U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Armenia

Armenia (Tier 2 Watch List)

Armenia is a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation largely to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Turkey. Some evidence indicates that Armenian victims were trafficked to other European countries as well. According to UN estimates, up to 1,000 Armenian women work as prostitutes in the U.A.E. and Turkey, most of whom are victims of trafficking.

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 this year because of its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking over the past year. Specifically, the government failed to disseminate or implement any elements of its January 2004 National Action Plan. The government should take proactive steps to officially distribute, publicly support, and implement this plan as soon as possible. Notably, trafficking-related prosecutions and convictions increased; however, reluctance to apply the new anti-trafficking statute produced insufficient penalties. The government adopted an anti-corruption program and created a task force in 2004; however, it failed to take any measures beyond issuing a rhetorical pledge to address trafficking-related complicity.


Article 132 of the criminal code prohibits trafficking in persons and provides for a maximum penalty of four to eight years' imprisonment. However, the government overwhelmingly applied Article 262 of the criminal code – a lighter pimping charge. Out of 16 convictions in 2004, the government applied the 2003 anti-trafficking statute (Article 132) only once; the remaining 15 convictions under Article 262 produced much weaker penalties. While the government increased the overall number of trafficking-related convictions, the cases produced outcomes ranging from six-month to two-year sentences, suspended sentences, corrective labor and fines. These penalties are not commensurate with Armenian penalties for other grave crimes, such as rape. Indications of official collusion and complicity among government officials hampered the government's efforts to adequately tackle Armenia's trafficking problem. Members of the Procuracy allegedly assisted traffickers and border guards accepted bribes facilitating traffickers' movements across the border. The government failed to investigate or prosecute government officials complicit in trafficking.


Armenia's anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained anemic over the last year. While Armenia's law provides trafficking victims with protection, the government largely failed to provide this assistance during the reporting period. NGOs and international organizations continued to provide the majority of victim protection and widely reported good cooperation with the government. The government did not issue any formalized or standard operating procedures for police to follow when encountering possible victims of trafficking. In the absence of a formalized referral mechanism, police informally referred victims to local NGOs. Police also referred potential victims of sexual exploitation for medical screening and treatment as necessary. The rights of victims were generally respected. The police often failed, however, to treat victims' identities with confidentiality. Victim assistance programs reported sheltering 15 victims in 2004.


Cooperation between the government and NGOs continued to help raise awareness about trafficking in Armenia. The government sustained its program of providing housing to vulnerable children released from Armenian orphanages. The Department of Migration and Refugees initiated anti-trafficking discussions on several local talk shows. Lack of official recognition of the problem within many sectors of the government, however, contributed to the overall lack of progress. In a recent interview, the Minister of Justice declared that "trafficking does not exist as a phenomenon in Armenia." Informally, the government made a preliminary effort to engage bilaterally with Georgia, but did not develop any pro-active programs to assist Armenian victims in transit or destination countries.


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