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EPIC --- Privacy and Human Rights Report

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EPIC --- Privacy and Human Rights Report 2006

Title Page Previous Next Contents | Country Reports >Republic of Armenia

Republic of Armenia

Constitutional Privacy Framework

The Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (RA) was amended by referendum on November 27, 2005. According to article 23 of the Constitution of RA:

Everyone shall have the right to respect for his private and family life.

The collection, maintenance, use or dissemination of any information about the person other than that stipulated by the law without the person’s consent shall be prohibited. The use and dissemination of information relating to the person for purposes contravening the aims of their collection or not provided for by the law shall be prohibited.

Everyone shall have the right to become acquainted with the data concerning him/her available in the state and local self-government bodies.

Everyone shall have the right to correction of any non-verified information and elimination of the illegally obtained information about him/her.

Everyone shall have the right to secrecy of correspondence, telephone conversations, mail, telegraph and other communications, which may be restricted only by court decision in cases and in conformity with the procedure prescribed by the law.[1060]

The grounds for carrying out searches are determined by the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia:

Everyone shall have the right of inviolability of the residence. Breaking into a person’s residence against his/her will shall be prohibited save in cases prescribed by the law.

The place of residence can be searched only by the decision of the court in cases and in conformity with the procedure prescribed by law.[1061]

The previous Constitution entitled an individual “to defend his or her private and family life from unlawful interference and defend his or her honor and reputation from attack.” In addition to articulating more clearly the individual’s right to privacy, the amendment also includes new freedom of information protections concerning the personal data collected by public agencies. The Constitution now explicitly provides for rights of access, correction, and destruction of personal information held by the government.

Statutory Rules on Privacy

On October 8, 2002, the “Law of the Republic of Armenia on Personal Data” was adopted and since January 2003, it has been in force. This Law regulates relationships that arise during the processing of personal data by state or local self-governance bodies, state or municipal institutions, as well as natural persons and legal entities. The Law does not regulate relationships related to the processing of personal data published in public sources and not considered to be of special importance, as well as related to the processing of personal data by natural persons for their personal, family or other matters.

According to the Law, personal data is any data on facts, cases, circumstances with regard to a natural person, contained on a physical carrier and in a form that allows or may allow someone to identify the individual.[1062] Personal data are collected for strictly defined and announced legal purposes and cannot be used for other purposes except in cases prescribed by the law. It is prohibited to collect and process personal data that are not required for the purpose for which the data are processed.[1063]

Personal data processing is legal: When the data subject consents to personal data processing; When data processing is required for the protection of the data subject’s vital interests, if there is no ground to presume that the data subject would not consent to their processing; In cases prescribed by the law or directly following from the provisions of the law or when data processing required for the law implementation; When it is required for state or public safety. Data subject may withdraw his/her consent at any time in a written form. Consent cancellation shall not have a retroactive effect.[1064]

The Law allows the transfer of personal data to third countries with the consent of the subject providing the personal data. However, the Law lacks procedures for forwarding of personal data to third countries, and there is no supervisory body named to inspect and grant permission for such transfers.[1065]

Wiretapping and Surveillance Rules

The grounds and procedure for conducting searches are also determined by the Criminal Procedure Code. Pursuant to article 225 of the Code the investigator, having sufficient grounds to suspect that in some premises or in possession of a person, there are instruments of crime, articles and valuables acquired by criminal activity, as well as other items or documents, which can be significant for the case, conducts a search. The search can also be conducted to find missing or presumed dead persons. The search is conducted only by a court decree.[1066]

Although judges may only authorize authorities to wiretap a telephone or intercept correspondence after being presented with compelling evidence, some judges arbitrarily granted permission. Also, police sometimes maintained surveillance of draft-aged men to prevent them from fleeing the country.[1067]

The examination of correspondence, post, telegraph and other transmissions may be implemented only by the order, determined by law.[1068] When there are sufficient grounds to believe that there is valuable data in the mail or other correspondence, telegrams and other communications (referred to below as correspondence) sent by the suspect or the accused, or to them by other persons, the investigator can make a grounded decision to impose monitoring on the correspondence of these people.[1069]

When revealing documents and items that can be significant for the case, the investigator seizes the appropriate articles or confines himself to copying them. In case of absence of data that can be significant for the case, the investigator instructs whether to hand the examined correspondence to the addressee or to withhold it within the established period.[1070]

On the basis of a court decree supervision may be conducted over telephone conversations. If there are sufficient grounds to suspect that the telephone conversations of the suspect or the accused or the conversations conducted by other means of communication can contain significant information for the case, the court decides to permit the supervision and recording of these conversations.

In case of approval by the judge, the conversation supervision and recording decision is forwarded by the investigator to the appropriate institution for implementation. Conversation supervision and recording can be conducted for no longer than six months. They are canceled when the necessity for them expires, but in any case, are canceled no later than the end of the preliminary investigation.

