Criminal Law Reform and Anti-Human Trafficking
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) works to advance the knowledge and trial skills of Armenian advocates and public defenders to promote equality within the criminal justice system. ABA ROLI has supported the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) since its creation in 2006. As the PDO has grown from one office to 19 throughout Armenia, ABA ROLI has assisted the PDO in improving its operations and solidifying its mission. ABA ROLI has also helped with revising the Law on Advocacy, the legislation that governs the legal profession, including by encouraging the inclusion of a provision allowing citizens to directly apply for public defenders. To support efforts to reform pre-trial detention, ABA ROLI implemented its Detention Procedure Assessment Tool in Armenia in 2010. Informed by the assessment’s findings, ABA ROLI is working with local stakeholders to draft legislative revisions to improve detention and sentencing practices. We are also striving to enhance the capacity of public defenders to pursue detention alternatives.
Providing legal training
Armenian defense lawyers have traditionally had little opportunities for professional development. Since 2001, ABA ROLI has trained defense lawyers on numerous topics, including forensic examination, appealing pre-trial detention, evidence, and Constitutional Court and Court of Cassation judgments. Since 2005, ABA ROLI has conducted trial advocacy skills training courses, consisting of 15 sessions each, to provide in-depth substantive and practical training. We have also trained hundreds of advocates, investigators, lawyers, prosecutors and public defenders on the European Convention on Human Rights to help maximize the European Court of Human Rights’ impact on Armenia’s human rights record. The trainings focused on fair trial procedures and on the execution of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgments.
Reforming pre-trial detention and sentencing
In 2010, ABA ROLI implemented its Detention Procedure Assessment Tool in Armenia to evaluate the country’s pre-trial detention practices vis-à-vis international standards. Assessment findings continue to inform ABA ROLI’s continued support for detention and sentencing reform efforts. ABA ROLI works with local partners to recommend improvements for Armenia’s current pre-trial-detention and sentencing procedures, and to foster the application of existing alternatives to detention.
Supporting the Public Defender’s Office
Armenia historically lacked an effective system for free legal defense. Criminal defense lawyers for the indigent were appointed by investigators or prosecutors with whom they had close relationships, negating the possibility of a diligent defense. In 2006, Armenia established the PDO to provide legal aid for all criminal cases and some civil cases. A part of the Chamber of Advocates (Armenia’s bar association), the PDO employs 36 public defenders in 19 offices throughout the country. ABA ROLI supported the launch of the PDO and has since helped it create internal and external management policies and systems. We have helped the PDO institute minimum performance standards and disciplinary mechanisms for public defenders, as well as avenues for the indigent to apply directly for free legal services.