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Arpine Hovhannisyan sums up activities of the Ministry in 2016

22/12/2016

During a meeting with journalists at the Press Centre of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia Arpine Hovhannisyan today presented the activities carried out by the Ministry in 2016, particularly touching upon a number of reforms that had been implemented in the sector.

PROBATION SYSTEM HAS BEEN INTRODUCED

 

In May 2016, with the ratio of votes of 116 for, 0 against and 0 abstained, the Parliament adopted the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On Probation and State Probation Service" and, pursuant to the relevant decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, on 1 September 2016, the State Probation Service was established as part of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia.

The Service enforces non-custodial sentences, that is, fines, deprivation of the right to hold certain offices or to be engaged in certain activities, community service, as well as oversees persons who have benefited from conditional early release, persons to whom the punishment was conditionally not applied, as well as postponed punishments of pregnant women and women with a child under three, or on other grounds. As of 19 December 2016, 2813 convicts are registered within the State Probation Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, against whom 1783 punishments have been imposed, of which 1411 were fines, 199 — deprivation of the right to hold certain offices or to be engaged in certain activities, and 173 — community service. Oversight has been carried out for 1206 persons, of which 1135 were convicts whose punishment was conditionally not applied, 62 were the persons who have benefited from conditional early release, and 9 were persons whose punishments were postponed. In 176 personal files, there was more than one punishment or case of oversight.

 

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS IN ONE PLACE — UNIFIED OFFICES HAVE BEEN LAUNCHED

 

To make state services more accessible for citizens, unified offices have been launched in Yerevan, Garni and Gyumri in November 2016.

The purpose of the programme is to mitigate the worries of citizens and their burden of reaching the capital or the regional centres to obtain a document from a state authority.

This chain of reforms launched upon the instruction of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, will be ongoing; unified offices will be launched in the rural communities of all Marzes, making state services more accessible for the citizens of the Republic of Armenia.

The unified offices deliver services related to a number of functions of the Police of the Republic of Armenia, state registration of the rights over real estate, registration of legal entities, as well as for the provision of statements of information on no criminal conviction and registration of civil status acts.

 

FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

 

Illicit enrichment has been criminalised

Based on the amendments made to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia, liability is provided for the cases when there is an increase in the property or decrease in liabilities of an official with an obligation to submit a declaration of assets (when the property and liabilities essentially exceed the legitimate incomes of the official and are not reasonably grounded by those incomes). Imprisonment for 3-6 years, as well as deprivation of the right to be appointed to certain positions are provided for the corpus delicti illicit enrichment. According to the amendments recommended in the Criminal Procedure Code, the Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Armenia shall be the body conducting proceedings for cases of illicit enrichment.

 

Improvement of declaration process

A legislative package — adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on 28 September 2016 — has been developed, providing, respectively, administrative and criminal liabilities for a person liable for submitting a declaration who fails to submit the declaration within the established time-frame, provides incorrect or incomplete or false information in the declaration prescribed by the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On Public Service".

 

Limitation of cash flow

The draft Law "On making amendments to the Law of the Republic of Armenia ‘On Public Service’”, which sets limits on transactions in cash by persons with liability to submit property and income declaration, has been developed and was adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on 16 December 2016.

 

Expanding the scope of persons submitting declarations

(1)      The draft Law "On making amendments and supplements to the Law of the Republic of Armenia ‘On Public Service’", which expands the scope of officials with liability to submit a declaration, has been developed. The draft was submitted to the Staff of the President of the Republic of Armenia on 15 December 2016.

 

Implementation of reforms to improve the institutional system for the fight against corruption

(5)      The draft Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia "On making amendments to Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 165-N of 19 February 2015", which provides for expansion of the composition of the Anti-Corruption Council, has been developed and discussed with stakeholders. The draft will be considered during the session of the Government of the Republic of Armenia by the end of the year.

