Over its long history, Armenia has been subject to successive conquest. It was conquered by the Roman Empire in the 1st century followed by the Persian Parthian Arsacid dynasty. This dynasty fell to the Sassanids in the 3rd century, who annexed Armenia, only to lose it to the Roman Empire later in that century, who in turn returned the Arsacids to power. In the 7th century, Armenia came under Byzantine rule. The Byzantines ceded Armenia to the Arabs, who had conquered Persia and granted Armenia independence. Then Armenia was conquered by the Byzantine Empire (again), to be succeeded by the Turks in 1071. The Mongels conquered Armenia in the 13th century to be followed by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. During the late 1800s, Armenian nationalists, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, or ARF, sought autonomy for Armenians, but were met with repression in what historians have called the first great genocide of the 20th century. Ottoman forces killed around 800,000 Armenians between 1894 and the end of World War I. After WWI, Armenia was proclaimed by the ARF to be a independent state in 1918. In 1920, the Bolsheviks invaded Armenia and formed a coalition government, proclaiming Armenia a socialist republic. In 1921, the Bolsheviks took complete control of the government, and the Armenian nationalists were expelled. Armenia became a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Purges began in Armenia and continued through the Stalinist regime in the 1930s. Largely as a byproduct of Mikhael Gorbachev's glasnost reform of the USSR, the movement for independence began anew in Armenia, and by 1991, Armenia succeeded from the Soviet Union and declared itself an independent Republic. The first presidential elections were held in October 1991, and Levol Ter-Petrossian, head of the Pan-Armenia National Movement (PNM), became the first popularly elected president of independent Armenia in November 1991. The country elected a Parliament, and against opposition by the ARF, the PNM won a decisive victory to claim a majority of seats in Parliament. Between 1990 and 1995 Armenia dissolved the political, legal, social, and economic relationships of the previous political system, while simultaneously creating new ones. In 1993 Armenia remained a weak state with powerful regional and family clans running much of the local administration and economy. Criminal gangs operated with impunity, corruption was rampant, and assassinations of political figures occurred on occasion. In the absence of a secure rule of law, the stresses of war and material privation, uncertainty about the future, and widespread suspicion about the legitimacy of the ruling elites destabilized the infant republic. In 1995, the second parliamentary elections and a new general referendum on a new constitution were held. According to the constitution adopted in 1995 Armenia is a presidential republic with power separated between the legislature, executive, and judicial branches of power. The constitution provides for the rule of law, separation of power, and guarantees fundamental human rights. In 1996, Ter-Petrossian was reelected to a second term. Robert Kocharian succeeded him in 1998 as president. Kocharian's election was significant since he had been president of Nagaro-Karabakh. Armenian leaders had been preoccupied by the long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karbakh, a primarily Amenian populated enclave, assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the enclave in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a cease-fire took hold, Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karbakh but also a significant portion of Azerbaijan proper. The status of Nagaro-Karabakh remains unresolved. In 1999, five terrorist gunmen opened fire on a session of parliament, killing the Prime Minister, the parliamentary speaker, and six top officials. The gunmen surrendered after assurances from Kocharian that they would receive a fair trial.
The Criminal Code of the former Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted by the Supreme Soviet in 1961. Up to the time of independence, the Criminal Code was subsequently amended in line with changes in the Soviet criminal legislation. As will be discussed below, under this preexisting code, laws differed from those in the United States, particularly in regard to treatment of women. For instance, there were no specific laws banning violence against women, against prostitution, nor prohibiting trafficking in persons. However, these codes are being revised, based upon the new constitution. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, all international laws that Armenia has ratified or acceded to, have supremacy over national ones, and are an integral part of Armenia legislation. The death penalty has been abolished under the new code for economic crimes and desertion, leaving the penalty only for premeditated murders under aggravated circumstances, as well as for military crimes committed in time of war.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
With the exception of murder, Armenia has a low rate of violent crime. In 1994, the homicide rate was 5.4 per 100,000, compared to 2.8 for assault, 0.6 for rape, and 2.9 for robbery. The rate of theft (including burglary) was 47.9 per 100,000. The U.S. State Department warns that common street crime has increased, especially at night. Generally incidents are limited to pickpocketing and other petty thefts. However, expatriates have been victims of several attacks involving knives in the last year. Robberies on board train service to Georgia are a problem. Though crime on the roads is rare, the police themselves often seek bribes at periodic checkpoints on main routes. Drug trafficking is increasingly significant in Armenia. Armenia is an illicit cultivator of cannabis, mostly for domestic consumption; however, it is increasingly used as a transshipment point for illicit drugs -mostly opium and hashish - to Western Europe and the US via Iran, Central Asia, and Russia.
