UPDATE: Researching the Armenian Legal System
By Lyudvik Davtyan and Pavlik Poladyan
Lyudvik Davtyan graduated from the Law Faculty of Yerevan State University (YSU) in Armenia, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees with honors. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Law (Ph.D.) by the Council at YSU in 2010. From 2011 to 2012, Lyudvik was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) as an invited professor. Lyudvik has been a member of the Chamber of Advocates of Armenia since 2012.
Pavlik Poladyan holds a B.A. and M.S. in Law (2013-2019, summa cum laude) from the University of International Economic Relations (Faculty of Law), where he has been a lecturer since 2019. Pavlik has been a member of the Chamber of Advocates since 2018․
Published May/June 2022
(Previously updated by Sergey Arakelyan and Anna Margaryan in June 2010)
Table of Contents
- 1. The Legal System of the Republic of Armenia
- 2. Sources of Law
- 3. Presidential Information
- 4. Parliamentary Information
- 5. Government Information
- 6. Local Authorities Information
- 7. Legal Education
- 8. Useful Links
1. The Legal System of the Republic of Armenia
1.1. Background Information
The Republic of Armenia (RA) is a sovereign, democratic state, based on social justice and the rule of law. In the Republic of Armenia, the power belongs to the people. The people shall exercise their power through free elections, referenda, as well as through state and local self-government bodies and officials provided for by the Constitution. Usurpation of power by any organization or individual shall be a crime.
The human being shall be the highest value in the Republic of Armenia. The inalienable dignity of the human being shall constitute the integral basis of his or her rights and freedoms. The respect for and protection of the basic rights and freedoms of the human being and the citizen shall be the duty of the public power. The public power shall be restricted by the basic rights and freedoms of the human being and the citizen as a directly applicable law.
State power shall be exercised in conformity with the Constitution and the laws, based on the separation and balance of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers. State and local self-government bodies and officials shall be entitled to perform only such actions for which they are authorised under the Constitution or laws.
1.2. Types of Legislation
The legislation system includes the following:
- Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (with amendments) (English and Russian translations are available);
- Constitutional laws;
- resolutions of the National Assembly (the Parliament) and Government;
- decrees of the President;
- acts of other governmental institutions and local municipal authorities.
Substantive branches of the Law are codified in codes:
- Administrative Procedure Code (Russian translation is available);
- Civil Code (English and Russian translations are available);
- Civil Procedure Code (English and Russian translations are available);
- Code of Administrative Violations of Law (Russian translation is available);
- Criminal Code (English and Russian translations are available);
- Criminal Procedure Code (English and Russian translations are available);
- Customs Code (English and Russian translations are available);
- Electoral Code (Russian translation is available);
- Family Code (English and Russian translations are available);
- Forest Code (Russian translation is available);
- Judicial Code (Russian translation is available);
- Labor Code (Russian translation is available);
- Land Code (Russian translation is available);
- Penal Code (Russian translation is available);
- Penitentiary Code (Russian translation is available);
- Subsoil Code (Russian translation is available);
- Tax Code (Russian translation is available);
- Water Code of the Republic of Armenia (English and Russian translations are available).
Note: The Russian-English translations mentioned in the links are not always updated in accordance with legislative changes.
The supremacy of the law is guaranteed in the Republic of Armenia. The Constitution shall have supreme legal force. Laws must comply with constitutional laws, whereas secondary regulatory legal acts must comply with constitutional laws and laws.
Laws shall take effect only after official publication. Unpublished juridical acts pertaining to human rights, freedoms, and duties shall have no juridical force. International treaties that have been ratified are a constituent part of the legal system of the Republic. If norms are provided in these treaties other than those provided by laws of the Republic, then the norms provided in the treaty shall prevail.
International treaties contradicting the Constitution may not be ratified. International treaties that contradict the Constitution may be ratified after making a corresponding amendment to the Constitution.
1.3. The Court System
In the Republic of Armenia, justice shall be administered only by courts in compliance with the Constitution and laws. Any interference with the administration of justice shall be prohibited. The Judiciary of Armenia consists of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation, courts of appeal, courts of first instance of general jurisdiction, and the Administrative Court; other specialised courts may be established in the cases provided for by law. Establishment of extraordinary courts shall be prohibited.
The justices of the Constitutional Court shall be elected by the National Assembly for a term of twelve years, by at least three-fifths of votes of the total number of Deputies. The Constitutional Court shall be composed of nine justices, of which three justices shall be elected upon the nomination of the President of the Republic, three justices upon the nomination of the Government, and three justices upon the nomination of the General Assembly of Judges. The General Assembly of Judges may nominate only judges. The same person may be elected as a justice of the Constitutional Court only once.
