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Title:  Armenia Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State 
Date:  March 1996 
 
 
 
 
                                    ARMENIA 
 
 
Armenia has a constitutional government in which the President, who won 
a multicandidate election in 1991, appoints and dismisses the Prime 
Minister, all cabinet ministers, the Prosecutor General, regional 
governors, and the mayor of Yerevan.  The new Constitution severely 
circumscribes the powers of the legislature relative to the executive 
branch.  The 190-member National Assembly was chosen in July in the 
first postindependence parliamentary elections.  Local and international 
observers characterized them as "generally free, but not fair," and 
cited deficiencies in the electoral process, including a lack of 
transparency in vote counting, the suspension of a leading opposition 
party, and the prevention of 5 opposition parties and over 500 
opposition candidates from registering.  Manipulation of election 
procedures by the largely progovernment Central Election Commission 
(CEC) contributed to the ruling coalition's 80-percent majority in the 
new Assembly.  The President may disband the legislature and call for 
new elections, except during his last 6 months in office.  The 
Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; in practice, 
however, judges are subject to political pressure from both the 
executive and legislature. 
 
The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the national police force, 
which is responsible for maintaining order throughout the country.  The 
Prime Minister oversees the Ministry for National Security, which is 
responsible for combating both external and internal threats to the 
State.  The civilian authorities do not maintain effective control of 
all the security forces.  Some members of the security forces committed 
serious human rights abuses. 
 
The Government is committed to a transition to a market economy, despite 
the economic constraints imposed by its conflict with neighboring 
Azerbaijan.  The economy continues to experience critical shortages of 
fuel, electricity, and raw materials, which severely restrict industrial 
production and cause widespread unemployment.  The economy, 
nevertheless, registered the first increment of positive growth since 
independence.  The Government made some progress toward market reform 
with moves to liberalize bread prices and plans to privatize state 
structures, including large enterprises.  Inflation was brought under 
control and the local currency, the dram, was stable.  The per capita 
gross national product is $467 annually. 
 
Starting with the suspension of a major opposition party, the Armenian 
Revolutionary Federation (ARF) or Dashnak party, and its newspapers in 
December 1994, there was a noticeable decline in Armenia's observance of 
human rights.  The Government hampered the ability of opposition parties 
and media organs to function freely, including before and during the 
elections.  The Government's manipulation of the elections and the 
constitutional referendum, primarily through the CEC, restricted 
citizens' ability to change their government.  Police brutality goes 
largely unreported, but evidence indicates that police frequently beat 
detainees.  Lawyers for those accused of crimes in connection with the 
alleged terrorist cell "Dro" claim that the defendants were subjected to 
beatings to extract confessions and were denied visits from relatives 
and lawyers.  In March the Prosecutor General issued a ruling that 
denied defense lawyers access to their clients for most of the 
investigation phase of a case.  In March and April, defense lawyers were 
physically attacked.  In May, a Dro detainee died in a prison hospital 
while awaiting trial.  The Government repeatedly denied requests by 
international organizations and foreign embasssy officials to visit the 
Dro and other detainees and prisoners unescorted.  Prison conditions are 
poor. 
 
The Government places some restrictions on freedom of the press, 
assembly, and association.  The Armenian law restricts freedom of 
religion, and societal violence against religious minorities is a 
problem.  Armed paramilitary groups carried out a wave of attacks on 
religious minority groups in April and May.  The authorities have not 
brought to justice the perpetrators of the attacks, despite government 
assurances to the contrary.  Discrimination against women and minorities 
is a problem.  In an effort to move forward on confidence building 
measures between the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the 
Government released all of its prisoners of war and civilian detainees 
held as a result of the dispute. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and other Extrajudicial Killings 
 
A detainee in the case of the alleged Dro terrorist cell, Artavazd 
Manukhyan, died in custody on May 15, while awaiting trial.  There were 
allegations that he died due to extensive loss of blood and inadequate 
medical attention; the State claims that Manukhyan died of natural 
causes (see Section 1.c.).  In the January 1994 case of eight dead 
Azerbaijani, some international organizations have decided that the 
cause of death was suicide and the Government considers the case closed. 
 
b.  Disappearance 
 
No abductions by Government or other forces are known to have been 
committed. 
 
