Our work in Armenia

Advancing Human Rights for All

ABA ROLI’s current program works with the Office of the Human Rights Defender (OHRD) of Armenia through a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development to strengthen its institutional capacity in target areas (disability rights, women’s rights, socio-economic rights and domestic violence prevention) and its communication and links with the human rights community and the public. Additional activities aim at strengthening the OHRD’s capacity in responding to violations of electoral rights, ensuring access to legal aid on elections related violations, and fostering the overall human rights protection community’s ability to play a more active role in electoral dispute resolution. The program will also continue to expand efforts to strengthen the media relations and communication skills of OHRD staff for impactful communication and compelling and accessible messaging for all citizens on human rights promotion, protection, and compliance.

Past Programs

Population, Refugees and Migration Legal Assistance Programs (2016–2018)

Due to conflicts in the region in the last few years, Armenia has become a destination for refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, parts of Africa, and displaced persons from the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Approximately 17,000 Syrian refugees alone are in Armenia. The government of Armenia has undertaken significant efforts to cover their basic needs — housing, immigration status, healthcare, some employment and credit assistance, and education — by coordinating interventions through its Ministry of Diaspora.

ABA ROLI’s 2016–17 program, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, complemented and supported these efforts. Although multiple government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners provide an array of support services relating to employment, healthcare, education, and legal assistance, only ABA ROLI with its NGO and government partners together provided holistic assistance for program beneficiaries, with law and procedure as a key component in accessing all services available to refugees.

ABA ROLI’s 2017–18 U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration-funded legal assistance program for displaced and conflict-affected persons continued to provide assistance to refugees and displaced persons in Armenia.  Building on the success of the 2016-17 program, ABA ROLI increased the staff and capacity of its Refugee Legal Assistance Center (RLAC), which provided legal, financial, procedural, and logistical support to beneficiaries, and widened its scope to reach more beneficiaries. Through this program, ABA ROLI increased the capacity and coordination of its partners and volunteers; consulted and represented refugee and displaced beneficiaries in RLAC; conducted trainings for refugees on issues such as tax, customs, healthcare, education, land rights, how to establish a business, family law, and gender parity; and provided educational programming for children about their rights.

Building the capacity of the Criminal Defense Bar to advance human rights (1997–2016)

Twenty years of USAID- and U.S. State Department-supported ABA ROLI assistance to justice sector institutions in Armenia has led to the creation of a unified national bar association (“the Chamber of Advocates”), and the establishment of the first Public Defender’s Office in the former Soviet Union. These local legal institutions which ABA ROLI helped to establish and support, are now Armenians’ first line of defense. Following years of ABA ROLI support, the Chamber of Advocates and the Public Defender’s Office serve as checks against abuses of executive power, and monitor and inform new criminal legislation to ensure it meets international standards for due process and rights protection. Most critically, they provide quality legal services to criminal defendants in a region where guilt is too often a foregone conclusion. Local legal institutions play a vital role in protecting human rights and maintaining high standards for the practice of law. Through helping local legal stakeholders in their efforts to be independent, self-governing, effective and sustainable, ABA ROLI is helping to support human rights advocacy for years to come.

Supporting rule of law reforms in legal institutions (1996 – 2013)

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet republic struggled to shape and support its vital legal institutions, such as the judiciary, legal profession and legal education, as well as civic exercises like the right to vote. Funded by USAID, ABA ROLI’s Armenia Rule of Law Program promoted the independence and professionalism of the judiciary and the legal profession, helping to establish and build the organizational capacity of Armenia’s first bar association, the Chamber of Advocates, as well as the first judicial association. Now sustainable, the Chamber of Advocates is a key resource for and loudspeaker of Armenia’s defense lawyers, who play an important role in the promotion and defense of human rights. ABA ROLI also supported the establishment of Armenia’s first legal clinics, all six of which remain operational today. Legal clinics fulfill the important role of providing needed access to justice to Armenia’s indigent while building law students’ practical legal skills.