 

Creation of mechanisms for legal protection of persons reporting on corruption crimes

(6)      Provisions on guarantees for the protection of whistle-blowers, as well as on the introduction of sound mechanisms have been established within the scope of the package of draft laws on making amendments to the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On protection of whistle-blowers" and related laws.

 

Public awareness on the results of investigation of corruption crimes

(7)      The draft Law "On making supplements to the Law of the Republic of Armenia ‘On Prosecution’" has been developed and put into circulation. The draft Law provides that the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia shall publish a report on the investigation of corruption crimes on the official website of the Prosecutor General's Office by 1 March of each year.

 

Electronic governance sector

 

Electronic notification

The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia recommends placing emphasis on the mechanism for electronic notification. As citizens are currently provided with an official electronic mail along with an identification card, it is recommended to send the notifications to the electronic mails as well, as well as to introduce a system for receiving the relevant notifications via SMS messages sent to mobile phones.

The corresponding platforms of both the Police of the Republic of Armenia and the Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia are already ready, enabling the citizens of the Republic of Armenia to be notified about the bans and administrative acts via mobile phones or by other preferred means. Moreover, the citizen will be able to be notified also in another way that he or she prefers; for example, authorising other members of the family, neighbours or other persons to receive notifications sent under his or her name. It should also be noted that in order to include the phone number of a person in the database for registering SMS notifications on initiated enforcement proceedings or bans within the Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, you simply need to call 060-57-04-02 and, following the instructions of the automatic operator, dial your public service number and register. After registration, if the Service initiates an enforcement proceeding on you, you will receive an SMS message to the mobile phone number that you registered, indicating the number of the initiated enforcement proceedings, the name of the claimant (in case of a natural person — the name and surname) and the amount of the ban on your property or funds.

 

Creation of a single electronic platform for adding births and deaths interfaced to the Civil Status Acts Registration electronic governance system

(10)    The Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 1136-N of 10 November 2016 "On making amendments and supplements to Decision of the Republic of Armenia No 1156-N of 11 August 2011" has been adopted, according to which, as a result of interfacing the electronic governance systems of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Armenia, medical certificates on birth and death shall be issued by medical institutions through a single electronic system for the issuance of medical certificates. As a result of introduction of the system, the requirement for citizens to submit child birth or death certificates to the bodies of the Civil Status Acts Registration bodies will be lifted, and a single electronic system for the issuance of medical certificates on birth and death will be introduced at medical institutions, enabling automation and integration of the functions of medical staffs, as well as allowing to reduce the time required for implementation of those functions. These changes will also allow reducing the risks of making errors and typos in data when registering births or deaths, as well as discrepancies in data, etc. The introduction of the system will also exclude the differences between statistics on the data regarding born and registered children, as well as the deaths registered at medical institutions and within the bodies of Civil Status Acts Registration; this is important for both statistical and demographic purposes, as well as for the accuracy of electoral lists. The system has already been piloted at the medical institutions of Yerevan city, the Shirak, Tavush and Lori Marzes, and currently it is being introduced at the medical institutions of the Gegharkunik and Armavir Marzes. The system is expected to be fully introduced at about 400 medical institutions and operate starting from 1 January 2017.

 

Modernisation of electronic register (e-register) and electronic notary (e-notary) systems

The mentioned systems were upgraded throughout the year and interfaced with the electronic governance systems of the Police, the Real Estate Cadastre, the Passport Service and other ministries.

 

Development of electronic governance system for Penitentiary Service
(e-penitentiary)

An electronic governance system has been developed for the Penitentiary Service with the support of the European Union.

 

Creation of a single electronic register for electronic registration of licences and persons implementing activities subject to notification (e-licence)

(8)      The draft Laws "On making amendments and supplements to the Law of the Republic of Armenia ‘On licensing’", "On making amendments and supplements to the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On notification on implementing activities", as well as the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On making amendments and supplements to the Law "On state duties" have been developed and put into circulation, and the adoption of the Laws will result in the creation of a single electronic register for registration of licences and the persons implementing activities subject to notification, as well as in the reduction of corruption risks and improvement of the business climate. The relevant software is in the process of development.