TRENDS IN CRIME
Especially in the chaotic conditions that have existed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia has suffered steep increases in the gang activity of an organized mafia. Overall crime in 1991 increased 11.5 percent over 1990; then it increased 24.8 percent from 1991 to 1992. "Major" crimes (murder, robbery, armed robbery, rape, and aggravated assault) increased 3 percent from 1991 to 1992. The largest increases in that category were in murder, robbery, and armed robbery. White-collar crime (bribery and fraud) increased about 2 percent in that time, crimes by juveniles increased about 40 percent, and drug-related crimes increased 240 percent. According to one report, 80 percent of crimes committed in Armenia in 1992 were drug related. In 1992 and 1993, a police campaign temporarily limited the activity of a few large gangs, but gang leaders, whose identities were commonly known in Armenian society, used influence in parliament to stymie the efforts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Some deputies in parliament were implicated directly in white-collar crime, and some even had been convicted prior to their election. From 1991 to 1993, six convicts were sentenced to death, but by early 1994 none had been executed. Possibly as result of the anti-crime campaign, crime dropped after 1992. As result, comparing the years 1990 and 1994, the total number of offenses reported to the police in Armenia decreased from 12,110 to 9,923 (-18%). Though the total number of intentional homicides (including attempts) stayed virtually the same, assaults decreased by 70%, robbery by 71%, and rape by 38%. Related to the anti-crime campaign, the total number of persons brought into formal contact with the criminal justice system for intentional homicides increased by 91.9%. The same pattern existed for other major crimes. Formal contact increased 154.9% for robbery, 20% for rape, 200% for theft, and an astounding 4000% for drug-related crimes. Related to these increases, there were increases in the total number of people prosecuted, brought before the criminal court, and admitted to prison. The trends of the past several years are encouraging: the number of crimes registered in 1999 has decreased by 0.7% as compared with 1998. Out of all registered crimes, 67.3% were legally punitive, while heavy crime cases constituted 11.6%, which is lower by 11% than in 1998. The crimes connected with appropriation of property (27.7%) have also declined. The situation is rather alarming concerning bribery cases and the number of economic crimes has increased by 14.8% and constitutes around 6.3% of the overall crimes. While the prevalence of drug abuse has declined slightly since 1996, an increase in narcotic-related criminal activity was registered too. Compared to 1993, such crimes have increased one and half times and the amount of drugs seized has increased thirty times. Seventy percent of narcotics confiscated in Armenia is imported. The difficult socio-economic situation, temptation of making easy money from drugs in an unstable economy, coupled with yet undeveloped system of drug control made Armenia a propitious territory for drug abuse and drug-related activities. Geographically Armenia is situated on crossroads of drug trafficking from Asia to Europe and during the last 10 years has become a transit route for illicit drug trafficking, while lacking the necessary technical facilities to fully counter this problem. Into the country, drugs are brought mainly from Russia and the Ukraine (via Georgia), and Iran, by road transport. The prices of drugs in the black market in Armenia are considered the highest in the region. Among the age and the social group of drug abusers, prevail those of the age of 18-20 (47%) and the irregularly employed (60%). According to the Centre of Toxicology, the number of registered cases of drug use has increased from 610 in 1996 (66% hashish and 34% opium) to 1,438 (90% of hashish and 10% of opium) in 1998. According to the Centre, the number of drug addicts is close to 300, while the operative data of the Special Department of the Interior Ministry indicate the figure of 20,000.
