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June 23, 2014

Video: Documentary Encourages Discussion around Jury Trials in Armenia

June 2014

On February 7, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) held a roll-out event for a17-minute documentary on the pros and cons of introducing jury trials in Armenia. About 50 advocates, law professors and students from Yerevan State University and Hay-Bussak University and representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Standing Committee on Protection of Human Rights and Public Affairs, the Court of Cassation and the U.S. embassy in Armenia attended the event.

The documentary explores the possibility of jury trial adoption and its potential for building public trust in the judiciary and for addressing judicial corruption. It features interviews with prominent Armenian judges, advocates and prosecutors, including representatives from the Court of Cassation and the Prosecutor General’s Office, as well as the actual judge, prosecutor, and defense advocate that participated in neighboring Georgia’s first jury trial after it adopted an amended Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) in 2010.

Armenia is in the process of revising its CPC to incorporate more adversarial trial elements. The film explores the concern that Armenia is too small for effective jury trials and that extended networks of people would inevitably bias jurors—a concern that some Georgians had prior to their country’s introduction of jury trials.

The film screening was followed by a lively debate on the advantages and disadvantages of adopting jury trials in Armenia. Opponents of jury trials argued that the tight networks of people—the fact that “everyone knows each other”—would make partiality unavoidable in Armenia, while proponents said that jury trials would make the justice system more visible and understandable, allowing society to participate in the administration of justice.

The documentary was produced as part of ABA ROLI’s criminal law reform program in Armenia, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

To learn more about our work in Armenia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].

Related Video:

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Carol Z. Perez of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs was interviewed by Voice of America Armenia about ABA ROLI's work in the country, and in particular about our innovative methods of promoting understanding around the concept of jury trials.