  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Constitution and the law prohibit torture.  The authorities charged 
members of the security forces with police brutality in five cases; 
however, none of the defendents has yet gone to trial.  Two of the 
policemen accused of brutality in 1994 were administratively 
disciplined, and the third is still awaiting trial for murder.  The 
number of eyewitness accounts of police brutality far outstrips the 
number of cases filed, indicating that most cases of police brutality go 
unreported. 
 
The office of the Prosecutor General (Attorney General) investigates 
allegations of mistreatment.  If the investigation reveals evidence to 
support the allegations and if there is a serious violation of the law, 
the prosecutor's office files criminal charges.  Less serious cases are 
referred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for administrative action. 
 
The Government has not improved the prison system, which still uses 
Soviet-era "Kartser," which are outdoor, cement cells where prisoners 
are often incarcerated for weeks at a time, receiving food once every 3 
days. 
 
The Government has not facilitated independent monitoring of prison 
conditions.  It has denied requests by foreign embassy officials, the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and others to conduct 
unescorted visits with detainees accused of crimes, and, in some cases, 
has denied permission for visits altogether.  The Government has 
repeatedly denied permission for the ICRC to visit the Dro defendants, 
including Artavazd Manukhyan, who was arrested in December 1994 and died 
in prison in May awaiting trial (see Section 1.a.).  Manukhyan did not 
see his lawyer for several days before his death nor his family after 
his arrest.  He reportedly had requested medical treatment for his 
declining health since March, but apparently did not receive any until 
May.  He allegedly died from extensive blood loss.  The government-
appointed panel of physicians that investigated Manukhyan's death 
claimed that he was not tortured and died of heart failure brought on by 
advanced pneumonia.  Manukhyan was reportedly healthy at the time of his 
arrest. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
According to the transitional provisions of the Constitution, the 
previous procedure for searches and arrests will be maintained until the 
Criminal Code is brought into line with the Constitution. 
 
According to the existing 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.  The latter 
provision has been violated regularly, leaving relatives to rely on 
rumors as to a detainee's whereabouts.  After arrest, the suspect may be 
jailed for up to 6 months pending trial and completion of the 
investigation, or up to 11 months by special order of the Prosecutor 
General (these limits were recently extended from 3 months and 9 months, 
respectively).  If no sentence is passed during the period of detention, 
the suspect must be released. There is no provision for bail.   
 
In May the President authorized the release of 47 prisoners of war being 
held as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.   
 
There were no reports of forced exile. 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
Although the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, in 
practice, courts are not independent from the other branches of 
government.  The provisions of the new Constitution do not appear 
designed to insulate the courts from political pressure from the 
executive branch, although enabling legislation is yet to be enacted and 
implemented.  Under the Constitution, the Justice Council appoints and 
disciplines judges for the new tribunal courts, review courts, and the 
court of appeals.  The President heads the council appoints 14 members 
in addition to the Prosecutor General and Justice Minister who are ex 
officio members.  This gives the President overwhelming influence in 
appointing and dismissing judges at all levels. 
 
According to the transitional provisions of the Constitution, the 
existing courts will retain their powers until the new judicial system 
is established.  The existing court system 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 procedures remain in effect.  The judicial 
structure set out under the new Constitution does not provide for a 
supreme court.  The Constitution's transition provisions extend the 
powers of members of the current supreme court until the formation of 
the Court of Appeals, up to a maximum of 3 years.  The Constitutional 
Court's range of activity is limited by the Constitution.  Only the 
President, one-third of Parliament, and candidates for the office of 
president may appeal to the court.  The latter may do so only to 
challenge the results of an election.   
 
The Constitution provides for jury trials in cases stipulated by law.  
Implementing regulations for this provision have not yet been adopted.  
Once criminal or civil charges have been filed, the case should by law 
go to trial within one month.  In practice, due to court backlogs and 
other resource problems, the deadline is often not met. 
 
The military tribunal operates essentially as it did in the Soviet era.  
A military prosecutor 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.  Defendants may 
confront witnesses and present evidence.  The court appoints an attorney 
for any defendant who needs one.  Defendants have the right of appeal. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners.  The 1994 case of former 
National Security Advisor Vahan Avakyan was closed.  Some human rights 
organizations had called Avakyan the first political prisoner in 
Armenia.  He was sentenced in the fall of 1994 to 4 years in prison, 
charged with attempting to steal state secrets.  On September 11, the 
President granted Avakyan amnesty and released him from prison. 
 