 

Creation of an electronic platform for public consideration of legal acts (e-draft)

(9)      The decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 1136-N "On making amendments and supplements to Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 296 of 25 March 2010" of 2 September 2016 has been adopted, according to which a single platform was created, enabling to publish the draft legal acts developed by the ministries both on their official websites and on the integrated website of the draft legal acts run by the Ministry of Justice, providing information also for civil society representatives.

 

6. The citizen will not be deprived of his or her last residence

In December of this year, with the absolute majority of votes, the Parliament adopted the draft law on not depriving debtor-natural persons of the possibility of having the last residence. If the lot of the only apartment of the person is not sold during a compulsory auction and in case of arranging a second compulsory auction the starting price of the lot is equal to or is lower than the amount fixed by the Government, then the lot shall be removed from the compulsory auction. Unlike current regulation, upon adoption of the draft law, the debtor will have the opportunity to not be deprived of minimum housing in case of imposition of levy of execution on his or her property.

 

Reforms in the notary sector

The reforms in the sector were launched with the amendments made to the Law of the Republic of Armenia "On notary".

The proposed amendments are aimed at ensuring accessibility of notary services for citizens on the one hand, and increasing the role of the notary as an entity contributing to the administration of justice on the other.

  • Due to the stipulated legal regulations, citizens will have the opportunity to benefit from notary services more easily and quickly, and the services will be more accessible to them. In this respect, one of the innovations is the performance of notarial actions by means of electronic signature through the electronic notary system, which will exclude the cases of falsification of paper documents, increase the level of security of transactions and ensure high quality of services. As a result, citizens will be able to save time and benefit from the notarial actions and services through an electronic system in a simple and accessible manner.
  • An electronic database of powers of attorneys will be introduced, and this will help reduce the risks of falsification of powers of attorneys.
  • It is also envisaged to introduce a section for the electronic database of wills and the handling of inheritance issues within the protected domain, ensuring the safety of the inheritance process. The system has to be interfaced with the civil status acts registration database so that, in case of the death of a person and initiation of an inheritance case, it is possible to have clear information about the will.

To guarantee the rights of citizens benefiting from notarial services, unlike the current regulation, it is envisaged that the notary, irrespective of the request by the persons who paid the established fee for the given service, is obliged to assist citizens in the process of implementing notarial actions, to clarify their rights and responsibilities for exercising their rights and legitimate interests, to warn them about the implications of notarial actions so that ignorance of the law is not used against him or her, as well as to explain to the parties the meaning and significance of submitted transaction projects and to verify the compliance of their content with the actual intention of the parties.

The proposed amendments have expanded the scope of the services delivered by notaries, in particular, verification of facts of legal significance, performance endorsement, etc., due to which legal and natural persons will be able to approve this or that fact quickly without appealing to court. Moreover, the notary shall approve the fact of legal significance based exclusively on the documents submitted to him or her. If the submitted documents do not clearly express the fact in question, especially when there is a dispute over the fact, the notary is not competent to approve the fact, and the document will be subject to approval only by the court.

The institute of performance endorsement of the notary has been reinstated; in particular, to meet the requirement of the creditor to levy monetary funds or transfer the property or property rights, the notary issues a performance endorsement sheet. As a result, the notary obtains the competence to ensure execution of the contracts drafted and approved by him or her, and, in case of violation by any one of the parties, upon the requirement of the affected party, issues a relevant executive, which will be subject to compulsory enforcement.

