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Regression of Human Rights in Armenia’s New Draft Constitution, Lawyer Says

The chapter on human rights in the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia should be inviolable, it's [role] cannot be diminished, as proposed by the constitutional amendments project, lawyer Hayk Alumyan said Monday, August 31 during a discussion entitled “Progress or Regress? Human Rights and the Constitutional Changes.”

“Fundamental human rights and freedoms are different from all the other social norms in the respect that they are untouchable. That is, even if the 99% want to change it, to reduce [it’s role], they shouldn't have the right to. Say, 99% decide that the other 1% should be exiled from Armenia, or the 1% should be deprived of their property, they should not be able to do so,” Alumyan said.

The right to property, as stated by Alumyan, is an example of regression in the proposed draft of the new Constitution. Under the current Constitution, the lawyer said, a person can only be deprived of his/her property with a Court decision. Meanwhile, according to the proposed amendments, deprivation of property will be made possible without a Court ruling; however, the person will later be able to appeal the decision in court.

“I see clear regression in the Article on evidence. The current Constitution says that the use of illegally obtained evidence is prohibited. The draft, however, states the use of illegally obtained evidence is only prohibited in cases where the evidence has been obtained as a result of violations of fundamental human rights or the right to fair trial. 

“Under the current Constitution, for example, a person cannot be held for questioning for more than 4 hours. Say, a person has been questioned for 8 hours and has confessed [to a crime]. The current Constitution does not allow the use of this evidence; however, under the proposed draft, to ensure that this testimony is not used as evidence, I, as a lawyer, will have to prove that an 8-hour interrogation is a violation of fundamental human rights, which I will never be able to do,” Alumyan observed. 

Another participant of the discussion, Head of HCA Vanadzor office, human rights activist Artur Sakunts said the draft Constitution violates the secularism principles of state neutrality regarding 
religious practice.

“In the proposed draft, the Armenian Apostolic Church is given exclusive meaning in matters of spiritual development of Armenian people. The current Constitution stipulates the role of the church from a historical perspective. The [newly proposed] Constitution hands my right to freedom of thought, conscience over to the Armenian Apostolic Church – a religious organization,” the human rights activist said.