All police agencies are under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Border patrols are administered by the Main Administration for the Protection of State Borders. Some of the patrols on the Iranian and Turkish borders are manned by Russian troops, whose presence is partially funded by Armenia. The rest of the border patrols are made up of Armenian troops serving under contract. In the early 1990s, growing radical opposition to the moderate domestic and foreign policies of the Ter-Petrosian government endangered internal security. By 1993 a widespread breakdown of law and order in the republic had eroded the authority of the Armenian state. Shortly after independence, a special internal security force was formed under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, whose special status in the government alarmed many observers in the ensuing years. The original mission of the internal security force was to prevent guerrilla attacks on military installations in the first months of independence. Since that time, this militia also has acted as the sole general (and nominally apolitical) police force. As originally formed, the internal affairs unit had 1,000 troops, including one assault battalion, two motorized patrol battalions, and one armored patrol battalion. Three specialized companies, including a canine unit for drug detection, also were formed. Elements of the former KGB have remained active under Armenian direction. In early 1994, Armenia completely reorganized the State Administration for National Security (SANS), the umbrella agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that heads all national security activities. All agency activities except border patrols were suspended for three months while staff were reevaluated and an announced focus on intelligence and counterintelligence was introduced. The controversial measure may have been instigated by the assassination of Marius Yuzbashian, a former chief of the Armenian branch of the KGB; SANS had failed to investigate the assassination fully when it occurred, in the fall of 1993. Experts saw a serious long-term threat to internal security in the independent mercenary Fidain forces that had been trained and expanded by Armenian political parties to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh. The end of the Karabakh war would free these combat-hardened forces, which did the bulk of the fighting in Karabakh, for possible guerrilla activity within Armenia on behalf of their respective opposition parties. Most cases of police brutality go unreported, due to fear of police retribution. Impunity remains a problem. Homosexuals complained that police physically and mentally abused them and demanded bribes; such abuse reportedly increased when homosexuals were unable to pay police. Yezidis complained that police routinely failed to respond to crimes committed against Yezidis. In April 2000, police reportedly did not intervene to prevent harassment and abuse of members of Jehovah's Witnesses by local hoodlums. A few cases of police brutality were reported after the intervention of local human rights groups. The Helsinki Association received two complaints from citizens about beatings at the police precincts in the village of Kasakh and in the Korhrdain community in Yerevan. Both petitioners agreed to file a motion to the Procurator General's office; however, one of them later refused to proceed with his case.
Arbitrary arrest and detention is a problem. Authorities continued to arrest and detain criminal suspects without legal warrants, often on the pretext that they were material witnesses. An amendment to the Criminal Code reduces the length of time the police have the right to detain suspects without official charges from 96 to 72 hours. The police frequently imprison detainees without notifying their family members. Often several days pass before family members obtained information about an arrest and the person's location. The Constitution and laws prohibit torture; however, the practice of security personnel beating pretrial detainees during arrest and interrogation remains a routine part of criminal investigations, and prosecutors rely on such confessions to secure convictions. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed extrajudical killings due to severe beatings and mistreatment in detention. However, there were no reports of government action against individuals who may have been responsible for the reported 54 deaths in custody in 1999. Security agencies often restrict access of lawyers and family members to prisoners until the preliminary investigation phase is complete, a process that can last weeks. Although the Criminal Procedure Code has entered into force, the Criminal Code remains under consideration in Parliament. A suspect may be detained for no more than 12 months pending trial, after which the suspect must be released or tried; however, this latter provision is not always enforced in practice and lengthy pretrial detention remains a problem.