  • The proposed amendments introduced the liability to compensate for damage caused by negligence. The amount of insurance for the liability of the notary has been increased to two-fold of the amount of the fee levied for the services provided by the notary every year, but not less than AMD 6 million. Moreover, it is envisaged to establish a reserve fund that will guarantee compensation for the damages caused to persons. This means that the damage caused by the notary will always be subject to compensation since the introduced mechanisms almost exclude the possibility of non-compensation in the absence of the required resources. By envisaging these regulations, the State guarantees full compensation of the damage caused as a result of an action carried out on behalf of the Republic of Armenia, which derives from the position expressed in the Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia No NCC-1271 of 6 May 2016.

 

PENITENTIARY SYSTEM REFORMS 

 

Modernisation of medical services at penitentiary institutions

The draft protocol decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia "On approving the concept paper on modernisation of medical services at penitentiary institutions of the Republic of Armenia" has been submitted to the Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia; the amendments proposed by the concept paper will contribute to the improvement of the institutional system and relevant legislative regulations of the sector and to the provision of human resources and logistics supply of medical units at penitentiary institutions, and consequently to ensuring exercise of the rights to healthcare of persons deprived of liberty.

 

 

Modernisation of the system of early conditional release from punishment

The updated draft laws "On making an amendment and supplements to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia", "On making amendments and supplements to the Penitentiary Code of the Republic of Armenia", "On making a supplement to the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Armenia", the updated draft Decree of the President of the Republic of Armenia "On making amendments and supplements to Decree of the President of the Republic of Armenia No PD-163-N of 31 July 2006" and the draft Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia "On repealing Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 1304-N of 24 August 2006" aimed at improving the system of early conditional release from punishment, have been developed and put into circulation.

 

Creation of a system for protection of the rights of hunger strikers

The draft Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia "On making supplements to Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 1543-N of 3 August 2006” has been developed and put into circulation; according to the Decision, it is envisaged to set a clear regulation on the conditions for keeping hunger strikers, the works that are being carried out and the peculiarities.

 

Clarification of the list of diseases considered incompatible with serving of the punishment and their criteria

The draft Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia "On making an amendment to Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 825-N of 26 May 2006" has been developed and submitted to the Staff of the Government of the Republic of Armenia; according to the Decision, the list of diseases considered incompatible with serving of the punishment and their criteria will be clarified.

Development of Penitentiary Code

The new draft Penitentiary Code of the Republic of Armenia is in the stage of development.

 

Activities targeted at social reintegration of the persons kept in confinement

Throughout the 11 months of 2016, 606 convicts were provided with relevant jobs, of which 215 were provided with unpaid jobs upon their consent.

276 convicts were engaged within amateur unions.

The right to education of 187 convicts has been exercised, of which:

  • general education — 65;
  • vocational, i.e. technical education — 114;
  • higher and post graduate education — 8.

 

Activities carried out for modernisation of the food provision sector

Unprecedented organisational and legal measures have been taken in the food provision sector, due to which the problems that the penitentiary system has faced for decades, in particular, the issue of cooking food that is in compliance with the number of convicts and prisoners and throwing it away for no reason due to their refusal to eat the food, has been resolved.

New legal criteria have been specified, according to which the list of the daily necessary food provided to the persons deprived of liberty shall contain only the number of the persons who shall be provided with food on the indicated day.

It is noteworthy that the process was launched in late 2015 and the average number of persons refusing daily food was about 200 per month, which nearly doubled throughout 2016.

In January 2016, the "Internet Store" services, introduced at penitentiary institutions at the initiative of the Service, began to fully operate, as a result of which the relatives of detained persons and convicts were provided with the opportunity of transferring parcels, deliveries and packages on-line via the official website of the Penitentiary Service (www.ced.am), without visiting penitentiary institutions.

In case of the absence of legal bans stipulated by the penitentiary legislation, goods obtained on the basis of an on-line order are transferred to the detained person or convict within one working day. For the time being, on-line store services have only been introduced within "Armavir" and "Artik" Penitentiary Institutions of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia.

