COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD REVIEWS REPORTS OF ARMENIA
30 May 2013
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic report of Armenia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also reviewed the two initial reports of Armenia on the Optional Protocols to the Convention: on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia, introducing the reports, said that Armenia had adopted in 2012 the new strategic plan in the area of the protection of the child for the period 2013 to 2016. A number of legislative proposals, aimed at establishing a system for the separation of juveniles, were being discussed by Parliament. Parliament was also considering several other legislative initiatives and amendments, including on juvenile justice, reproductive health, minimum age of marriage and corporal punishment.
Committee Experts commended Armenia for the progress made in the integration of its international obligations into domestic legislation. Experts inquired about Armenia’s budgetary allocations for education, health care, family benefits and children; and about children’s access to the Office of the Human Rights Defender. Experts raised concerns about the practice of early marriage for children as young as 14 and about the practice of corporal punishment, which was not expressly prohibited. Other questions addressed gender discrimination and disparities in access to health between rural and urban areas.
During the discussion on the report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the delegation of Armenia said that the Office of the Human Right Defender counted with a special division responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention and other provisions aimed at protecting children’s rights; it also monitored the rights and situation of children in closed institutions and in alternative care institutions, and received and acted upon complaints. Budgetary allocations for social protection sectors, including health care, had dropped over the past years, principally due to declining birth rates, but services for children and mothers had not suffered and had seen an increased allocation of resources despite the economic crisis.
Concerning the involvement of children in armed conflict, Experts expressed concern about the application and dissemination of the provisions of this Optional Protocol among all relevant actors, and about the situation of children attending military schools. Other issues raised during the discussion included the legal prohibition of enrolment of children below the age of 18 in the armed forces, including by non-State actors; systems for the identification, reintegration and rehabilitation of children involved in armed conflict; and the protection of children testifying in cases of a military nature.
The delegation stressed that persons under the age of 18 could not be conscripted, could not join the armed forces voluntarily, and could not be admitted in military academies. Sports and military schools were under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and they followed the general high school curriculum, including human rights education and specialized classes.
Concerning the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Committee inquired about existing measures to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children and to prevent instances of corruption in international adoptions; about institutions that had been established in this regard; and whether the sale of children for adoption and the possession of child pornography materials were criminalized. The Committee also noted with concern that children involved in prostitution were still regarded as criminal offenders rather than victims.
The delegation indicated that Armenia had established an Interagency Working Group to address the situation of homeless persons and street children and was making progress in the reduction of the number of children involved in begging. While in accordance with existing regulations children over the age of 16 engaging in prostitution could receive administrative fines, in practice, they were treated as victims. A fully fledged victim protection mechanism was emerging in Armenia, but there were provisions to ensure the protection of victims during legal procedures.
Bernard Gastaud, Committee Expert and the Rapporteur for the Report of Armenia under the Convention, in closing remarks, said that the commitment of Armenia to apply the Convention more rigorously was duly noted. However, Mr. Gastaud reiterated some concerns about the accuracy of the information provided and some ambiguous answers on questions relevant for the rights of children in Armenia.
Also in concluding remarks, Jorge Cardona Llorens, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Reports of Armenia under the two Optional Protocols to the Convention, said that the Committee would come up with recommendations to ensure that children in Armenia felt safer and more protected from the negative practices outlined in the two Optional Protocols.
Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia, said that the dialogue with the Committee had been very useful for a better understanding of the challenges and obligations under the Convention and its two the Optional Protocols. Mr. Kirakosyan reiterated Armenia’s readiness to provide written responses to the outstanding questions in order to facilitate the preparation of the Committee’s concluding observations.
Kirsten Sandberg, the Committee’s Chairperson, thanked Armenia for a constructive dialogue and hoped that the debate would also prove fruitful for the children of Armenia and their rights.
The delegation of Armenia consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Police of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defense, National Assembly and the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will meet in public this afternoon, at 3 p.m., to begin its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic report of Rwanda on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/RWA/3-4). On Friday, 31st May 2013, the Committee will review the initial reports of Rwanda on the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the rights of the child: on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/RWA/1), and on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/RWA/1).
The combined third and fourth periodic report of Armenia on the Convention of the Rights of the Child can be found here: (CRC/C/ARM/3-4); its initial report on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography is available here: (CRC/C/ARM/OPSC/1); and its initial report on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict can be found here: (CRC/C/ARM/OPAC/1).