The Constitutional Court, as prescribed by the Law on the Constitutional Court, shall:
- determine the compliance of laws, decisions of the National Assembly, decrees and executive orders of the President of the Republic, decisions of the Government and the Prime Minister, and secondary regulatory legal acts with the Constitution;
- prior to the adoption of draft amendments to the Constitution, as well as draft legal acts put to referendum, determine the compliance thereof with the Constitution;
- prior to the ratification of an international treaty, determine the compliance of the commitments enshrined therein with the Constitution;
- settle disputes arising between constitutional bodies with respect to the constitutional powers thereof;
- settle disputes related to decisions adopted upon the results of a referendum, those of the elections of the National Assembly and President of the Republic;
- render a decision on termination of the powers of a Deputy;
- render an opinion on the existence of grounds for removing the President of the Republic from office;
- render a decision on the impossibility of exercising the powers of the President of the Republic;
- decide on the issue of subjecting a judge of the Constitutional Court to disciplinary liability;
- decide on termination of the powers of a judge of the Constitutional Court;
- decide on giving consent for initiating criminal prosecution against a judge of the Constitutional Court or depriving him or her of liberty with respect to the exercise of his or her powers;
- render a decision, in the cases prescribed by law, on suspending or prohibiting the activities of a political party.
A judge may hold office until the age of 65, while a member of the Constitutional Court may do so until the age of 70. They may be removed from office only in accordance with the Constitution and the laws. When administering justice, a judge shall be independent, impartial and act only in accordance with the Constitution and laws.
Criminal prosecution of a judge of the Constitutional Court with respect to the exercise of his or her powers may be initiated only upon the consent of the Constitutional Court. A judge of the Constitutional Court may not be deprived of liberty, with respect to the exercise of his or her powers, without the consent of the Constitutional Court, except where he or she has been caught at the time of or immediately after committing a criminal offence. In this case, deprivation of liberty may not last more than 72 hours. The Chairperson of the Constitutional Court shall be immediately notified of the deprivation of liberty of a judge of the Constitutional Court.
Criminal prosecution of a judge with respect to the exercise of his or her powers may be initiated only upon the consent of the Supreme Judicial Council. A judge may not be deprived of liberty, with respect to the exercise of his or her powers, without the consent of the Supreme Judicial Council except where he or she has been caught at the time of or immediately after committing a criminal offence. In this case, deprivation of liberty may not last more than 72 hours. The Chairperson of the Supreme Judicial Council shall be immediately notified of the deprivation of liberty of a judge. The grounds and procedure for subjecting a judge to disciplinary liability shall be prescribed by the Law on the Constitutional Court and the Judicial Code.
Under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the judiciary exercises judicial power separately from the legislative power of parliament and executive power of the prime minister. The judiciary in Armenia is exercised only by the courts through a three-tier judicial system, with the guarantor of its unrestricted implementation being the Supreme Judicial Council.
The Supreme Judicial Council of Armenia is the guarantor of the unrestricted implementation of the judicial system. It consists of five distinguished members elected by the National Assembly, as well as five experienced judges elected by the general assembly of judges who forms the representative body of the judiciary.
In the Republic of Armenia, the supreme court instance shall be the Court of Cassation, except for the field of constitutional justice. The Court of Cassation, by way of revision of judicial acts within the scope of powers prescribed by law, shall:
- ensure the uniform application of laws or other regulatory legal acts;
- eliminate the fundamental violations of human rights and freedoms.
Appellate Court is known as the Court of Appeals of the Republic of Armenia, including three types: Civil Court of Appeal, Criminal Court of Appeal, and Administrative Court of Appeal. The courts are based in the capital Yerevan, and their jurisdiction covers the entire territory of the republic.
Trial Court is known as the Courts of First Instance of General Jurisdiction of the Republic of Armenia. Currently, there are eight courts covering the 12 districts of the capital Yerevan, and nine courts throughout the other ten provinces of Armenia.
There are two types of Specialized Courts in Armenia: administrative court and bankruptcy court. The main online source (database) to search and find court cases and precedents is Datalex.
2. Sources of Law
2.1. Printed Sources
Legal acts of Armenia are officially published in the Official Bulletin of the Republic of Armenia, which is issued twice a month by the Publishing House of the Government of the Republic of Armenia. The Publishing House of the Government publishes Armenian legal documents and includes basic laws of the Republic of Armenia, decrees of the President, decisions of the National Assembly, and decisions of the Government and Prime Minister, and decisions of the Constitutional Court.
2.2. Free Internet Sources
A great amount of Armenian legal acts and other legal resources in English and Russian can be retrieved from the databases of:
- the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia – Legislation;
- the Government of the Republic of Armenia – Library;
- the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia – Legal Resources;
- the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Armenia – Legislation.
