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New Strategy for Judicial and Legal Reforms submitted for public consideration

27/08/2019

The Ministry of Justice has posted the draft Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia "On approving the 2019-2023 Strategy for Judicial and Legal Reforms and the Action Plans arising from the Strategy" on the Unified Platform for Legal Acts' Drafts (https://www.e-draft.am/projects/1900/about) for public consideration. When the draft of the previous 2018-2023 Strategy for Judicial and Legal Reforms — submitted for public consideration in the period between 4 and 19 December 2017 — was being presented for expert examination, it was criticised by international experts. In particular, the following were highlighted as the main shortcomings as a result of the expert examination conducted within the scope of the Council of Europe Project "Support to the implementation of the judicial reform in Armenia":

●      the abstract and strictly general nature of actions that were often identified with the objective. This did not provide the opportunity to have a clear picture of the nature of the expected actions and their outcomes;

●      the draft did not describe the status quo for each objective and the existing problems, for the solution to which the planned actions are targeted. This was viewed as a very serious shortcoming, as the Strategy is incomplete at the conceptual level, and there is no description of the baseline situation;

●      there were no strategic goals for improvement of the Prosecutor General's Office and investigative bodies;

●      not targeting increase of remuneration of judges;

●      not envisaging reforms in the Judicial Code, as a result of which the problems related to disciplinary liability of judges, public accountability of the judicial authorities and verification of qualification of a contender for judge candidate in the existing Code would not be solved.

 

For the purpose of solving the aforementioned and several other problems and implementing the vision of the Government for judicial and legal reforms, the Ministry of Justice has developed the draft of the qualitatively new Strategy and the Action Plans arising from the Strategy. Based on the Strategy submitted for consideration, three Action Plans were drawn up: a short-term Action Plan (from the 2nd half-year of 2019 to 2020), a long-term Action Plan (from 2021 to 2023) and an individual Action Plan for setting up an electronic justice platform and ensuring accessibility of electronic data bases (from the 2nd half-year of 2019 to 2023). The following are the strategic goals enshrined in the document:

 

1.     CREATING AN ELECTRONIC JUSTICE PLATFORM, ENSURING ACCESSIBILITY OF AND UPDATING ELECTRONIC DATABASES

Within the scope of this goal, it is envisaged to introduce an electronic justice system, update the official website for public notifications of the Republic of Armenia, update the e-register system for electronic registration of legal persons, create digital archives, ensure conditions for a notary public to validate a transaction and exchange (transfer) documents through electronic communication means, ensure conditions for a notary public to validate, electronically, contracts concluded with an electronic digital signature, as well as introduce the system of electronic banking.

 

1.     STRENGTHENING RULE OF LAW THROUGH APPLICATION OF THE TOOLKIT FOR TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE

The guiding principle for application of the transitional justice toolkit will be the compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, the international obligations assumed by the Republic of Armenia and laws.

In the Republic of Armenia, the transitional justice toolkit will be applied within the following framework:

●      gathering of facts concerning the mass, periodical violations (hereinafter also referred to as "Violations") of human rights at least in the following fields: (a) all the electoral processes having taken place since September 1991; (b) political persecutions in the post-election processes since September 1991; (c) compulsory alienations of property for the needs of the state or the society in Armenia; (d) other expressions of expropriations; (e) servicemen deceased in non-combat conditions;

●          consideration of the possibility of restoration of violated rights;

●          provision of new information on crimes to law-enforcement bodies in case such information is available;

●          introduction of institutional reforms, including introduction of monitoring systems the application of which will enable to identify the possible violations and rule out repetition of mistakes made before;

●          summary of the received information in the report, publication of the report and assessment of the past.

To examine the cases of Violations committed in Armenia between 1991 and 2018 and gather information regarding those Violations, in the first quarter of 2020, a Fact-Finding Commission will be set up; it will be an extra-judicial, independent body that will be represented by people who are reputable in society in order to ensure involvement of different groups of society. The Commission will be formed by law, which will prescribe the procedure for formation and objectives of the Commission, the directions for activities, the powers of the Commission, the specifics for preparing a report and other issues. The ultimate outcome of the activities of the Commission will be the publication of a report that will show information gathered in the course of fact-finding. Based on the gathered information, in its report, the Commission will submit to the National Assembly and the Government an advisory opinion on the possibility and forms of and amounts and need for restoration of the rights of persons affected by those offences, as well as the need and directions for institutional reforms.

 

1.     CONDUCTING CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

The main purpose of conducting constitutional reforms is to have a Constitution free from all kinds of subjective factors, adopted without any guidance by the people and as a result of free expression of their will.

In the first quarter of 2020, it is planned to establish a Commission for Constitutional Reforms which will consider the issue of conducting constitutional reforms and will submit the draft constitutional reforms. The Commission for Constitutional Reforms should, inter alia, consider a number of conceptual issues, among which are the following: the direct enforcement of the Constitution, the role of international treaties within the legal system of the Republic of Armenia, the specifics of applicability of the regulatory legal acts adopted by the given supranational institution in case of membership to a supranational institution, the scope of powers vested in the bodies provided for by the Constitution, the procedure for election of the deputies of the National Assembly and for formation of the parliamentary majority, and the number of deputies, issues concerning formation of other bodies subordinate to the Government, to the Prime-Minister and to the ministries and their powers as provided for by the Constitution, separation and balancing of powers between the bodies provided for by the Constitution, the procedure for formation of the Supreme Judicial Council, the role and powers of the Supreme Judicial Council, etc.