The Dro trials began on August 7.  Eleven defendants are accused of 
being members of the so-called Dro clandestine organization, and are 
accused of terrorism, illegal economic activities, drug trafficking, 
homicide, and the recruitment and training of new Dro members.  The 
first stage, the testimony of the defendants, ran until November 20.  
Seven of the accused claimed that their testimony was coerced through 
psychological pressure and torture.  Four of the defendants refused to 
testify in court.  The second stage, examining of the witnesses, ran 
through the first week of December.  There were 21 witnesses to be 
questioned, but 10 witnesses could not be located.  The third stage, the 
presentation of evidence by the prosecution, including police reports, 
arrest warrants, letters, official documents, and fingerprints ran until 
December 25.  The only evidence not presented was an analysis of 
controversial computer diskettes confiscated from the apartment and 
office of Gagik Artsrouni, one of the key defendants.  Local human 
rights groups have accused the court of not being balanced.  They say 
the judge has ignored protests from the defense attorneys that evidence 
was collected illegally and tampered with by the police and the 
prosecutor's office.  Observers of the proceedings point to numerous 
procedural oddities.  Thus, the view of most observers is that the court 
places more emphasis on the government's political objectives in the 
trial than due process consideration for the accused. 
 
The trial of Vahan Hovhanissyan, a member of the Dashnaks party 
leadership council, is scheduled to begin in March 1996.  He was 
detained on July 29 for "routine questioning," but was denied access to 
a defense lawyer until August 10.  Hovhanissyan has been charged with 
high treason, terrorism, conspiring to overthrow the Government, and 
illegal possession of arms.  His defense team has alleged numerous 
infractions of the law during the investigation period.  His attorneys 
claim that they were given only 2 days to investigate evidence.  They 
also claim that his place of detention was kept a secret from them for 2 
weeks.   
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to privacy for citizens, their 
residences, their communications, and their correspondence.  
Procedurally, the security ministries must petition the prosecutor's 
office for permission to tap a telephone or intercept correspondence.  
The prosecutor's office purportedly must find a compelling need for the 
wiretap before it will grant the agency permission to proceed.   
 
There were many violations of the right to privacy during waves of army 
conscription in 1995.  Military recruiters appeared at houses where 
draft-age men were reported to live, and either threatened the occupants 
or inflicted material damage.  Recruiters seized draft-age men in public 
at markets and on the subway.  There are credible reports that Armenian 
and Nagorno-Karabakh officials forcibly conscripted refugees from 
Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.  The draft board also sent recruiters 
to Krasnodar Kray in Russia to retrieve draft-age males who had fled the 
country. 
 
Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of the press.  In practice, 
however, the Government has, on occasion, shown intolerance of 
newspapers critical of government policies.  Freedom of the press was 
partially restricted in December 1994, when the Government shut down 
four Dashnak-affiliated newspapers, as well as eight other media outlets 
with Dashnak party members in key positions.  Ten of these remain 
closed.  Independent and opposition newspapers, most of which have 
extremely few resources, are dependent on the Government for newsprint 
and publication facilities--an arrangement that has continued intact 
from the Soviet period.  Newsprint is sold at various prices depending 
on the purchaser, and, at times, is completely unavailable to opposition 
papers.  Golos Armeni and a few other independent newspapers have 
stopped publishing because of paper shortages and financial problems.  
Several media correspondents were physically attacked and offices of 
several newspapers were firebombed.  No suspects have been arrested in 
any of these cases. 
 
Despite these hardships, opposition newspapers have continued to publish 
and print articles critical of the Government.  There is no 
prepublication censorship.  However, the Government supplies all mass 
media editors with a list of forbidden subjects, most of which relate to 
the military.  There were no reports of prosecutions for violations of 
this injunction. 
 
Broadcasting is largely controlled by the Government.  There is one 
functioning independent radio station.  There are also several small 
independent cable television companies which are only licensed to show 
films. 
 