The legal acts of the Republic of Armenia in Armenian can be retrieved from the free internet databases: Laws, Irtek, Arlis, and Legislation. When searching for the translations of various legal acts of the Republic of Armenia, it is useful to open the English internet site of the relevant Ministry of the Republic of Armenia and choose the link called “Laws,” “Legislation” or “Legal Acts,” etc., where it is possible to find a list of the main legal acts.
3. Presidential Information
The President of the Republic of Armenia shall be the head of the State. The President of the Republic shall observe the compliance with the Constitution. In the course of exercising his or her powers, the President of the Republic shall be impartial and shall be guided exclusively by state-wide and nation-wide interests. The President of the Republic shall perform his or her functions through the powers prescribed by the Constitution.
The President of the Republic shall be elected for a term of seven years. Everyone having attained the age of forty, having held citizenship of only the Republic of Armenia for the preceding six years, having been permanently residing in the Republic of Armenia for the preceding six years, having the right of suffrage and having command of the Armenian language may be elected as President of the Republic. The same person may be elected as President of the Republic only once.
4. Parliamentary Information
Legislative power in the Republic of Armenia shall be vested in the National Assembly:
- The National Assembly shall be the representative body of the people.
- The National Assembly shall implement the legislative power.
- The National Assembly shall exercise supervision over the executive power, shall adopt the State Budget and perform other functions prescribed by the Constitution.
- The powers of the National Assembly shall be prescribed by the Constitution.
- The National Assembly shall operate in accordance with its Rules of Procedure.
- The National Assembly shall be composed of at least 101 Deputies.
Sittings of the National Assembly shall be public. The National Assembly shall, upon recommendation of at least one-fifth of the total number of Deputies or of the Government, hold a closed sitting upon the decision rendered by majority of votes of the total number of Deputies. Voting during a closed sitting shall be prohibited. A Deputy, a faction of the National Assembly, and the Government shall have the right to legislative initiative.
The National Assembly shall ratify, suspend, and revoke international treaties which
- concern the basic rights and freedoms of the human being and the citizen, as well as obligations thereof;
- have a political or military nature;
- envisage the membership of the Republic of Armenia to an international organisation;
- envisage financial or property-related obligations for the Republic of Armenia;
- imply, in application, amendments to a law or adoption of a new law, or include norms contradicting the law;
- directly envisage ratification;
- contain issues subject to regulation by law.
The National Assembly may, upon recommendation of the Government, adopt a law on amnesty, by majority of votes of the total number of Deputies. The National Assembly may, upon recommendation of the Government, adopt a decision on declaring war or establishing peace, by majority of votes of the total number of Deputies.
5. Government Information
Executive power in the Republic of Armenia shall be vested in the Government of the Republic of Armenia. The Government shall be composed of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, and ministers. The Government shall, based on its programme, develop and implement the domestic and foreign policies of the State. The Government shall exercise general management of the bodies of the state administration system. The powers of the Government shall be prescribed by the Constitution and laws. The matters pertaining to the executive power and not reserved to state administration bodies or other local self-government bodies shall fall under the competence of the Government.
6. Local Authorities Information
The administrative-territorial units of the Republic of Armenia shall be the marzes (regions] and the communities. Upon submission of the Government, the administrative-territorial division shall be prescribed by law. Local self-governance shall be the right and capacity of local self-government bodies to decide, under their own responsibility, on public issues of community importance — in the interests of residents of the community and in compliance with the Constitution and laws. Local self-governance shall be exercised in communities.
Local self-government bodies shall be the Council of Elders and the head of community, which shall be elected for a term of five years. Direct or indirect election of the head of community may be prescribed by the Electoral Code. In case of direct election of the head of community, the principles of electoral law prescribed by Article 7 of the Constitution shall apply.
A community shall have its own budget which shall be approved by the Council of Elders of the community upon submission of the head of community. The Government shall implement its territorial policy in marzes through marz governors. Marz governors shall be appointed and dismissed by the Government. Marz governors shall co-ordinate the activities of the territorial subdivisions of state administration bodies, except for the cases prescribed by law. The election procedure of local self-governing bodies and their powers shall be determined by the Constitution and the laws.
7. Legal Education
The main institution which trains students to work at governmental bodies, the court system, the prosecutor’s office, and other law enforcing bodies, as well as to serve in scientific and educational institutions in the field of law is the Law School of Yerevan State University.
