Armenia Needs a Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Law: EU Official
The timeframe for public and political discussions on the adoption of anti-discrimination law or a substituting legal framework remains unclear. Civil society representatives and the Justice Ministry, however, agree that appropriate awareness campaign should be carried out before the law is adopted.

The adoption of an Anti-Discrimination Law in Armenia was included in the set of obligations at the UN Universal Periodic Review. Back in 2013 the Office of the Human Rights Defender developed a bill of anti-discrimination law. The bill mainly focused on discrimination challenges job seekers have to address. It remained, though, a topic of discussions only.

Hovhannes Manukyan believes apart from developing and adopting an anti-discrimination law, it is crucial to carry out public awareness campaigns embracing the whole society. “We are not that naïve to think the law will be taken at its face value by all. We must start with working with the society parallelly and it is not necessary to wait for the law to be adopted,” said Hovhannes Manukyan.

The speakers included: Hovhannes Manukyan, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia; Dirk Lorenz, Acting Head of the EU Delegation in the Republic of Armenia; Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, CEO of EPF; and Ara Ghazaryan, lawyer.

The press conference was followed by a public presentation of two policy papers commissioned by EPF – a legal research on expediency of adoption of a stand-alone law on non-discrimination and an expert survey on perceptions of discrimination in Armenia. The press-conference and the policy papers are part of the “Towards the Adoption of Anti-discrimination Legislation in Armenia” project, supported by the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Minister stressed the importance of discerning and defining the purpose and current concerns in the process of eliminating or preventing discrimination manifestations, with the notion of tolerance being rooted in the society. “Tolerance must be achieved from both a mentality and personal perspective,” Manukyan said. The speaker added at the moment he cannot speak on the exact timeframe of discussing a bill on anti-discrimination but 2015 will be the year of studies and discussions. Manukyan described the field as an important sector where Armenia can cooperate with its European partners.

“Though we have chosen joining the Eurasian Economic Union, the cooperation with the European Union is among the priorities of the Armenian authorities,” the Minister noted.

Dirk Lorenz also emphasized the willingness to continue cooperation in the field of human rights protection. However, the EU representative said that the country should adopt a comprehensive law against discrimination. “Regardless of Armenia’s choice, integration into this or that union, the two sides are willing to continue to cooperate in the field of human rights protection. We are confident that the country should adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.”

The mentality of the society in Armenia must be changed, Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan said. “After the adoption of any law, it must be enacted. Along with the shifts in people’s minds, Armenia needs institutional reforms,” he commented.

The discussion also focused on the fact that the necessity for the adoption of the law must stem from below, from the public, as it was in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. “Armenia has time to hold public discussions, raise public awareness, which will eventually lead to the formation of a public demand,” said Isabella Sargsyan.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator

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