Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Armenia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||4 June 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Armenia, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a00c.html [accessed 30 January 2015]|
ARMENIA (Tier 2 Watch List)
Armenia is a primarily a source country for women and girls trafficked to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Turkey for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Armenian men and women are trafficked to Turkey and Russia for the purpose of forced labor. According to the OSCE, there has been one documented case of Ukrainian and Russian women trafficked to Armenia for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Victims trafficked to the U.A.E. usually fly to Dubai from Yerevan or via Moscow; the trafficking route to Turkey is generally via bus through Georgia. Armenian law enforcement reports indicate that destination countries now also include Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait; however, no official cases involving these countries as destinations have surfaced.
The Government of Armenia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Armenia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year because its efforts to increase compliance with the minimum standards were assessed based on its commitments to undertake future actions over the coming year, particularly in the areas of improving victim protection and assistance. While the government elevated antitrafficking responsibilities to the ministerial level, adopted a new National Action Plan, and drafted a National Referral Mechanism, it has yet to show tangible progress in identifying and protecting victims or in tackling trafficking complicity of government officials.
Recommendations for Armenia: Seriously address trafficking-related corruption through the vigorous investigation and prosecution of complicit officials; ensure convicted traffickers receive and serve adequate jail sentences; proactively implement the new national victim referral mechanism at all border points in Armenia, incorporating the expertise of NGOs and the international community; allocate funding to government institutions and NGOs that provide care for trafficking victims; train border guards to better recognize trafficking victims; and increase awareness raising efforts to tackle the pervasive negative attitude about trafficking victims among law enforcement and the general public throughout Armenia.
The Armenian government made some notable improvements in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but it failed to demonstrate evidence of investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences of officials complicit in trafficking. Armenia prohibits trafficking in persons for both labor and sexual exploitation through Article 132 of its penal code, which prescribes penalties of three to 15 years' imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes. The government investigated 14 cases of trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation in 2007. It prosecuted eight suspects and convicted a total of 11 trafficking offenders, with sentences ranging from one to eight years' imprisonment and fines. Traffickers are eligible for release from prison after serving half of their sentences, and early release is routinely granted. According to a 2007 OSCE Assessment, only a small number of convicted Armenian traffickers receive serious sentences. Although trafficking victims are entitled to seek restitution based on their cases, or in a separate civil suit, Armenian courts continued to reject these claims. In November 2007, an Armenian court denied $1,110 sought by the victim seeking civil damages from her convicted trafficker, who beat and tortured her to deter her escape; she contracted tuberculosis as a result of being forced into prostitution. Although the court sentenced one trafficker in the case, it failed to charge the other known accomplice.
A lack of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey hampered Armenia's ability to investigate the trafficking of Armenian nationals to Turkey. The government actively cooperated with Interpol in attempts to investigate trafficking crimes involving both countries. The government located one Armenian trafficker in Turkey in 2007; Armenian government efforts to return the trafficker to Armenia for prosecution are underway. Although the government has bilateral anti-trafficking agreements with the U.A.E., these instruments are rarely used to investigate trafficking cases with ties to the U.A.E. The government has yet to provide information into the circumstances surrounding the escape of a convicted trafficker, nor has it provided information on any disciplinary measures taken to punish personnel involved in the affair.
In 2007, the Government of Armenia demonstrated some progress in the protection of trafficking victims; overall tangible improvements have yet to be realized. The government failed to provide financial or in-kind assistance for anti-trafficking NGOs. Although the government achieved a significant breakthrough by developing a long-promised draft national referral mechanism, it has yet to be implemented. Although the government identified 147 persons as victims of trafficking in 2007, this figure is likely conflated with figures for smuggling and prostitution crimes. The government's efforts to protect victims continue to be hampered by the absence of uniform criteria to facilitate adequate identification; law enforcement officials referred only 17 victims to NGOs in 2007, though this is an increase from the eight it referred in 2006. In 2007, one victim received state-provided housing under a program run by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA); the MLSA provided a one-time poverty allowance to two trafficking victims, assisted some victims in finding jobs, and helped settle one victim into an elderly home. In May 2007, the government actively worked with an NGO to secure the release and return of two Armenian trafficking victims from Georgia.
Armenian law does not explicitly prevent victims from being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, but in practice they are not penalized. Lack of appropriate victim witness protection hampers Armenia's prosecution efforts; many observers noted that most trafficking victims are not willing to provide testimony to police given the lack of government incentives to undertake that risk. Furthermore, victims were not encouraged to participate in investigations and prosecutions. According to an April 2007 OSCE assessment, Armenian law provides for protection for victims who testify against their trafficker; however, this assistance is rarely implemented.
Armenia improved its anti-trafficking prevention efforts in 2007. The government approved its second National Plan of Action on Trafficking for 2007-2009 and revamped its interagency structure, elevating its anti-trafficking commission to the ministerial level. It allocated $33,000 for prevention efforts in the coming year to include the filming of a documentary on labor trafficking and the production of two public service announcements. In 2007, the Ministry of Health organized discussions with Armenian physicians to raise awareness about the special needs of trafficking victims. The MLSA provided apartments to 20 graduates of orphanages, a group that is extremely vulnerable to recruitment by traffickers.