State television provided a total of 5 minutes per candidate and 30 
minutes per party of free airtime during the parliamentary elections.  
In contrast, the ruling "Republic" bloc, through its control of the 
media, used scheduled programs to publicize its candidates and implored 
voters to choose Republic at the polls.  Part of the President's speech 
in support of the Republic bloc was shown on election day, in violation 
of the electoral law.   Exhortations to vote "yes" on the constitutional 
referendum appeared frequently on state television in the weeks before 
the vote.  The shortage of electricity limited broadcast time for 
programming to about 3 hours per day. 
 
Generally, there is more freedom in academic institutions than was the 
case during the Soviet period.  Instructors and students express their 
opinions during lectures and seminars.  There is no official censorship 
or ideological framework imposed upon them.  Bribes for good grades 
reportedly are common.   
 
  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association.  However, in December 1994, the Government suspended the 
Dashnak party by presidential decree alleging that the party harbored a 
secret terrorist cell, Dro, that represented a clear and present danger 
to the Armenian State.  The Supreme Court subsequently upheld the 
President's decision to suspend the party for 6 months, on the grounds 
that the presence of expatriate members on its ruling bodies violated 
the law on public political organizations.  The Dashnak party was not 
allowed to register for the parliamentary elections, although members 
were allowed to run as individuals in single mandate districts.  In June 
the court extended the ban on Dashnak party activities for 1 more year.  
The court held that the Dashnak party charter continued to violate the 
law on parties. 
 
Simultaneous with the suspension of the Dashnak party, the offices of 
the Union of Constitutional Rights, which was located in the same 
building as the Dashnaks, were sealed.   
 
After protests, the Government provided alternative temporary office 
space so that the Union could continue its work.  Other political 
parties were subjected to pressure prior to the July parliamentary 
elections.  The authorities accused several leaders of the National 
Democratic Union party of plotting to overthrow the State and summoned 
them to appear for questioning.  The Government did not follow through 
on these accusations and question these persons. 
 
Public demonstrations, meetings, and marches occurred frequently, 
usually without any interference by the authorities.  However, a 
significant instance of government interference occurred in June, when 
several hundred people belonging to opposition parties assembled to 
protest the electoral commission's decision not to register a number of 
opposition parties and over 500 opposition candidates for the July 
parliamentary elections.  About 40 paramilitary troops equipped with 
guns and handheld radios broke up the meeting and beat some of the 
protesters.  Some troops said that they belonged to "Yerkrapah," a 
veterans' organization which reportedly is affiliated with government 
security agencies.  Some opposition protesters were arrested by militia 
troops.  The authorities took no actions against the paramilitary forces 
or those who directed them. 
 
  c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to practice the religion of 
one's choice.  In practice, however, the law imposes restrictions on 
religious freedom, and the right to freedom of conscience is not 
adequately protected.  The Armenian Orthodox Church clergy is known to 
resent the inroads made by nonapostolic religions in recent years. 
 
The 1991 Law on Religious Organizations establishes the separation of 
church and state, but recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church (the 
Armenian Orthodox Church), to which over 80 percent of the population at 
least nominally belongs, as having special status.  The Law forbids 
proselytizing and requires all nonapostolic religious denominations and 
organizations to register with the Ministry of Justice.  Petitioning 
organizations must "be free from materialism and of a purely spiritual 
nature" and must subscribe to a doctrine based on "historically 
recognized holy scriptures."  A presidential decree issued in 1993 
supplemented the 1991 law and strengthened 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. 
 
A religious organization refused registration cannot publish a newspaper 
or magazine, rent a meeting place, have its own  
 
program on television or radio, or officially sponsor the visas of 
visitors to Armenia.  Several nonapostolic religious organizations have 
been denied registration by the Ministry of Justice. 
 
In April paramilitary troops reportedly belonging to the Yerkrapah 
veterans' organization, whose actions reportedly were cleared by high-
level government officials, staged a series of attacks against members 
of a dozen nonapostolic religious groups.  Services were broken up by 
paramilitary troops wielding iron pipes and guns, pastors and adherents 
were beaten and kidnaped, and offices were ransacked and equipment 
stolen.  Several victims were rushed to the hospital.  About 20 
adherents were held for several days or weeks at a military police 
facility before being released.  When asked why they were being held, 
the commandant told the detainees that it was because of their religious 
beliefs.  The attacks were tacitly abetted by months of articles 
critical of the groups in both the official and nonofficial press.  
Despite the Government's pledge to apprehend the perpetrators of these 
attacks and despite numerous eyewitness accounts, to date the 
authorities have made no arrests in these cases. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, 
foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but places restrictions on 
some of these rights.  According to informed estimates, up to one-third 
of Armenia's population has temporarily or permanently emigrated during 
the last 6 years.  Passports are denied to persons lacking invitations 
from the country that they wish to visit, those possessing state 
secrets, and those whose relatives have made financial claims against 
them.  The Soviet-era Office of Visas and Registrations continues to 
impede travel and emigration through delays and the creation of various 
bureaucratic obstacles, including a requirement for "exit permission." 
 