Statements by the Delegation
YEGHISHE KIRAKOSYAN, Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia, said that in 2012 Armenia had adopted a new strategic plan in the area of protection of the child, for the period 2013 to 2016, which aimed at implementing the recommendations received by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. This strategic plan contained several pillars, including: social protection, health care, education, culture and juvenile justice. In the area of health, following the recommendations issued by the Committee, Armenia had been successful in establishing pre- and post-natal services and budgetary support for hospitals to provide these services free of charge.
Concerning juvenile justice, the Criminal Procedures Code did not contain specific provisions on juveniles. The Government was currently working with the United Nations Children Fund in order to outline the specific characteristics and rights of juveniles that should be taken into account in criminal cases. A number of legislative proposals for the separation of juveniles in detention were being discussed by the Parliament. The Parliament was also considering several other legislative initiatives, including on child nutrition, a draft on reproductive health, social benefits for mothers of three or more children, minimum age of marriage, and amendments to the Criminal Code which included definitions of torture and corporal punishment.
Examination of the Report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Questions by Committee Experts
BERNARD GASTAUD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Armenia, noted that children represented about one third of Armenia’s population and that was why the implementation of the Convention was essential. The Rapporteur commended Armenia for the progress made in the integration of its international obligations under the Convention and its two Optional Protocols. Mr. Gastaud inquired about the state of play concerning the third Optional Protocol and a number of other international instruments ratified by Armenia. The Country Rapporteur raised several issues of concern, including the participation of non-governmental organizations, particularly those active in the area of children’s rights, in the drafting of the report; the reform of the Family Code; and asked whether there were any plans for a comprehensive law that would include all the provisions related to the rights of the child.
The entirety of the Convention and its provisions was still missing from the curricula of relevant professions, such as educators and social workers. There were also concerns about ongoing practices of early marriage for children as young as 14, what measures had been adopted to address these practices and to prosecute and convict perpetrators? The teaching of dominant religions continued in schools and seemed to be obligatory for all, what was Armenia doing to ensure the exercise of freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens?
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Country Co-Rapporteur for Armenia, asked about the Human Rights Procurator Act of 2004, the resources provided to the office of the Ombudsman, and concerning efforts to ensure children’s access to this institution. What efforts were being made to ensure that all children in Armenia, particularly minority children and those born at home, had access to social and family benefits? Corporal punishment was not explicitly prohibited in Armenia’s legislation and was reportedly practiced in closed or partially closed institutions; how were these institutions monitored to ensure that corporal punishment did not occur?
Committee Experts raised questions about cooperation with civil society organizations in efforts of dissemination, awareness-raising, and in the training of professionals, concerning the provisions of the Convention. Another Expert asked about the competences, structure and number of staff working on children issues at the Office of the Ombudsman. What mechanisms were in place to ensure that this institution received complaints from children? Concerning the rules and regulations on nationality, one of the Experts noted that parents who obtained Armenian nationality could pass it to their children under 14 years of age, why had the limit been set at this age?
Additional questions addressed the limited functioning of the Youth Parliament, inquired about efforts and measures to ensure children’s access to information and the need to train professionals in this regard. Other questions referred to cases in which the Convention was being invoked by judges and asked how judges were interpreting legal provisions regarding the best interest of the child; budgetary allocations for education, health care, family benefits and children in institutions, and whether there were initiatives to increase allocations for areas concerning children’s rights; and the state of play concerning the codes on the Protection of Children and on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities.
The Committee was rather concerned about pervasive gender discrimination in the Armenia and asked the delegation about the content of its policy, strategy and legislation in order to better understand how those deep-rooted practices were being combated.
Response by Delegation
The Government of Armenia would soon consider the ratification of the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ratification procedure of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was nearing completion, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been ratified. Concerning the preparation of reports under human rights treaty bodies, the common approach included the discussion of a draft report with non-governmental organizations.
In 2011, a special division for children’s rights had been established at the Office of the Human Right Defender and it aimed at the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Right of the Child and international best practices for the protection of children’s rights. The division was also monitoring the rights and situation of children in closed institutions and in alternative care institutions in its capacity as the national preventive mechanism. The division was staffed with one focal person and counted with the services of a psychologist working for the Office. The budget of the Office had been considerably increased over the past years, and the draft national action plan for human rights also envisaged an increase in the capacity and resources of the Office of the Human Right Defender. The law on human rights defenders granted all persons access the Office, regardless of age, including children. Regional offices were being opened in order to bring the Ombudsman’s services closer to the people and to make them more accessible to children.
