Constitutional Amendments in Armenia: Realization of rule of law and safeguards for human rights and fundamental freedoms
On October 2 the second event within Partnership for Open Society initiative’s discussion series called “Armenia in the Process of Constitutional Amendments” took place at Congress Hotel. The topic of this discussion was “Constitutional Amendments in Armenia: Realization of rule of law and safeguards for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Hayk Alumyan, attorney, Artur Sakunts from Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office and Heriknaz Tigranyan from Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center were the main speakers. Representatives of the Specialized Commission on the Constitutional Amendments under the RA President, RA National Assembly Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs and National Assembly Standing Committee on Protection of Human Rights and Public Affairs were invited to speak at the event but declined their participation. Larisa Minasyan, Executive Director of Open Society Foundations – Armenia was the moderator of the public discussion.
The speakers addressed the provisions in Constitutional Amendments Draft, which suppose substantive retreats from human rights safeguards and state responsibility to ensure these rights. Particularly, it was noted during the discussion, that unlike the current constitution the draft implies retreats from the principles of enforcement of international law principles and direct application of constitution, guarantees of fundamental human rights and freedoms, including right to property, freedom of assembly, the use of illegally obtained evidence, right to marry, presumption of innocence, as well as social safeguards such as right to social security, right to work and right to health.
Drawing parallels between the current constitution and proposed amendments attorney Hayk Alumyan presented how the guarantees for fundamental rights and freedoms are lowered in the draft, particularly noting the right to property, the use of illegally obtained evidence and the presumption of innocence. Thus, in contrary to current constitution, which proclaims that one can be deprived of property exceptionally when prescribed by law and in conformity with the judicial procedure, the proposed amendment removes the requirement of judicial procedure. The present constitution contains 3 components of presumption of innocence as established in international law, while the draft has removed 2 of them including the requirement of the court judgment. As regards the evidences, Mr. Alumyan noted the retreat in the draft amendments, according to which only the evidence acquired with violation of fundamental human rights are prohibited, while the relevant provision in current constitution prohibits the use of any illegally obtained evidence.
Arthur Sakunts touched upon the proposed amendments considering the role of state agencies in providing safeguards for human rights from the perspective of principles of accountability and separation of powers. Stating that the proposed draft does not define mechanisms for accountability of state agencies, such as prosecutor’s office, special investigative bodies, bodies adjacent to government, Mr. Sakunts concluded that the proposed draft is problematic with regard to regulation of state agencies responsible for ensuring human rights from the perspective of predictability, oversight, restoration of infringed rights.
Ms. Heriknaz Tigranyan spoke about socio-economic rights in the constitutional amendments draft raising concerns that the safeguards set in current constitution are lowered to the level of laws and the state obligations are formulated as state objectives. Particularly, according to draft amendments the guarantees for social security, right to work and health are lowered from constitutional protection to the level of laws.
Following the speakers’ presentations, the floor was opened for debate during which the participants raised their concerns about various provisions in draft amendments concerning human rights. Both the speakers and most of the participants mentioned lack of public awareness and agreed to undertake joint actions in this regard.
The full analysis of proposed constitutional amendments concerning human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as social guarantees can be found here.