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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Armenia has a Constitution that provides for the separation of powers; however, the directly elected President has extensive powers of appointment and decree that are not balanced by the legislature or an independent judiciary. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who is in charge of the Cabinet. The legislature approves new laws, confirms the Prime Minister's program, and can remove the Prime Minister by a vote of no confidence. Both the Government and the legislature can propose legislation.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Courts & Judgments

The Armenian Constitution mandates a three-level court system: The highest court is the Court of Cassation. There are two lower-level courts, the Appellate Court and courts of the first instance. First instance courts try most cases, with a right of appeal to the Court of Appeals, and then to the Court of Cassation. The Constitutional Court rules on the conformity of legislation with the Constitution, approves international agreements, and decides election-related legal questions. It can accept only cases proposed by the President, by two-thirds of all parliamentary deputies, or election-related cases brought by candidates for Parliament or the presidency. Because of these limitations, the Constitutional Court cannot ensure effective compliance with constitutional human rights safeguards.

Under the Constitution, the Council of Justice, headed by the President, the Procurator General, and the Justice Minister, appoints and disciplines judges for the tribunal courts of first instance, review courts, and the Court of Appeals. The President appoints the other 14 members of the Justice Council and 4 of the 9 Constitutional Court judges. This authority gives the President dominant influence in appointing and dismissing judges at all levels.

The selection of judges is often based on scores on a multiple-choice test to determine potential judges' fitness under the system, and on their interviews with the Minister of Justice. The list of nominations is then approved by the Council of Justice and, finally, by the President.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Armenian Government's human rights record remained poor in 2001; however, there were improvements in a few areas. Substantial intervention by local power structures in the election process continued to restrict citizens' ability to change their Government peacefully. There were no confirmed reports of political killings by the Government or its agents; however, there were deaths in police custody and deaths in the military as a result of mistreatment. Members of the security forces routinely beat detainees during arrest and interrogation. Arbitrary arrest and detention was a problem. The Government rarely investigated abuses by members of the security forces and impunity remained a problem. Prison conditions remained harsh and life threatening, although there were some improvements. Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. In June Parliament approved a proposal initiated by the President to declare an amnesty which resulted in the release of nearly 1,250 prisoners serving sentences of up to 5 years or kept in detention pending trial; approximately 310 additional prisoners had their prison terms curtailed. The judiciary is subject to political pressure and does not enforce constitutional protections effectively. Authorities did not respect constitutional protections regarding privacy and due process. There are some limits on press freedom, and many journalists practiced self-censorship. There were some limits on freedom of association. The law places some restrictions on religious freedom, including a prohibition against proselytizing by religions other than the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Government continued to deny registration to Jehovah's Witnesses and 13 members of Jehovah's Witnesses were in corrective labor facilities for refusing military service, while 4 more Jehovah's Witnesses were awaiting trial. During the year, 40 Jehovah's Witnesses were released from jail by the June amnesty. The Government places some restrictions on freedom of movement. There was some violence against women, and governmental and societal discrimination against women, the disabled, and religious and ethnic minorities remained problems. There were a number of street children. There are some limits on workers' rights. Trafficking in women and girls was a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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