Legislative and institutional measures had been taken to improve the status of women in society and discrimination against women. A law on equal rights and opportunities for women and men had passed its third reading and was now waiting for Presidential approval. The law constituted the key regulation to ensure that men and women enjoyed fundamental rights, including balanced participation in the political and public spheres and the prevention of violence. The national machinery for gender equality had been established but was experiencing some problems. A Women’s Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, had been established and monitored the gender equality machinery, the implementation of the law, and equality between men and women. Concrete measures to ensure gender equality and the implementation of women’s rights included the introduction of quotas for the participation of women in public and political life, as well as training programmes to prepare women for participation.
Budgetary allocations for social protection, including health care, had dropped over the past years, due to the declining birth rates and per capita allocations. However, services for children and mothers had not suffered but had seen an increase in the allocation of resources despite the economic crisis. Legislation on children’s rights and on health guaranteed the right to information concerning children’s medical care and parental consent was required, except in case of emergency. The law on reproductive health established adolescents’ right to information and to receive medical care. Progress had also been made in the reduction of the number of children without birth certificates by half.
A specialised institute provided continuous training for professionals in the area of children’s rights and protection, and the provisions of the Convention were included in the curriculum. In 2013, the Government had decided to introduce an integrated system, including a case management approach, which had had important implications to the family services. Particular attention was being paid to the provision of additional training for social workers who would soon perform duties as officers in cases involving children.
Armenia recognised the obligation to protect children from all forms of violence and its legislation including provisions for the protection of children from violence, cruelty and deprivation. This was particularly important considering that 41 per cent of children in Armenia lived in poverty and the Government was aware of the need to focus on poverty eradication. The Government was working towards the formal prohibition of corporal punishment and hoped that appropriate articles would be included in the Family Code soon. Instruments for the prevention of violence had already been included in national legislation, but sanctions for corporal punishment were not specifically included in the Family Code. Armenia was now in the process of strengthening these instruments to prevent and combat violence, including domestic violence and corporal punishment. Structural changes had been introduced in the police force and a new department had been created to combat juvenile delinquency and the prevention of violence against minors. There had been 120 cases of violence against children registered in 2012, which included both physical and sexual violence.
Questions by Experts
BERNARD GASTAUD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Armenia, addressed the issue adolescents’ health and asked about measures to assist those with substance abuse problems, obesity and measures to reduce teenagers’ suicide rates. School drop out rates were rather high, particularly for girls and in rural settings; what measures were in place to ensure the right of children to education and to raise awareness among parents? Concerning provisions for juveniles in the justice system, Mr. Gastaud asked the delegation to explain how a minor committing an offence or crime would be judged and whether there were specialised juvenile judges in all courts in the country. What provisions would be introduced in the Criminal Code to punish juveniles, such as a system of alternative care, pre-trial detention, measures to reduce excessive duration of detention and to ensure the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders?
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Country Co-Rapporteur for Armenia, noted the efforts to ensure community-based services for families in need and said that there were some conceptual issues that still needed to be clarified in existing policies and legislation. For example, who was considered as a child without parental care? Concerning the introduction in 2005 of a three-tier child protection system, had it help improve the status of children without parental care and, if not, was a revision of the system being planned? Parents could keep their parental rights even in cases of abandonment, which sometimes obstructed finding the best possible alternative care for the child. In this context, whose best interests prevailed, the parents’ or the children’s? There remained significant disparities between rural and urban areas concerning access to health; what efforts were in place to ensure that pre-natal services reached rural areas as well? Could the delegation comment on the situation of refugee children, in particular regarding the need to ensure that their travel documents were recognized?
Concerning the situation of children with disabilities, one of the Committee Experts identified significant cultural obstacles to the full enjoyment of their rights: disability was considered as a form of punishment, many children remained in closed institutions, the data and statistics on children with disabilities were not adequate, and many children did not receive any form of education. The delegation was asked to explain efforts and measures to ensure that the education system was truly inclusive; and about monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the best interests of children with disabilities were taken into account when legal decisions were made.
Another Expert noted that many children without parental care were still called orphans and asked whether the United Nations Guidelines on Alternative Care of Children were being widely disseminated in the country. The Expert further inquired about the system for monitoring the wellbeing of adopted children, both at home and abroad, and whether children abused by their parents could access medical and health services, considering that parental consent was required.
