Venice Commission’s opinion on the Draft Constitutional Law on the Human Rights Defender in Armenia

The Council of Europe’s constitutional law experts, the Venice Commission, at its latest session on 9-10 December, have adopted the Opinion on the Draft Constitutional Law on the Human Rights Defender in Armenia.

“The draft constitutional law, like the previous draft law on the Human Rights Defender, largely complies with European and international standards, is detailed, well-structured and deals with most of the major issues that a law on the Ombudsman should regulate. It has taken most of the recommendations made by the Venice Commission in its previous opinions into account,” the Venice Commission concluded.

Nevertheless, the Commission said there are a number of important recommendations it would like to make and these include, inter alia:

– Candidates: providing for a transparent competitive selection of the Human Rights Defender, include proposals from civil society and from political parties in order to enable the selection of highly qualified candidates so as to provide legitimacy to the process;

– Functional Immunity: including express provisions on the functional immunity of the Defender, Defender’s staff and experts of the NPM for words spoken or written, recommendations, decisions and other acts undertaken in good faith while performing their functions.

– The Human Rights Defender as the National Prevention Mechanism should: ·

* Have access to all private and public institutions where persons are held against their will, including “semi-closed” institutions; ·

* Guarantee the institutional participation of NGOs in its work.

Other recommendations include:

– Budget: Consider introducing safeguards against unwarranted cutbacks to improve the Defender’s functional independence;

– Grounds for dismissal: a disqualifying conviction should, as grounds for dismissal due to criminal offences or other acts incompatible with the position of Defender, exclude minor convictions (e.g. minor traffic offences);

– Pluralism: including gender balance and diversity provisions pertaining to Defender’s staff at all levels;

– Regional presence: Consider introducing a regional presence of the Human Rights Defender or regional ombudspersons in order to provide effective accessibility to human rights protection across the country.

The Venice Commission said it remains at the disposal of the Armenian authorities for any further assistance they may need on the legal framework pertaining to the Human Rights Defender of Armenia.

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