Legal reform in Armenia has been a slow, incremental process since its independence in 1991. Although Armenia initially instituted sweeping reforms to its constitution, codes and laws to comply with the requirements of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, many of these changes have been slow to take effect. The economic effects of a blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict contribute to the low levels of funding available for the judicial process while corruption undermines the credibility of the legal system. In November 2005, Armenia amended the Constitution by a 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.
ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) launched its rule of law program in Armenia in 1996 and its criminal law reform program in 1998. ABA ROLI’s assistance has contributed to a number of important achievements, including: the formation of the Association of Judges of the Republic of Armenia; the adoption of a new Code of Judicial Conduct; the organization of a new Chamber of Advocates; the creation of an advocate qualification exam; the establishment of and institutional assistance to the first public defenders’ office in Armenia; training for judges and advocates on human rights law, election law and other topics fundamental to the rule of law; the preparation of a series of public service announcements and videos about human rights and democracy; and the creation and support of several university legal clinics.