Experts also addressed the new phenomenon of mixed marriages and inquired about measures undertaken to prevent illicit transfers of children by one of the parents and to ensure the right of the child to keep contact with both parents. In general, legislation was aligned with the Convention and the International Labour Organization Convention on minimum age for work, there remained challenges to their application in practice. How were labour standards prohibiting the economic exploitation of children being applied? What plans were in place to limit the use of infant formula, to monitor hospital practices in encouraging breastfeeding, and to prevent HIV transmission among adolescents, particularly through the sharing of needles? Did school’s curriculum include human rights education?
Response by Delegation
The right of children to express their opinions was included in the provisions of the Family Code, which established the right of children over 10 years of age to be heard in matters concerning them. The real application of these provisions fell under the purview of judicial practice and judges were obliged to take them into account. The Constitution and the law on self-managing bodies had provided the right of children to participate in councils of elders and to express their opinion. An amendment to the Family Code, adopted in April 2013, increased the minimum age of marriage for girls from 17 to 18 years in order to align it with that for men. Legislation also established that citizenship obtained by parents was automatically transferred to their child; consent was needed for the transfer of children aged 14 to 18 to take place. Armenia was a State Party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and a well functioning system of coordination between several bodies in order to prevent illicit transfer of children from the country.
Schools needed to fulfil the required criteria in order to obtain status of inclusive education and the Government was extending the reach of these educational institutions. Parents of children with disabilities were responsible for the decision whether their children would attend inclusive of special needs schools. The Government was working with the United Nations Children Fund to reorganize its educational system and the needs of children with disabilities would be taken into account. Funding for pre-school education had not been considered a priority by the State until recently and had been the responsibility of local communities. At the moment, the State was providing funding for pre-school education in communities that were unable to finance it themselves. The Government intended to increase the allocation of resources for education to four per cent of the gross domestic product by 2015; though at the moment it looked unlikely that this target would be met, Armenia remained committed to reaching it.
Religion was taught in schools as part of the history curricula and not as religious teaching. Children were taught about the culture of civilizations and the history of world religions, and priests were not teaching these classes but were invited to provide information. School completion rates were higher for girls than for boys, particularly those in primary education. In part, school drop-out rates were explained by the number of children moving abroad with their parents, recorded in statistics as drop outs. A number of children started working and dropped out of school during the transition from obligatory primary education to secondary education.
The health of children and adolescents was one of the most important priorities in Armenia and several important strategic plans had been adopted in this regard. The assistance of United Nations Children Fund was indispensable for reducing child and maternal mortality. The global tobacco survey showed that more than 20 per cent of adolescents above the age of 16 smoked. Statistics also showed that drug abuse by adolescents was increasing, although they represented isolated cases. The Ministry of Health had established a group of experts to develop a national strategy to promote a healthy lifestyle. After the 1990s, maternal mortality rates had been cut in half and, if more resources were available, the goals for the decade would be achieved. One in five children in Armenia experienced growth problems due to malnutrition and the lack of essential nutrients. Legislation prohibiting the advertising of infant formula and the promotion of breastfeeding had been recently adopted.
The minimum age of criminal responsibility was set at 16 years, and at 14 years for serious crimes. The Criminal Code did not contain specific provisions for interrogation and investigation of juveniles, although separate cells existed for those in detention. A new draft Criminal Procedures Code, currently before Parliament, introduced specialized procedures for juveniles, including the involvement of specialists. Every year, some 400 juveniles under the age of 14 committed crimes, but only 15 of them were kept imprisoned while others remained with their families; and, for a period of one year preventive work was implemented, including visits to rehabilitation centres. Serious and grave crimes were the only offenses for which juveniles could be imprisoned.
While there was no specific juvenile justice system, specific procedures referring to juveniles did exist, for example concerning the involvement of a pedagogue in the procedure. Regarding the support to children victims of violence, there was a centre for orientation run by non-governmental organizations. Similarly, a free hotline for children to report violence and request assistance was available 24 hours. An expert group had been established in 2012 with the assistance of the United Nations Children Fund and had developed six modules on juvenile justice, which were now taught at the Police Academy.
