On May 30, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) released its 2012 Judicial Reform Index (JRI) report for Armenia, in both Armenian and English, at an event held in Yerevan. Judges, government officials and representatives of international organizations, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Helsinki Committee, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Open Society Foundation, the Council of Europe and the World Bank, attended the event.
While Armenia embarked on a democratic transition following its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union, establishing an independent and transparent judiciary—which is crucial to the rule of law—has proven to be a long, challenging process. Since 2002, ABA ROLI has tracked the evolution of the Armenian judicial system through the implementation of four JRI assessments—in 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2012.
ABA ROLI’s JRI is an innovative tool for assessing the status of the judiciary in emerging democracies and transitioning states through the prism of 30 distinct factors, which are assessed as negative, neutral or positive. The assessment involves researching secondary sources and conducting in-depth interviews with members of the judiciary. Its findings help evaluate the impacts of past judicial reform efforts and shape up future initiatives, including the programs ABA ROLI has been implementing in Armenia since 1996.
Past iterations of the report have, for instance, informed efforts to revise Armenia’s rules of judicial conduct to ensure compliance with internationally recognized standards, such as raising judges’ professional and ethical excellence. The findings have led to the development of training manuals and more training opportunities for judges on judicial ethics and on the European Court of Human Rights. They have also informed programs to strengthen the Association of Judges of the Republic of Armenia and to compile and index judicial decisions for easier access by legal professionals.
The 2012 edition of the Armenian JRI shows that the Armenian judiciary is slowly but steadily adjusting to important developments in the country’s legal system and judicial structure. Its findings reveal that four of the 30 JRI factors improved from negative to neutral and three improved from neutral to positive. These findings reflect improved infrastructure and technological advancement, and greater objectivity in judicial selection, appointment and career advancement procedures. On the other hand, two factors, removal and disciplining of judges, dropped from neutral to negative.
ABA ROLI distributed copies of the report to judges, advocates, prosecutors, police, law schools, local and international non-governmental organizations, libraries and other stakeholders.
ABA ROLI’s program in Armenia, which ended in May, was supported by the United States Agency for International Development.