ARMENIA - Abolitionist
State of civil and political rights: Partly free
Constitution: adopted by nationwide referendum 5 July 1995; amendments adopted through a nationwide referendum 27 November 2005
Legal System: based on civil law system
Legislative System: unicameral National Assembly (Azgayin Zhoghov)
Judicial System: Constitutional Court; Court of Cassation (Appeals Court)
Religion: Armenian Apostolic 94.7%, other Christian 4%, Yezidi 1.3%
Prisoners on death row: 42 (15/112002)
International Treaties on the Death Penalty and Human Rights:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- 1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
- Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- 6th Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (concerning the abolition of the death penalty)
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances (signed only)
- Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty) (only signed)
The new Criminal Code, adopted on April 18, 2003, replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment. However, the Law on the Application of the Criminal Code retains the death penalty for murder with aggravating circumstances, terrorist acts, and rape of female minors if these crimes were committed before the entry into force of the new Criminal Code on August 1, 2003. On April 22, 2003, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe described the above developments as “partial abolition” and called for complete abolition. On September 9, 2003, the Armenian parliament ratified Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), and it entered into force on October 1, 2003. The ratification of Protocol No. 6 ensured the complete abolition of the death penalty.
The Law on the Application of the Criminal Code provides that those people who had previously been sentenced to death should have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment by a court. However, the death sentences of all 42 persons who had been on death row were commuted to life imprisonment by the president of Armenia on 1 August 2003. On January 27, 2004, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed concern over the commutation process and urged the Armenian authorities to examine each case on an individual basis. No steps have been taken in this regard.
Armenia had committed itself to abolish the death penalty when it joined the Council of Europe on January 25, 2001. The country had come under pressure from the Council of Europe, which had threatened to exclude the Armenian delegation if Yerevan did not ratify the treaty.
The Council of Europe had given Armenia until June 2003 to pass legislation abolishing capital punishment without exception - in theory a formality as there has been a moratorium on executions for over 10 years. But in Armenia, the debate over abolition was overshadowed by the events of October 27, 1999, when gunmen stormed parliament and murdered a popular prime minister, Vazgen Sarkissyan, the chamber's speaker and six other senior officials.
Seven people were put on trial for the attack in February 2001 on charges of treason, terrorism and murdering top-ranking figures. Many Armenian politicians had argued that the country should not abolish the death penalty so that these defendants could be sentenced to death. The ringleader of the group, former journalist Naini Unanian, and five others, were sentenced to life on December 2, 2003, and the seventh man got 14 years.
The death penalty was previously prescribed under the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, that stipulated: "Until such time as it is abolished, the death penalty may be prescribed for particularly grave crimes as an exceptional punishment". No executions have taken place in Armenia since 1990.
On December 19, 2016, as in previous years, Armenia co-sponsored and voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.