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The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) promotes the independence, competence, professionalism and accountability of judges and judges’ assistants in Armenia. We provide resources that support the fair and transparent administration of justice. We work to reinforce judicial transparency and ethics, to develop recommendations to strengthen human rights legislation and train judges on the European Convention on Human Rights.
As case precedence is a relatively new concept in Armenia, access to court decisions is critical for the uniform application of the law. To make previous decisions easily accessible to all in the justice system, in 2010, ABA ROLI helped compile and publish the first volume of criminal decisions of the Court of Cassation. The publication was well-received. In 2011, the Judicial Department of Armenia compiled the second volume.
Since 2009, ABA ROLI has promoted respect for international human rights and judicial ethics by supporting court monitoring, especially in strategic high-profile cases. When cases conclude, ABA ROLI creates comprehensive reports with specific recommendations on how courts can improve their adherence to international fair trial and judicial independence standards.
ABA ROLI trains Armenian judges on the European Convention on Human Rights and on European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments to improve Armenia’s observance of convention norms. ABA ROLI also trains judges and their assistants on international judicial ethics standards. Since 2009, ABA ROLI has trained nearly 300 judges and judicial assistants on judicial ethics and the protection of human rights through the application of ECtHR case law.
Since 2001, ABA ROLI has supported efforts to reform the Code of Judicial Conduct, which was amended in 2005 and 2010. Following the revisions, ABA ROLI helped the Association of Judges of the Republic of Armenia (AJRA) draft commentaries that clarify the code’s provisions with examples of how provisions will be applied.
In 1997, ABA ROLI supported the establishment of Armenia’s first-ever judges’ association, the Association of Judges of the Republic of Armenia (AJRA). Currently, nearly all Armenian judges have joined the association. ABA ROLI and AJRA coordinate to create professional-development opportunities for judges, to reform the Code of Judicial Conduct and to draft commentaries to the code. AJRA became a member of the International Association of Judges in 2005 and hosted its annual meeting in 2008.
With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) helps Armenian law schools establish and run university-based legal clinics that provide legal services to remote regions throughout the country while building law students’ practical skills. We also support curriculum revisions to emphasize practical skills and institutionalize clinical legal education, and conduct street law programs that teach Armenian children about human rights issues.
Since 2005, ABA ROLI has supported the establishment of two university-based legal clinics in Armenia at Gavar State University and Gyumri Progress University. ABA ROLI encourages the institutionalization of practical skills development and has helped Gavar State University and Gyumri Progress University incorporate clinical education into their curricula.
In 2010, ABA ROLI supported the establishment of the Legal Clinical Education Support Center to help sustain and streamline clinical legal education in the country. The clinic devises uniform curriculum, conducts joint trainings for law student clinicians and works to diversify funding sources and forge partnerships with more universities.
Through the Traveling Lawyers Program, law student clinicians from each of the three legal clinics travel to remote regions to provide free legal assistance on human rights cases. The program has served more than 3,000 indigent Armenians since 2009. In addition to the practical experience they gain by conducting research, preparing motions and representing clients in court, the students also receive substantive legal training.
In partnership with Yerevan State University and American law professors, ABA ROLI developed a new practice-oriented legal writing course in 2008. In 2010, we published the 3rd edition of the legal writing textbook. Recognizing the importance of legal writing to the effective practice of law, ABA ROLI assisted four Armenian universities to adopt the course as a mandatory for-credit course. ABA ROLI also supported the development of an intellectual property course, which is offered as an elective course for LL.M. students at Yerevan State University and is incorporated into civil law courses at Gavar State University and Gyumri Progress University.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) legal profession reform program focuses on creating an independent and sustainable bar association that regulates the entrance to and bounds of the legal profession, enhances the professional development of advocates and the resources available to them and represents advocates’ interests.
ABA ROLI has been working with the Chamber of Advocates—Armenia’s national bar association—since its establishment in 2005. In 2006, ABA ROLI helped the chamber create and implement the first advocate qualification exam in more than five years. The chamber has since administered the exam annually. In 2010, ABA ROLI supported the development of software for the chamber’s first computer-based qualification exam. The computerized exam has helped to improve objectivity and transparency in the licensing process as advocates sitting for the exam are required to answer 100 randomly selected questions from a database of more than 2,400 questions.
In 2010, ABA ROLI worked with the Chamber of Advocates to create a comprehensive legal database to provide advocates, prosecutors, judges, public defenders, non-governmental organizations and private citizens with access to relevant legal documents, precedents, cases and acts. Now independently maintained and updated by the Chamber, the database is accessed thousands of times monthly and has become a vital resource for advocates’ legal research and case management needs.
In 2009 and 2010, ABA ROLI supported the Chamber of Advocates’ legislative working group in drafting amendment recommendations to the Law on Advocacy, the legislation governing the legal profession. In fall 2010, the working group evolved into the Scientific and Analytical Center (SAC) of the Chamber of Advocates. Composed of four subcommittees, the SAC works to advance the chamber’s long-term interest in improving its governing documents, including its by laws, internal rules and charter. The SAC has since provided constitutional law expertise for cases at the request of the Constitutional Court. It has also hosted press conferences and released official statements advocating for the legal profession.