Despite the difficult financial situation in the country, social programmes were in place for children and resources had not been cut back. The Social Programme for Family Allowances had been in place since 1999 and was the largest social programme in the country; some 100,000 families benefited from family allowances provided by the programme to support their living standards. This targeted support also included allowances for each child. In addition, there were other social programmes providing assistance to meet children’s basic needs. There were six orphanages in the country, three for healthy children and three for ill children requiring ongoing treatment and care. Alternative care was being organized for healthy children and 80 per cent of children in orphanages were children with disabilities.
Armenia had stopped using terms ‘orphan’, which had also been removed from the legislation and was moving towards alternative care of children, their removal from institutions and placement with foster families. Armenian society had seen a positive change over the past ten years concerning children with disabilities, in which the support of the State had played an important role. Armenia was constantly improving its legislation and procedures on adoption.
Concluding Remarks on the Convention on the Rights of the Child
BERNARD GASTAUD, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Armenia, summarising the dialogue, said that there remained some concerns about the accuracy of the information provided and some ambiguous answers regarding questions relevant to children’s rights in Armenia. The Committee took note of Armenia’s commitment to apply the Convention more rigorously and its compliance with its provisions would be assessed by the Committee during the consideration of the next periodic report.
Examination of the Reports under the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Questions by Experts on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
SARA DE JESÚS OVIEDO FIERRO, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for the Report of Armenia under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, said that the Committee was concerned about the application of this protocol and the dissemination of its provisions among all relevant actors. Ms. Fierro inquired about military training, particularly with regard to minors enrolled in military schools. What monitoring systems were in place to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol and what institution was in charge of sounding alarm in case of violations?
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Report of Armenia under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, said that luckily there was no armed conflict in Armenia, regardless of the situation in Nagorny Karabakh, and added that the Committee was concerned about the situation of military schools. A significant proportion of children attending those schools came from poor families or lacked parental protection, and they were subjected to a system which was very similar to military discipline. Schools also accepted children aged 16, did this mean that, in case of emergency, those children could participate in armed conflict or could be enlisted in the armed forces. How did Armenia identify children involved in armed conflict?
Experts asked about legislation that expressly prohibited the enrolment of children in the armed forces before the age of 18, including by non-State actors; about systems for the identification, reintegration and rehabilitation of children involved in armed conflict. Experts also asked for an explanation regarding the lack of data and difficulties in finding information despite the fact that data was being collected in the country. Other questions addressed the issue of protection for children who had to testify in cases of a military nature.
Questions by Experts on the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
SARA DE JESÚS OVIEDO FIERRO, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for the Report of Armenia under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, asked about efforts to ensure the dissemination of the provisions of the Optional Protocol, particularly among children and adolescents. What measures had been undertaken to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation and involvement of children and adolescents in pornography. Furthermore, what institutions and services had been established for the protection of children? The delegation was also asked to clarify how these institutions and services were funded; how was comprehensive protection ensured; and what form of cooperation was in place with non-governmental organizations and families to support children who had been victims of sale, child prostitution and child pornography.
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Report of Armenia under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said that data was particularly vital for this Optional Protocol and noted that cases of sexual exploitation and prostitution of children identified by alternative sources were much more numerous than in the statistics provided by the Government. Where did the data come from and how had these data and statistics been collected regarding street begging and vagrancy? The Rapporteur also asked whether the sale of children for adoption and possession of child pornography materials were criminalized, and whether Armenia had adopted measures to prevent instances of corruption in cases of international adoption. Prostitution was decriminalized in the country, but there were administrative fines for children involved in prostitution, indicating that Armenia still considered those children as offenders and not as victims.
Response by Delegation
Conscription was not allowed below the age of 18, including voluntary admission to armed forces. Admission to the military academies used to be set at the age of 17 but following the recent amendments to the law on education, the duration of high school education was extended to the age of 18; this had ensured that all applicants to military academies were 18 years of age. Military schools were under the Ministry of Education and Science, rather than under the Ministry of Defence; their aim was to ensure that students were in good physical shape and prepared for admission to military academy and they did not provide any military training.
The education system in Armenia included three types of high schools: gymnasiums, schools for children with disabilities, and specialised schools focused on specific areas. Military educational establishments, or sports and military schools, also belonged to this third category; they followed a general high school curriculum and had additional classes from certain areas. Preliminary military education was taught in all high schools in Armenia and its objective was to teach students civil defence and first aid skills. Human rights was a compulsory part of the high school curriculum, including in sports and military schools. Students also took an additional subject called rights of soldiers, where they learned about the duties, rights and obligations of members of the armed forces.
