The conduct of the trials that took place in the aftermath of the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan reveals shortcomings in Armenia's justice system, concludes a report published today by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The 114-page report, based on the monitoring of 93 criminal cases during a 16-month period, offers detailed recommendations on how to address the identified shortcomings.
"The trials took place amid high tensions, which made the work of courts extraordinarily difficult and at the same time raised the bar for their professional performance to the highest levels," said Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, ODIHR's director.
"We hope that this report can give new impetus to the ongoing efforts by the Armenian authorities to reform the country's justice system in line with international standards and OSCE commitments."
The violent clashes that erupted in Yerevan on 1-2 March 2008 between the police and protesters demonstrating against the conduct of the February 2008 presidential election resulted in at least eight deaths and numerous injuries.
Between April 2008 and July 2009, 37 ODIHR monitors observed the trials of the individuals charged in connection with the clashes.
The report's recommendations include limiting the use of pre-trial detention and upholding the presumption of innocence. It also recommends measures to ensure equality between prosecution and defence in court and comprehensive investigations into all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment in order to eliminate the use of evidence obtained through illegal means. It says judges would benefit from further training to enhance impartiality and professional conduct.
"The OSCE stands ready to assist the authorities in further advancing justice reform in Armenia," said Lenarcic.
"We are encouraged by the open attitude we have encountered during the trial monitoring project and value the authorities' input in the process of preparing the final report. It appears that some steps are already being taken to address the identified shortcomings."
The full report is available at: www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2010/03/42944_en.pdf