The education of lawyers at the school is conducted in three levels: bachelor’s program (four years), master’s program (two years), and Ph.D. program (three years). Within the master’s program, students are specialized in three fields of law: constitutional law, civil law, and criminal law. There are seven departments at the School of Law: History and Theory of State and Law, Constitutional Law, Civil Law, Criminal Law, Civic Procedure, Criminal Processing and Criminalistics, and European and International Law. In the criminal investigation laboratory, students obtain practical experience.
The main subjects of study are the history of the Armenian state and law, the history of Armenian political and legal thought, theory of state and law, constitutional law, civil law, criminal law, administrative law, international law, environmental law, comparative constitutional law, civil, criminal and administrative procedure, criminology, the fundamentals of human rights, etc. Research is conducted in these fields of law, and textbooks, manuals, and course materials are published in the small printing house of the Faculty and other publishing houses.
With a view to organize the effective educational process, the Laboratory of Criminalistics, Moot Court Room, and Legal Clinic were recently established at the Faculty of Law. There are also scientific centers: the Center of European Law and Integration, the Center of Criminal-Legal and Criminological Studies, the Center of Environmental Law, and the Center of Forensic Expertise.
The faculty has computer center and electronic law library with 20 computers, as well as a reading room with new publication on different legal topics. Textbooks, manuals, course materials are published in the small printing house of the faculty. The faculty also issues The Problems of Jurisprudence quarterly, where the scientific articles of law professors and post-graduate students are published. In addition to research and teaching, faculty members actively participate in the constitutional and judicial reforms carried out in the Republic of Armenia.
The YSU Faculty of Law, as an educational and scientific institution, effectively co-operates both with local and foreign scientific centers and institutions, in particular, with the Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law of the National Academy of Sciences of the RA, the Center of Constitutional Law, the Scientific and Educational Center of the General Prosecutor's Office of RA, a number of leading law schools of Russian Federation, Europe and the USA, as well as with some authoritative international organizations, including the UN Representative Office in RA, United States Agency of International Development (USAID), American Bar Association (ABA), Open Society Institute (OSI), etc.
Student life is also very active. The Student Council and the Student Scientific Association organize various scientific-educational (seminars, conferences, competitions, meetings with high officials and famous lawyers, etc.) and cultural events. The administration of the Faculty took concrete steps to solve employment issues of the alumni. The Career Center, established and functioning with the active assistance of the ABA, provides a permanent link "student-alumnus-employer" and supports them to find an appropriate job.
The YSU School of Law Library is housed in the Law Faculty building with entry on the second level. It was founded in 1997-1998 academic year. This is the result of long-term joint efforts of the School of Law Computer Center-Electronic Library specialists, NYU Law Library, and USAID. The primary function of the Law Library is to provide the necessary services for instruction, study, and research by students, professors, other law specialists (judges, attorneys, scholars etc.), and members of the general public interested in law. The Library's primary concern is to build a modern law library and become a leading research and information center in the region using all available means of information technology.
For accomplishment of mentioned task, the Law Library provides the following services:
- Reference Service which provides users with all necessary information and assistance;
- Copiers for patrons’ use;
- Group Study Reading Room for use by the School of Law students and professors;
- Research Guides to law resources;
- Computer Lab which consists of 15 Pentium workstations with direct access to the Internet.
The YSU School of Law Library is divided into two parts: Computer Center and Book service. Computer terminals in the YSU School of Law Library Computer Center allow access to the Library of Yerevan State University free databases. For those with individual or corporate passwords, access to LEXIS and WESTLAW is also available.
Book service in the Law Library Reading Room is available for the entire collection of foreign and Armenian laws. The Reading Room collection is approximately 320 volumes and includes textbooks, laws and regulations, court reports, current issues of legal periodicals, and other important secondary sources. The Law Library's holdings number approximately 5,000 items. In addition to Armenian law materials, the Law Library houses a collection of foreign law, including codes, constitutions, official gazettes, law reports, periodicals etc.
8. Useful Links
8.1. Judicial System of Armenia
- Ministry of Defense
- Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport
- Ministry of Environment
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of High-Tech Industry
- Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
- Ministry of Economy
- Ministry of Emergency Situations
- Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure
8.2.1. Adjunct bodies
- Cadastre Committee
- Environmental Protection and Mining Inspection Body of the Republic of Armenia
- Health and labor Inspection Body of the Republic of Armenia
- Nuclear Safety Committee
- Statistics Committee
- Urban Development, Technical Standards and Fire Safety Inspectorate
- Education Inspectorate
- Food Safety Inspectorate
- Market Surveillance Inspection Body
- State Revenue Committee
- Urban Development Committee
8.3. Other Bodies of State Governance
- The Central Bank of Armenia
- Migration Service
- Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Armenia
- Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia
- Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Armenia
- National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia
- The Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Armenia
- The Public Defenders' Office of the Chamber of Advocates of RA