U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Armenia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Armenia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4cc.html [accessed 7 May 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
ARMENIAArmenia has a constitutional government in which the President has extensive powers of appointment and decree, and the role of the legislature relative to the executive branch is severely circumscribed. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who is in charge of the Cabinet. President Levon Ter-Petrossian was reelected in a controversial multicandidate election in September 1996, which was flawed by numerous irregularities and serious breaches of the election law. A transitional National Assembly in which ruling Armenian National Movement (ANM) members and their allies won about 88 percent of the seats was elected in July 1995; local and international observers characterized these elections as generally free but not fair. To protest the presidential elections, a number of opposition parties continue to boycott parliamentary sessions. Both the Government and the legislature can propose legislation. The legislature approves new laws and can remove the prime minister by a vote of no confidence. Elections for a new National Assembly are scheduled for 1999. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice judges are subject to political pressure from the executive branch. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and National Security is responsible for domestic security, intelligence activities, border control, and the national police force. Oversight of the security services improved after the merger of the Interior Ministry with the National Security Ministry, but members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses. The transition from a centralized, controlled economy to a market economy continues to move forward. Industrial output remains low, leaving over 50 percent of the population unemployed or underemployed, with a high degree of income inequality. Most small and medium enterprises have been privatized, as has most agricultural land. About one-third of permanent land titles had been issued by the end of the year. Gains in the privatized trade, service, and agriculture sectors generated an approximately 3 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) in 1997, to about $550 per capita. However, inflation rose to about 21.9 percent for the year. Foreign assistance and remittances from Armenians abroad play a major role in sustaining the economy. The Constitution provides for broad human rights protections, but human rights problems persist in several important areas. The Government?s manipulation of the 1996 presidential election continued to restrict citizen?s ability to change their government. Members of the security forces made arbitrary arrests and detentions without warrants, beat detainees during arrest and interrogation, and did not respect constitutional guarantees regarding privacy and due process. At least two cases of police abuse resulting in death occurred; adequate institutional mechanisms do not exist to protect individuals from police abuse. Prison conditions remained poor. The judiciary is subject to political pressure and does not enforce constitutional protections effectively. Opposition groups charged that defendants in three major criminal cases were political prisoners. The Government continued to place some restrictions on freedom of the press and maintains the dominant role in nationwide television and radio broadcasting. A semiofficial list of forbidden subjects encourages some media self-censorship. However, the nongovernmental media often criticize the country?s leadership and policies. Local independent television and newspapers, along with private radio stations, continued to multiply. The Government maintains some limits on freedom of association. A previously suspended prominent political party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF/Dashnaks), was not reinstated, although the authorities tolerated its activities, restored its offices, and permitted publication of a Dashnak newspaper. The legislature called into question its commitment to constitutional provisions for freedom of religion, by amending the law on freedom of conscience to further strengthen the role of the Armenian Apostolic Church and create new barriers to other denominations. The Government places some restrictions on freedom of movement. Discrimination against women, minorities, and the disabled remained a problem. Efforts began in October to train current and prospective judges and prosecutors on the draft civil and criminal law codes, scheduled for passage in 1998.