In accordance with its international obligations, Armenia refrained from trade in ammunition and armament that infringed on the interests of other States and violated the human rights and the rights of children. Armenia recognized that the accumulation of small arms was a contributing factor in the growing number of armed conflicts and fully accepted its obligations related to the regulation of trade in small arms and light weapons. Armenia’s domestic legal framework contained provisions concerning extradition and Armenia was a party to several international instruments on this issue. Armenia was also a party to bilateral treaties and, in principle, did not extradite its citizens unless provided for under such treaties. The Criminal Code recognized the possibility of extradition of Armenian citizens or foreign residents who committed crimes in the territory of other States; and the principle of dual criminality applied to extradition except in case of grave crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes as provided for in international treaties ratified by Armenia.
Questions by Experts
Committee Experts inquired about data and records documenting the sale of children and for additional clarification concerning the system of prevention. Sexual violence and exploitation found strong foundations in a patriarchal and male-oriented mindset where women and girls were treated as objects and not as holders of rights. In this context, what special programmes were in place to raise awareness about the Optional Protocol and about measures to increase the effectiveness of the fight against sexual violence against children and girls? Laws defined statutory rape as a sexual act with a person under the age of 16, which was punishable by a fine and imprisonment up to two years; why was the age limit set at 16 and were prescribed sanctions commensurate with such crimes? The high-profile case of paedophilia involving a former advisor to the Prime Minister, Mr. Der-Boghossian, constituted an opportunity to test the legal framework of the country, what loopholes existed in the legislation, particularly in relation to this case?
Response by Delegation
Armenia was making progress in reducing number of children involved in begging, which had been possible through the cooperation among different ministries and with non-governmental organizations. An Interagency Working Group had been established to address the situation of homeless persons and street children. Almost all cases of prostitution involved young women rather than underage girls; those women were punished in accordance to the Criminal Code. Children involved in prostitution, violence, and sexual acts were treated as victims and received protective and rehabilitative services through specialized centres.
Children over 16 years of age engaging in prostitution were liable to receive administrative fines in accordance to existing regulations; however, this was currently under the discussion and, in practice, these children were treated as victims. Child pornography, including possession, was criminalized. The police counted with a specialized unit to detect and investigate cases of child pornography, and a department in charge of child trafficking. The police was also working on the prevention of traffic in organs and compulsory work.
Responding to the question by the Co-Rapporteur concerning the sources of data and statistic contained in the report, which did not match those from alternative sources; the delegation said that Armenia had a very good cooperation with the media and non-governmental organizations in all questions relating to children. The national police was responsible for data collection and statistics, in coordination with a national committee.
The high-profile case of paedophilia had indeed tested the judicial system; following this and other cases of sexual abuse or violence by officials, it had been proven that the laws had been applied. All those cases had been negatively perceived by the public. In relation to the crime of rape, a victim under the age of 14 constituted an aggravating circumstance and punishments were more severe. A fully fledged victim protection mechanism was emerging in Armenia, but there were provisions to ensure the protection of victims during legal procedures. The Criminal Code had been amended in 2003 and aligned with international provisions concerning trafficking in persons; and a support system for victims of trafficking had been established.
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Reports of Armenia under the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict, thanked Armenia’s delegation for the efforts made to answer the questions and to provide the necessary information to respond to the doubts voiced by the Committee. Several questions remained pending given the limited time available, such as those concerning the identification of children coming from armed conflict or measures to disseminate the provisions of the Optional Protocols. The Committee would come up with recommendations to ensure that the children of Armenia felt safer and more protected from the negative practices outlined in the two Optional Protocols.
YEGHISHE KIRAKOSYAN, Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia, said that the dialogue with the Committee had been very useful for a better understanding the challenges and obligations under the Convention and its two Optional Protocols. Armenia was ready to provide written responses to the outstanding questions in order to facilitate the preparation of the Committee’s concluding observations. Mr. Kirakosyan stressed that the Convention was a part of the national legislative framework and said that there were court cases in which provisions of the Convention were invoked. Armenia was in the process of establishing a Justice Academy which would be operational in 2014 and its curriculum would include international treaties and would facilitate their direct application in court.
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Chairperson, thanked Armenia for a constructive dialogue and hoped that it would also prove fruitful for the children of Armenia and their rights.
For use of the information media; not an official record