Activities implemented for strengthening the transparency of official activities and preventing corruption practices

With respect to reporting to the wide circles of the public, as well as to ensuring transparency of daily activities, an unprecedented interest has been recorded on the official website of Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia (www.ced.am), ensuring the presence of about 44.000 permanent users and 301.000 visitors throughout the year 2016.

Throughout the 11 months of 2016, 484 emergency calls were received through a "Hotline" operating at the Service and processed — studies, unexpected inspections, official investigations, as well as operational control over the activities carried out by penitentiary institutions.

With the view of directly responding to the issues of public concern, 50 citizens were received by the central body of the Penitentiary Service throughout the 11 months of 2016, and the issues they raised were appropriately addressed.

The Division for Internal Security of the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia has conducted 130 examinations and official investigations throughout the 11 months of 2016, as a result of which disciplinary sanctions have been imposed on 37 officials, and 1 official has been removed from the Service.

During the same period, 171 official investigations have been conducted at 12 penitentiary institutions, as a result of which disciplinary sanctions have been imposed on 101 servants, and 1 servant has been dismissed from the Service on the ground of disciplinary violation.

With the view of preventing corruption practices at penitentiary institutions, as well as strengthening operational control, 25 unexpected inspections were conducted throughout the 11 months of 2016, as a result of which 7 official investigations were have been conducted on the ground of detected violations, and penalties have been imposed on 9 servants.

 

Activities targeted at reduction of overcrowding and improvement of living conditions

The issue of overcrowding has been completely solved at the penitentiary institutions of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, including at "Nubarashen" Penitentiary Institution as a result of full operation of the newly opened "Armavir" Penitentiary Institution (15 December 2015), increase in the capacity of its detention facility (16 February 2016), as well as implementation of legal and organisational activities aimed at defining a detention facility at "Hrazdan" Penitentiary Institution.

To improve the living conditions of the persons held in confinement, different construction works have been carried out in the residential areas of "Nubarashen", "Hospital for Convicts", "Hrazdan", "Vanadzor", "Kosh", "Artik", "Sevan" and "Vardashen" Penitentiary Institutions (cells and living areas), quarantine block, facilities for short-term and long-term visits, delivery reception room, medical units, wards, cafeterias, toilet facilities and other infrastructures throughout the 11 months of 2016.

The energy efficiency project under the agreement signed between the Penitentiary Service and the Renewable Resources and Energy Efficiency Fund of Armenia has been completed, as a result of which the issues related to lighting, heating of the rooms, water isolation of roofs, as well as proper sanitary and hygienic conditions in residential areas of detained persons and convicts at 10 penitentiary institutions have been solved (at the initiative of the Penitentiary Service, "Armavir" Penitentiary Institution was engaged in the project based on its needs).

It should be noted that within the scope of the mentioned project, solar thermal heaters have been installed at the "Kosh", "Nubarashen", "Sevan", "Vardashen", "Abovyan", "Hrazdan" and "Hospital for Convicts" Penitentiary Institutions, which will result in about 50% energy efficiency at average.

 

SECTOR OF THE JUDICIAL ACTS COMPULSORY ENFORCEMENT SERVICE

 

The brief analysis of the activities carried out by the Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia in 2016 shows that the Service has made considerable progress in the implementation of those activities.

Both the responsibility of the staff of the Service for their duties, as well as the qualitative composition of human resources, their selection, distribution, attestation and the level of training activities have improved.

In the context of sharp increase of the number of enforcement proceedings, consistent discussions on and analyses of performance of the tasks by the Service units, the process of enforcement proceedings, as well as the work of enforcement officers, as well as ongoing application of new technologies has significantly raised the level of efficiency of performance of the Service.

In the reporting year, to ensure the safety of electronic systems of the Service, a reserve server host was installed in the administrative area of Shirak regional unit of the Service in Gyumri.

To execute the assignments issued by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia № 29.6/[376539]-16 of 03 November 2016, as well as during the session of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, the system of notification of debtors via SMS was launched.

 

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