Armenia’s constitution provides for a republic with an elected head of state and a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly. The Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) held a majority in the National Assembly, and with President Serzh Sargsyan as leader, continued to dominate the country’s political scene. The country held a presidential election in February 2013 and legislative elections in 2012. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) described the presidential election as administered in an overall professional, open, and transparent manner with respect for fundamental freedoms but marked by shortcomings, including an uneven playing field, some serious election-day violations, and concerns about the integrity of the electoral process. Similar flaws marred the 2012 parliamentary elections, in which the OSCE also found credible allegations of vote buying, deficiencies in the complaints and appeals process, and continued shortcomings in the electoral code despite improvements. Separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other Azerbaijani territories. Largely as a result of the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, 622,892 persons remained displaced in Azerbaijan, according to the UNHCR. The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained the subject of international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, cochaired by Russia, the United States, and France. There was an increase in violence along the Line of Contact and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Military actions in July, August, and the fall resulted in the highest number of deaths in one year since the signing of the 1994 ceasefire agreement.” Authorities maintained effective control over security forces.
The most significant human rights problems during the year were systemic corruption and lack of transparency in government, the limited independence of the judiciary, and limitations on the ability of citizens to change their government. Allegations of persistent corruption at all levels of government undermined the rule of law, although the government took limited steps to punish corruption by low- and mid-level officials. Lack of transparency in government impeded the public’s ability to hold officials accountable for their actions. The executive branch continued to subject the courts to political pressure, resulting in some politically motivated prosecutions and sentencing, and the Court of Cassation exercised considerable control over judges’ decisions at all levels. There continued to be reports of vote buying and large-scale abuse of administrative resources by the ruling RPA aimed at sustaining its electoral majorities at both the national and local levels.
Other reported abuses included suspicious deaths in the military under noncombat conditions and continued hazing and other mistreatment of conscripts by officers and fellow soldiers. Perpetrators were not held accountable for such actions even though authorities made efforts to improve discipline within the armed forces, including by utilizing the country’s civilian legal system to enforce military laws and regulations and giving human rights training to officers and commanders. Police allegedly continued to employ torture to obtain confessions and reportedly beat citizens during arrest and interrogation. Many prisons were overcrowded, unsanitary, and lacking in medical services for inmates. Authorities continued to arrest and detain criminal suspects without reasonable suspicion and to detain individuals arbitrarily. Trials were often lengthy, and courts failed to enforce laws providing for fair trials. Authorities did not adequately enforce laws prohibiting government intrusion on privacy and unlawful searches. Traditional media lacked diversity of political opinion and objectivity of reporting, and there were several incidents of violence toward journalists in connection with citizens’ protests throughout the year. Government restrictions affected some minority religious groups, although most registered religious groups reported no significant legal impediments to their activities. Members of religious minorities suffered from societal discrimination. Domestic violence remained a problem but largely went unreported to authorities. A significant imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls at birth pointed to gender-biased sex selection. Human trafficking was a problem, but authorities made efforts to combat it. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in almost all areas of life. Military and prison authorities subjected lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons to abuse and discrimination; societal discrimination against them also was a problem. Society stigmatized persons living with HIV/AIDS. The government limited workers’ rights and weakly enforced labor laws.
Although the government took some steps to punish officials in the security forces and elsewhere, officials often continued to commit violations with impunity. As of year’s end, authorities did not hold anyone accountable for the 10 deaths that occurred following postelection clashes in 2008.