The legal system of Armenia is based on a civil law system. A civil law system is based on codes enacted by the legislature and made into laws, and the judiciary has less power to shape law than it would in a common law system. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the Constitution's provisions do not insulate the courts fully from political pressure, and in practice, courts are subject to pressure from the executive and legislative branches and some judges are corrupt. Legal and constitutional provisions make judges and prosecutors dependent on the executive branch for their employment. The system, inherited from the Soviet system, views the court largely as a rubber stamp for the prosecutor and not as a defender of citizens' rights. The 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. District courts are the courts of first instance. Their judges are named by the president and confirmed by the parliament. The Supreme Court, whose chief justice is nominated by the president and elected by a simple majority of parliament, provides intermediate and final appellate review of cases. The court includes a three-member criminal chamber and a three-member civil chamber for intermediate review and an eleven-member presidium for final review. The full, thirty-two member court provides plenary appellate review. 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. The general prosecutor is nominated by the president and elected by parliament. The general prosecutor's office moves cases from lower to higher courts, oversees investigations, prosecutes federal cases, and has a broad mandate to monitor the activities of all state and legal entities and individual citizens. The general prosecutor appoints district attorneys, the chief legal officers at the district level. Prosecutors continue to greatly overshadow defense lawyers and judges during trials. 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. Approximately 55 percent of the appointed judges in 1999 had been judges under the old structure. Based on the results of this four-stage selection, 123 judges were appointed to the courts in January 1999. Judges are subject to review by the President, through the Council of Justice, after 3 years; unless they are found guilty of malfeasance, they are tenured until they reach the age of 65. The military legal system operates essentially as it did during the Soviet era. There is no military court system; trials involving military personnel take place in the civil court system and are handled by military prosecutors. Military prosecutors perform the same functions as their civilian counterparts, and operate in accordance with the Soviet-era Criminal Code. In November 1999, the Military Prosecutor was named Deputy Procurator General, and placed in charge of the investigation into the October 1999 shootings in Parliament. The Criminal Procedure Code does not allow detainees to file a complaint in court prior to trial to redress abuses committed by the Prosecutor's Office, the police, or other security forces during criminal investigations. Witnesses have no right to legal counsel during questioning while in police custody--even though failure to testify is a criminal offense--and detainees must obtain permission from the police or the Prosecutor's Office to obtain a forensic medical examination to substantiate a report of torture. Although defense lawyers may present evidence of torture in an effort to overturn improperly obtained confessions and, according to law, all such charges must be investigated, judges and prosecutors routinely ignored such complaints even when the perpetrator can be identified. All trials are public except when government secrets are at issue. Defendants are required to attend their trials unless they have been accused of a minor crime not punishable by imprisonment. Defendants have access to a lawyer of their own choosing. The court appoints an attorney for any indigent defendants who need one. However, in 2000, the local Helsinki Association conducted a survey of the courts together with the International Helsinki Federation, the International Union of Armenian Lawyers, and the Moscow Helsinki Group. According to their report, 38 percent of 50 respondents stated that they were not provided with defense attorneys during the preliminary investigation. Reportedly individuals choose to defend themselves in court because they have little respect for a defense attorney's professional skills and ethics. Defendants may confront witnesses and present evidence. The Constitution provides that those accused of crimes shall be informed of charges against them; however, the constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence is not observed in practice, and acquittals are rare once a case comes to trial. Defendants and prosecutors have the right to appeal; however, figures released by the Association of Armenian Judges showed that in 2000, three out of four appeals were turned down by higher courts.
Three major prisons are in operation, at Sovetashen, Artik, and Kosh. Local jurisdictions also have jails. All prisons and jails are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Soviet prison system remains intact in Armenia. That system includes two general categories: labor colonies, and prison communities similar to Western prisons. Prison system reforms call for establishment of general and high-security reform schools for teenagers; general and high-security prisons for women; and four grades of prisons for men, from minimum to maximum security. The death penalty is applicable for military crimes, first-degree murder, rape of a minor, treason, espionage, and terrorism.
