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Since the country’s independence in 1991, legal reform in Armenia has been a slow, incremental process. Although Armenia instituted sweeping reforms to its constitution, codes and laws in 1995 to comply with the requirements of the Council of Europe and has undertaken a number of commitments for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, many of these changes have been slow to take effect. The deleterious economic effects of a long-standing blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continue while corruption undermines the credibility of the legal system. In November 2005, Armenia amended its constitution by national referendum, creating new opportunities to improve human rights protections and to increase the independence of the judiciary. To implement these amendments, new laws and codes were passed, including the Judicial Code, which consolidated prior legal acts regulating the judicial sector.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) programs in Armenia, supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the U.S. Agency for International Development, focus on building the capacity of institutions working to reform and improve the delivery of justice, and on providing technical assistance and training to facilitate a professional and competent legal system that protects human rights and supports the rule of law. ABA ROLI’s work spans judicial reform, legal profession reform, legal education reform, criminal law reform and human rights initiatives. In providing its rule of law support, ABA ROLI emphasizes needs-based programming, local ownership and peer-to-peer technical assistance. ABA ROLI has since 1996 worked to establish strong relationships with reform-minded local partners and international donors in Armenia, and is uniquely prepared to address the challenges inherent in advancing the rule of law in Armenia.