The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Armenia to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Armenia's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at www.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. democracy, human rights, good governance, and rule of law strategy in Armenia focuses on promoting democratic institutions and processes, political pluralism, citizens' engagement in political processes, the rule of law, government transparency and accountability, a vibrant civil society, respect for human rights, and freedom of religion. U.S. assistance also aims to improve Armenia's electoral systems, promote an independent judiciary, promote free and diverse media, strengthen parliament's institutional capacity, reduce corruption, and improve the capacity of government agencies and NGOs to combat trafficking in persons. Future implementation of the country's Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) that entered into force in September 2006 depends on progress in democratic practices and on its policy performance on MCC's "Ruling Justly" indicators. This reinforces the importance of promoting democratic and human rights reforms to underpin the broader bilateral relationship.
In response to the flawed 2008 presidential elections, the democratic backsliding that followed, and the lingering political tensions caused by these events, the United States has intensified work with civil society, independent media, local government, women and youth activists, and reformers within the government to respond to the public's demand for reform and democratization. Promoting the engagement of informed citizens in political processes and encouraging a more representative political culture are particularly critical in reversing anti-democratic trends. Through a wide array of assistance programs, the United States seeks to support government watchdogs and human rights organizations to increase accountability and transparency in the government, and to support anticorruption efforts that foster a culture of lawfulness among both the government and the governed. The United States also continues pursuing its key objective of combating trafficking in persons from, to, and within the country.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human
Rights and Democratic Governance
U.S. officials use diplomatic engagement to promote democracy and human rights-related goals with government officials, political parties, civil society, and media representatives at all levels. These messages are conveyed through local media. Key activities included pressing for due process rights for jailed political figures, activists, and citizens jailed or charged for exposing election fraud or public sector abuses, and urging greater respect for freedoms of assembly, association, and the media. The United States continues to implement its three-year democracy promotion strategy, part of which focuses on improving the integrity of the country's electoral processes leading up to parliamentary elections slated for early 2012. This includes programs to improve the accuracy of the country's national voter list and to strengthen election administration. Work with political parties has shifted to address weak party structures and platform development at the local level and greater engagement with youth and women in political and electoral processes, with the aim of getting the successor generation more engaged in grass-roots political activity and addressing the under-representation of women in elected government.
The United States continues to conduct training programs for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, and police with the aim of bringing law enforcement and judicial practices into line with international standards. These training programs have focused on a defendant's right to confront witnesses, the right to an impartial tribunal, and the use of case law. U.S. efforts in support of the Armenian criminal justice system include training for judges, prosecutors, police investigators, and defense attorneys on case law supporting the European Convention on Human Rights. Training has taken the form of a series of seminars, translation and publication of Court decisions, and development of a web page on such decisions. U.S. efforts also focused on advancing reform of the Armenian Criminal Procedure Code and Law on Advocates, supporting the adversarial use of forensic evidence, improving of sentencing legislation and practices and helping the government plan for an expanded Public Defender system that provides legal services in civil as well as criminal matters.
Given the success of long-term journalist training programs and assistance on better business practices and commercial viability, the United States shifted the emphasis of its media activities to focus on the development of alternative sources of information as well as smaller, regional media. The shift also aimed at raising awareness of the law on freedom of information among government officials, journalists, lawyers, judges, NGOs, members of parliament, and political party members. Additionally, U.S. assistance has trained journalists in international journalism standards. The United States further supports freedom of information with four American Corners that provide information about U.S. democratic institutions. To promote the rule of law and fight corruption, the United States advocates for improved anticorruption legislation that limits judicial discretion in sentencing and increases penalties for perjury, bribery, and related crimes. Senior U.S. officials also advocate for greater press freedom.
The United States provides funding to civil society groups to investigate and expose corruption in schools and the court system. U.S. assistance programs work to reduce corruption by establishing and supporting Advocacy and Action Centers in all regions of Armenia. These centers provide support to citizens to help resolve corruption-related problems, offer legal assistance, and provide a mechanism for reporting corruption and directing complaints to government agencies. In addition, the program strengthens anticorruption institutions, including the government's Human Rights Defender (ombudsman). Separately, a U.S.-funded legal socialization project has been implemented in over 150 secondary schools and is aimed at teaching students about their rights and responsibilities under the law, and radio series have been sponsored to raise awareness on human rights and combating corruption.
U.S officials promote civil society through the funding of local advocacy NGOs that pursue initiatives to promote democratic development, fair and transparent electoral processes, and political party development. To promote respect for human rights, U.S. officials maintain collaborative relations with government officials, local human rights defenders, and human rights NGOs. U.S. funding for some of these NGOs has helped to improve independent reporting of human rights abuses. Other funding has allowed for the trial monitoring of court cases of opposition members arrested for their role in protests related to the presidential elections. U.S. funding has provided training to youth on the themes of tolerance, mutual understanding, human rights, and democratic values. Additional funding has supported public awareness campaigns, training programs, and shelters for victims of domestic violence.
U.S. officials frequently discuss religious freedom problems with government and religious leaders as part of the overall policy to promote human rights. To combat human trafficking, U.S. officials meet regularly with government interlocutors and members of the international antitrafficking working group to support their efforts. U.S. officials monitor trafficking trials and propose recommendations on antitrafficking policy and funding objectives to the government, and U.S. antitrafficking assistance provides annual funding to a shelter that offers safe haven, medical, social, and legal services for trafficking victims. U.S. assistance continues to provide training for Border Guards and police on human trafficking prevention and detection efforts. Other funding supports the raising of public awareness about the forms and dangers of trafficking.