There is no specific law banning violence against women, and few cases of rape, spousal abuse, or other violence against women are reported; however, their number likely is higher than the statistics indicate. Domestic violence cases usually are not reported to the police, and women are not protected from it. Several nongovernmental organizations exist in the Yerevan and Gyumri areas, which provide shelter and assistance to battered women. The law (the old Soviet Criminal Code) cites specific punishments for rape, forced abortion, forbidding a woman from marrying, and discrimination in hiring due to pregnancy. Prostitution is not illegal, and according to anecdotal evidence, most prostitutes stopped by police for street-walking, simply are sent to a hospital or physician for a medical check-up. Although, the Criminal Code does not forbid prostitution itself, keeping brothels is prohibited. According to an investigation conducted by journalists, more than 1,600 prostitutes were registered by the police, around 800 in the Yerevan area. A study of Yerevan prostitution done by an international NGO showed that while some operate by telephone, the vast majority are what is known as streetwalkers, with their "class" and desirability defined by the area of the city in which they operate. An international NGO reports that the problem of battered wives is much more widespread then the Government or local human rights groups will admit. Many cases are not reported to police in some cases because women are afraid of physical harm if they do so, afraid that police will refuse to take action and instead return them to their husbands, and in others because they are embarrassed to make "family matters" public. Even women's groups and health professionals decline to offer specific figures, but do not indicate that such violence is especially common. At least four cases were reported in the press of women who died as a result of domestic violence. In view of the phenomenon of Armenian women working as prostitutes in Russia and the Middle East, it is likely that trafficking in women and girls (particulary from the country) is more of a problem than the Government and women's organizations have recognized openly.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons specifically, although it does prohibit exploitation by force of persons for financial gain, and trafficking in women and girls from the country is a problem. However, specific information on trafficking is difficult to obtain and there is little information about trafficking within the country. The Criminal Code specifically prohibits the keeping of what generally are considered to be brothels. Prostitution itself is legal. Armenian women work as prostitutes in the Middle East and Russia, and in the past there have been reports of trafficking in women and girls to these countries. Young women and girls from socially vulnerable groups all over Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are the main targets of traffickers. Trafficked persons often were lured by jobs abroad offered through recruiters and informal channels, tourism firms and some media. Reportedly, there were cases when older girls from orphanages and poor families are sold to wealthy men in Dubai. An orphanage run by a religious group reports that older girls have been approached by relatives urging them to "earn their share" for the family by engaging in prostitution. Most parents and relatives are convinced; however, that they are sending such children to work in the UAE or elsewhere as models, dancers, waitresses, or domestic servants. Traffickers themselves are often ex-prostitutes or pimps who have already established "good working contacts" in the country of destination. They are well organized, have connections with local authorities and are supported and protected by criminal gangs. Most potential victims are approached by persons whom they personally know (e.g. friends of friends, relatives of relatives, neighbors, etc.), or by travel agencies. Most often, recruiters tell victims that they will be working as babysitters, waitresses, or cleaning ladies. Only a few of the victims know before departure that they will work as prostitutes, but even these do not realize that they will have their documents and money confiscated and that they will be pressured to receive numerous clients every day to maximize their employer's profits. To tighten control over their "staff" procurers threaten to burn prostitutes' passports or to inform police about their "business." While there is no specific law prohibiting trafficking in persons, traffickers may be prosecuted under different articles of the Criminal Code. For example, illicit seizure of non-property documents (passports or other personal documents), as well as use of these documents, may be punished by imprisonment up to 1 year. Police officials announced the investigation of numerous cases of procuring but said that they were unable to arrest the main offenders because they resided in the Middle East rather than in the country. There have been few cases (four to five in 1999-2000) in which traffickers were prosecuted. Some officials from the Ministry of Interior complained that courts easily acquit procurers or sentence them to only minor administrative punishment and fines. In addition, victims usually are the main witnesses and are often reluctant to come forward out of fear of violent retaliations. Reliable information on trafficking has been difficult to obtain. Some NGO's and experts insist that local police officers, border guards and customs officers are involved in trafficking by accepting bribes from traffickers in exchange for tolerating their business. According to international NGO's, the Government appears to be focusing more on prostitution within the country than on trafficking; however, the Government acknowledges the problem.
Armenia is a party to three major United Nations drug control conventions: the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances; the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Despite the scarcity of financial resources, which reduces the government's ability to implement the national program in full scale, considerable work has been done in combating illegal drug trafficking. Interested state bodies cooperate to make their actions more effective, e.g., 400 tons of drug crops (mixed) were eliminated in Armenia. Joint activities of the Interior Ministry, Ministry of Health, and the Border guards to combat illegal drug trafficking involve different spheres: the draft Law on Drug Abuse is prepared, while the draft of the new Criminal Code includes provisions stemming from the requirements of the UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988; planned improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of drug abusers will allow early and more effective warning; law enforcement bodies and the Ministry of Health cooperate to reduce the drug supply and demand to meet the 2003 and 2008 UNGASS demand reduction goals.