 

1.     REFORMING THE ELECTORAL LEGISLATION

After the early elections of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on 9 December 2008, which were assessed as truly free and fair, it is necessary to envisage in the electoral legislation mechanisms that will put the achievements enshrined by the aforementioned elections — public confidence in elections, legitimacy of the elected authorities, confidence in the perceptions of the society in the fairness of the electoral process — on legislative foundations. Ultimately, such elections will become a general rule, not an exception.

 

1.     ENSURING INDEPENDENCE AND IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY

Improvement of the mechanism for verifying the qualification of contenders for judge candidates; introduction of the foundations and procedures for subjecting judges to disciplinary liability in line with international standards; enhancement of the perception of the role of the judiciary among the public and increase of confidence in the judiciary and increase of remuneration of judges and their personnel are envisaged.

 

1.     IMPROVING THE MECHANISMS FOR PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE JUDICIARY

Publication of reports and statistics on operation of the judiciary; ensuring of transparency and reasonableness of the adoption of decisions of the Supreme Judicial Council; improvement of the procedure for electronic inscription and distribution of judicial cases; improvement of the procedure for formation of the Disciplinary Commission and full declaration of the property, incomes, interests and expenses of judges are envisaged.

 

1.     JUDICIARY FREE FROM CORRUPTION AND PATRONAGE

Bringing of the grounds for subjecting judges to disciplinary liability into compliance with the goal of overcoming corruption; improvement of the procedure for subjecting judges to disciplinary liability, as well as capacity-building and awareness-raising are envisaged.

1.     INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS OF THE OPERATION OF COURTS

Reduction of the workload of courts and ensuring of reasonable periods for court examination; creation of the Anti-Corruption Court; ongoing capacity-building of judges; improvement of the building conditions of courts and provision of technical assistance are envisaged.

 

1.     ESTABLISHING A UNIFIED PLATFORM FOR SERVICES PROVIDED BY STATE AND LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT BODIES

Creation of a unified office to operate under the "one-stop shop" principle and unification of the subdivisions incorporated within the state bodies providing expertise services are envisaged.

 

10.   REFORMING THE LAW-ENFORCEMENT SYSTEM

Improvement of the prosecutorial system, including ensuring of transparency of the competition for selection of prosecutors; improvement of the mechanism for subjecting prosecutors to disciplinary liability; capacity-building of prosecutors; reforms in the system of investigative bodies, including structural changes; improvement of the mechanism for subjecting investigators to disciplinary liability and capacity-building of investigators are envisaged.

 

11.    REFORMING THE CRIMINAL AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE LEGISLATION

Elimination of the criminal subculture; introduction of a system of alternative punishments; introduction of criminal liability of legal persons; introduction of alternative measures of restraint; introduction of simplified preliminary investigation; plea bargaining and co-operation proceedings; change in relation to receipt of information constituting bank secret; improvement of the proceedings with the participation of minors and envisaging of effective regulation of mutual legal assistance are envisaged.

 

12.    REFORMING THE CIVIL AND CIVIL PROCEDURE LEGISLATION

Improvement of the civil legislation (including review of objects of civil law, forms of contract, legal relations having emerged as a result of causing harm); review of the institution of returning a statement of claim in civil procedure; definition of the cases of compulsory reconciliation in civil procedure; solution to problems recorded as a result of inventory of problems having arisen in law-enforcement practice during civil procedure are envisaged.

Introduction of the toolkit required for electronic notifications and introduction of mechanisms required for submitting procedural documents electronically are envisaged.

 

13.    INCREASING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Creation of the Administrative Chamber of the Court of Cassation; specification of the subordination of proceedings for disputing the decisions, actions or inaction of the regime of a penitentiary institution; improvement of the procedures for notification in administrative procedure; enshrining of restrictions on appeal in administrative procedure; increase of the effectiveness of special proceedings of administrative procedure; increase of the effectiveness of administrative proceedings; improvement of the legislation on administrative offences and more are envisaged.

 

14.    REFORMS IN THE BANKRUPTCY SECTOR

Improvement of the legislation on administrative offences; review of the procedure for appointing and replacing bankruptcy administrators; increase of the level of professional readiness and capacity-building of bankruptcy administrators; review of the institution of disciplinary liability of bankruptcy administrators and specification of the process of inventory, evaluation and auction of the property of a debtor are envisaged.

 

15.    ENHANCING ALTERNATIVE METHODS OF DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

Improvement of the arbitration legislation; ensuring of opportunities for the creation of arbitration centres; enhancement of other alternative methods of dispute settlement, including on-line reconciliation, relevant legal education and public awareness-raising are envisaged.

 

16.   INCREASING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE NOTARIAL SYSTEM

Introduction of the procedures required for application of the institution of enforcement inscription; review of the procedures for subjecting a notary public to disciplinary liability and terminating his or her powers and increase of the effectiveness of notarial actions are envisaged.

 

17.    INCREASING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE SYSTEM OF ADVOCACY

Enhancement of alternative mechanisms for provision of free legal aid; increase of the effectiveness of the activities of public defenders; enhancement of the activities of the School of Advocates; improvement of the rules of conduct and integrity of advocates and enhancement of the internal mechanisms of the Chamber of Advocates are envisaged.

18.   REFORMS IN THE COMPULSORY ENFORCEMENT SYSTEM

Review of the grounds and procedure for suspension of enforcement proceedings; expansion of the methods of application of an electronic toolkit in enforcement proceedings and reduction of the time limits for enforcement proceedings are envisaged. The Ministry of Justice anticipates the active participation of all interested parties in submitting opinions and recommendations regarding the draft submitted for public consideration.

The Ministry of Justice anticipates the active participation of all interested parties in submitting opinions and recommendations regarding the draft submitted for public consideration.

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