
legitimacy of all other religious groups.   Some religious 
groups were obliged to reregister in the wake of the decree, 
often on condition that they alter their statutes to include a 
ban on proselytizing.  Some groups, such as the Mormons, were 
quietly discouraged from applying for registration and have 
kept a low profile.  The Hare Krishnas, in particular, were 
victims of harassment and several attacks; the authorities were 
neither responsive nor sympathetic.  The Government refused to 
release 30 tons of religious literature to the Krishna group, 
claiming that receipt of the books was tantamount to 
proselytizing.

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

The Government does not restrict internal or international 
travel for political reasons.  Armenians may not obtain travel 
passports, however, if they lack invitations from the country 
that they wish to visit, if they have knowledge of state 
secrets, or if their 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, including a 
requirement for "exit permission."

Some 200,000 people, virtually the entire ethnic Azeri 
population of Armenia prior to independence, took refuge in 
Azerbaijan.  After the 1988-89 anti-Armenian pogroms in 
Azerbaijan connected with the conflict over control of 
Nagorno-Karabakh, the Government discriminated against these 
ethnic Azeris and allowed the local population to intimidate 
them, often violently, as a way to drive them out of the 
country.  The Government forcibly deported many, and the rest 
fled.  It appears 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.  There 
have been unconfirmed reports of ethnic Armenians resettling in 
territories occupied by Nagorno-Karabakh Armenian military 
forces.  Such actions, if true, would hamper peaceful 
settlement of the conflict and the return of refugees.

The Government does not in any way actively hinder emigration.  
In fact, it is estimated that as much as one-third of Armenia's 
population has temporarily or permanently left the country 
during the last 6 years.

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

Although democracy is not yet firmly rooted in Armenia, 
citizens exercised their right to change their government 
peacefully in 1990 when the Armenian National Movement (ANM) 
defeated the Communist Party in relatively free parliamentary 
elections.  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 are active.  The ANM, which 
supports the President, lacks a majority of deputies in 
Parliament.

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, thus limiting the effectiveness 
of Parliament.  On December 21, 46 opposition and independent 
deputies resigned their parliamentary commissions in protest 
over what they called government ineffectiveness.  Their action 
appears to be serious and will make it almost impossible for 
the Parliament to muster a quorum prior to new elections in May 
1995.

On December 28, President Ter-Petrosyan temporarily suspended 
one of the largest opposition parties, the Armenian 
Revolutionary Federation (ARF, also known as "Dashnaks"), on 
the grounds that the party was operating a clandestine 
terrorist organization involved in drug smuggling, 
assassination, and espionage.  Several party members were 
arrested in conjunction with these activities, and Dashnak 
newspapers were closed.  Armenian government officials 
indicated that the Dashnaks could reorganize and the ARF could 
again be registered as a political party if it purged itself of 
criminal elements.  Leaders of the Dashnak party have denounced 
the suspension.  The question of what requirements the Party 
will have to fulfill in order to reconstitute itself was under 
review in early 1995 by the Ministry of Justice.

Women and members of minority groups play a very limited role 
in government and politics.  Currently, there are no women or 
minority group members in Cabinet-level positions, and only 9 
of the 240 deputies in Parliament are women.

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

There are several fledgling human rights groups, which operate 
freely and openly criticize the Government's human rights 
policies.  The Government generally cooperates with human 
rights investigations and supports the presence of 
international human rights groups.

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

The International Covenant prohibits discrimination.  Since 
independence, Parliament has passed laws to protect against 
discrimination based on religion or language, and the 
Government generally respects these rights.  Societal 
discrimination against women continues.

     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, however, prohibits 
discrimination in employment.  The extremely high unemployment 
rate makes it difficult to gauge how effectively the law has 
been implemented to prevent discrimination.

Violence against women does exist.  Between January and October 
1994, there were 21 reported rape cases; there were no reports 
of spousal abuse.  It is likely that many more incidents go 
unreported.  For those convicted of rape, the average prison 
sentence is from 5 to 10 years.

     Children

The Government has taken steps to insulate large families (four 
children or more) from current difficult economic 
circumstances, and foreign humanitarian aid programs have also 
targeted large families.  However, Armenia does not have the 
means, given the current economic situation, to provide fully 
for the welfare of children.  Child abuse does not appear to be 
a serious problem.

     People with Disabilities

In 1993 Parliament passed a law on invalids that in principle 
provides for the social, political, and individual rights of 
the disabled.  The law does not mandate the provision of 
accessibility for the disabled, however, and public concern 
about the rights of the disabled remains very limited.

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, holdovers from the Soviet period, were not freely 
chosen by workers.  About 80 percent of Armenia's work force 
are members of unions.

A 1993 Presidential Decree prohibits the Government and other 
employers from retaliating against strikers and labor leaders, 
and the Government enforces its provisions.  A number of 
strikes occurred in 1994; the Government did not appear to 
hinder them.

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 provides for the right to organize 
and bargain collectively.  However, most enterprises, 
factories, and organizations remain under state control.  
Therefore, voluntary, direct negotiations cannot take place 
between unions and management without the participation of the 
Government.

Collective bargaining is not practiced.  The Government sets 
wages in state-owned industries with reference to the 
prevailing minimum wage.  It encourages profitable factories to 
establish their own pay scales.  The factory's management 
generally sets wage scales without consulting the employees.  
Arbitration courts adjudicate wage and other labor disputes.  
These courts have acted in the past to compel the reinstatement 
of employees fired because of their labor activism.

Armenia has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The 1992 Law on Employment prohibits forced labor, and it is 
not practiced.  Local councils of deputies, unemployment 
offices, and, as a final board of appeal, the Arbitration 
Commission enforce this prohibition.

     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.  Local councils of 
deputies, unemployment offices, and, as a final board of 
appeal, the Arbitration Commission enforce the law.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage is set by governmental decree and was 
increased periodically during 1994.  The minimum wage in 
September was about $0.50 per month.  Employees paid the 
minimum wage cannot support either themselves or their 
families.  Almost all enterprises are either idle or operating 
at only a fraction of their capacity.  Workers still on the 
payrolls of idle enterprises, who have not been put on 
indefinite, unpaid leave status, 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 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."


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[end of document]

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