Virtually the entire ethnic Azeri population of Armenia prior to 
independence--some 200,000 people--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.  Of the 400,000 ethnic Armenian 
refugees who fled Azerbaijan, less than 50,000 have settled in Armenia. 
 
According to the Constitution, the President has the power to grant 
political asylum.  No laws on refugees have been passed by Parliament 
and the status of refugees has not been accepted yet.  Existing programs 
and regulations are all based on executive orders.  Currently, there is 
a five-year state program on refugees (1994-99).  The program's goal is 
to help the refugees integrate into the community.  This program deals 
exclusively with refugees of Armenian nationality who have fled states 
in the region. 
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The Government's manipulation of the parliamentary elections and the 
constitutional referendum restricted the ability of citizens to choose 
and change the laws and officials that govern them. 
 
Local and international observers described the national parliamentary 
elections in July as "generally free, but not fair."  The Central 
Electoral Commission (CEC) and the regional electoral commissions that 
administered the elections and the constitutional referendum were 
stacked with ruling party loyalists.  In addition to the Government's 
suspension of the Dashnak party, the CEC used an ambiguous electoral law 
to deny registration to several other opposition parties or blocs and 
over 500 opposition candidates on minor technicalities.  The CEC ruled 
on many cases shortly before election day, thereby denying some 
candidates a fair chance to appeal the CEC's decision.  The Government 
also used its monopoly of the media to devote extensive coverage to a 
campaign to adopt the draft constitution and deny equal time to 
dissenting views.  Opposition parties had limited access to government 
media, and media coverage of the constitutional referendum options was 
skewed.  On the positive side, the electorate actively participated in 
the polling.  Several opposition parties did mount credible campaigns 
and were able to seat some deputies in the new Parliament. 
 
Local and international observers expressed concern about outdated voter 
registration lists, voter intimidation in some districts, poor ballot 
security, and the lack of transparency during the final vote count by 
the CEC.  The subcommittees of the CEC that counted the votes on the 
constitutional referendum comprised only representatives of the 
progovernment parties; all opposition members of the CEC were assigned 
to a separate subcommittee that was dispatched to outlying regions, and 
were not able to return to Yerevan when the session to count referendum 
votes was suddenly announced.  Also, the progovernment majority on the 
CEC regularly voted down opposition appeals concerning the fairness of 
the voting.   
 
In general, local and international observers had good access to polling 
sites, and local election officials made conscientious efforts to adhere 
to proper polling procedures.  Registered opposition parties and 
candidates were given limited free access to government media and some 
were able to mount credible campaigns.  Some Dashnak party members were 
allowed to run as independent candidates. 
 
Under the new Constitution, the President appoints the Prime Minister 
and has considerable influence in appointing judges.  The Constitution 
provides for independent legislative and judicial branches, but in 
practice these branches are not insulated from political pressure from 
the executive branch.  The Constitution gives local communities the 
right to elect local authorities, but stipulates that the Government 
appoints regional governors, and the President appoints the Mayor of 
Yerevan.  Under the transitional provisions of the Constitution, the 
Parliament (National Assembly), has the right to express no confidence 
in the heads of city and regional councils, until a law on local 
governance is adopted. 
 
The National Assembly is to operate as a part-time institution for the 
duration of its first term.  Approximately one-third of the 
parliamentarians have been designated full-time deputies.  Parliament 
also has a truncated work schedule for its first term.  Sessions may be 
called, but may not last more than 6 days.   
 
Women and minorities play a very limited role in government and 
politics, largely due to traditional social attitudes.  There are no 
women or minorities in cabinet-level positions, and only 12 of the 190 
deputies in the Parliament are women.  Out of the Parliament's six 
committees, the Committee on Health, Social Security, and Environment is 
headed by a woman. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
There are several fledgling nongovernmental human rights organizations.  
The Government generally does not impede investigations into alleged 
violations of human rights by either local or international human rights 
organizations, but it has impeded independent monitoring of prison 
conditions.  The Government did not cooperate with the ICRC in the case 
of Artavazd Manukhyan (see Section 1.c.).   
 
The Government granted the ICRC access to all prisoners of war and 
civilian detainees held in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, language, or 
social status is prohibited by the Constitution, but cultural and 
economic factors prevent women, ethnic and religious minorities, and 
persons with disabilities from participating fully in public life. 
 
  Women 
 
In 1995 25 rape cases were opened, but statistics are not yet available 
on the number of convictions.  It is virtually certain that many more 
incidents go unreported.  No charges of spouse abuse were filed. 
 
Armenia remains a male-dominated society.  In the workplace, women are 
generally not afforded the opportunities for training and advancement 
given to men.  The 1992 law on employment prohibits discrimination in 
employment, but the extremely high unemployment rate makes it difficult 
to gauge how effectively the law has been implemented to prevent 
discrimination. 
 
  Children 
 
The Government does not have the economic means to provide fully for the 
welfare of children.  The Government focuses its efforts on children's 
rights and welfare on measures to insulate large families--four or more 
children--from the effects of the country's current difficult 
circumstances.  The Government similarly targets foreign humanitarian 
aid programs at large families.  The family tradition in Armenia is 
strong, and child abuse does not appear to be a serious problem. 
 
  People with Disabilities 
 
There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment, 
education, or in the provision of other state services.  The 
Constitution provides for the right to social security in the event of 
disability.  The 1993 Law on Invalids provides for the social, 
political, and individual rights of the disabled, but does not mandate 
the provision of accessibility for the disabled.  The Government's 
enforcement of the rights of the disabled remains rudimentary. 
 
  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The Government does not discriminate against the small communities of 
Russians, Jews, Kurds, Yezids, Georgians, Greeks, and Assyrians in 
employment, housing, and health services.  The Constitution grants 
national minorities the right to preserve their cultural traditions and 
language, and a 1992 law on language provides linguistic minorities with 
the right to publish and study in their native language.  There are 
publications in minority languages, but the Government has not devoted 
sufficient resources to organizing minority language schools.  In 
practice, virtually everyone, including members of the Yezid, Greek, and 
Jewish communities, speaks Armenian. 
 
Section 6  Worker Rights 
 
  a.  The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution provides employees with the right to form and join 
trade unions and the right to strike.  The Constitution stipulates, 
however, that the right to form associations-- 
including political parties and trade unions--may be limited with 
respect to persons serving in the armed services and law enforcement 
agencies.  A January 1993 presidential decree prohibits the Government 
and other employers from retaliating against strikers and labor leaders.  
In practice, labor organizations remain weak due to high unemployment 
and stalled industry.  Unions are free to affiliate with international 
organizations.   
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Collective bargaining is not practiced.  The Government sets wages, and 
the Constitution provides all citizens with the right to a just wage no 
lower than the minimum set by the Government.  Although the 1992 Law on 
Employment provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively, 
voluntary and direct negotiations do not take place between unions and 
employers without the participation of the Government because nearly all 
enterprises, factories, and organizations remain under state control. 
 
The Government encourages profitable factories to establish their own 
pay scales.  Factory directorates generally set the pay scales, without 
consultation with employees.  Wage and other labor disputes are 
adjudicated through the Arbitration Court. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Constitution and the 1992 Law on Employment prohibit forced labor, 
and it 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 
 
Child labor is not practiced.  According to the 1992 Law on Employment, 
16 years 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.  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 Government sets the minimum wage by decree.  In May the daily 
national minimum wage was set at $1.30 (540 drams) per month.  The 
standard legal workweek is 41 hours. 
 
Given the cost of living, employees paid the minimum wage cannot support 
either themselves or their families on their pay alone.  The 
overwhelming majority of Armenians live below the officially recognized 
poverty level 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 resulting blockade and disruptions in trade.  
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. 
 
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to clean and safe work 
places, but 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."  Workers cannot remove themselves from hazardous 
conditions without risk of loss of employment. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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