The investigator is entitled to demand the record at any time for examination within the established period. The record is handed to the investigator in the sealed form with an accompanying letter that must indicate the beginning and the end of the recorded conversations, and necessary technical description the devices used during the interception. Examination of records by the investigator is done in the presence of attesting witnesses, and when necessary, experts. There is a protocol made about the examination, which must literally reproduce the part of the conversation concerning the case.[1071]

There were several reports of government surveillance of opposition Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovhannesian. The party also reported that its members were harassed and threatened. On March 4, 2004, the Ministry of Justice's Department of State Property Management, armed with a court order, evicted the opposition Heritage Party from its offices, ostensibly over a lease dispute. When the party staff was allowed to return temporarily on May 29, 2006, they reported that their central computer had been hacked during their absence. Party officials reported instances of harassment of party members throughout the country after the incident took place and attributed them to the hacking of the computer, which contained addresses and telephone numbers of party members.[1072]

National Identification System

Information Card Index of the information center of the police of the Republic of Armenia is operating under the Government of RA. The activity of the card index is regulated by the Decree of Government of RA No. 933, adopted on May 20, 2004.

In the information card index[1073] the following categories of people are registered: Citizens of the Republic of Armenia, foreign countries’ citizens, persons without citizenship accused of committing a crime on the territory of the Republic of Armenia regardless of the nature of crime, punishment measure, term of the punishment; Persons, who served a sentence in other countries and were returned to the Republic of Armenia; Persons who are in the criminal investigation inquiry; Persons who were accused and the cases were ceased by not justifying bases, prescribed by the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Armenia; Those juveniles who were excused from the criminal liability and to whom were applied compulsory measures of a pedagogical nature; Persons, who committed an act prescribed by law and to whom were applied compulsory measure of a medical nature; Those convicts who were granted pardon or amnesty before court decision came into force; Those persons whose criminal proceeding were not terminated on the justified basis; Persons who are released from detention on the basis, prescribed by Criminal Procedure Code, Article 132, part 1, point 1.[1074]

First copies of cards of registration and fingerprints are stored in the information center of the police of the Republic of Armenia and second copies are sent to the information center of the Ministry of Interior of Russian Federation, according to the intergovernmental agreement about the exchange of the information, signed by the ministries of interior of CIS countries, on August 3, 1992. State structures and natural persons are eligible to use Information Card Index, the latter through local Police stations of RA. Information Card Index is directly available to police representatives of those CIS countries that have signed relevant intergovernmental agreements.

Information on persons who are checked in the Information Card Index is available for: Administration of President of the Republic of Armenia, administration of Government of RA, Police of RA, National Security Service of Government of RA, General Prosecutor’s Office of RA, courts, Criminal–executive department of Ministry of Justice of RA, Ministry of Defense of RA. Listed structures are eligible to obtain the information on accused persons, detainees, arrestees, convicts, revised court decisions, place and time of imprisonment, place of deprivation of liberty, fact of escape, inquiry, death in the place of deprivation of liberty, application of amnesty or pardon, place where archival criminal cases are stored. Natural persons are eligible to obtain the information on the facts of their conviction or inquiry as well as registered and stored information.

According to the “Law on National Security Agencies of the Republic of Armenia,“ which was adopted on December 28 2001, national security bodies cannot collect, store or disseminate data on personal and family life of a citizen, which was received during the activity of national security bodies without consent of the citizen, except in cases prescribed by the law.

During the implementation of the activity of the national security bodies the protection of rights and freedoms of a citizen are guaranteed. Each person has a right to appeal the actions of the national security bodies or officials that have violated his/her rights and freedoms in the way prescribed by the legislation of the Republic of Armenia. Data on national security agency officials, or persons who confidentially cooperate or cooperated with those agencies, documents on methods and ways of their activity are stored in the authorized archive.

Open Government

On September 23, 2003, the law on Freedom of Information was adopted in the Republic of Armenia. The main principles of securing freedom of information are: a) definition of unified procedures to record, classify and maintain information; b) insurance of freedom to seek and get information; c) insurance of information access; d) publicity However, the law provides also some limitations of freedom of information.

Information holder refuses to provide information if: it infringes the privacy of a person and his family, including the privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, post, telegraph and other transmissions; With the exception of cases if the decline of the information request will have a negative influence on the implementation of state programs of the Republic of Armenia directed to socio-economic, scientific, spiritual and cultural development.

Activity concerning the use of archives is also regulated by law. Relevant law was adopted on of June 8, 2004. In the archives may be kept the documents that are considered to be state or communal property. Moreover, by owner’s agreement, documents that are considered to be property of legal entity or natural person may also be kept in the archives.

A person who uses archival documents has a right to a free search and to receive archival documents from state and municipal archives for research purposes. However, accessibility of archival documents may be limited to a person who uses archival documents by a decision of owners of archival documents that are considered to be a property of legal entity or natural person. Accessibility of archival documents that contain information on personal or family secrets is limited for the 100-year period since their creation, provided the law does not state otherwise. Archival documents that contain information on personal or family secrets may be available earlier than 100 years since their creation by a written permission of a person or after his/her death by a written permission of his/her heir.[1075]

A suit brought by the Investigative Journalists NGO in 2004 against the Yerevan Mayor's Office for refusing to provide the organization with information ended in victory. In a June 2006 decision, the court ordered the Mayor's Office to provide the information and also ordered the Ministry of Finances and Economy to pay 300,000 Drams (626 EUR) to the Investigative Journalists in damages caused by the illegal actions of an official. This is the first time than an Armenian court has ever awarded damages in a freedom of information suit. This precedent should serve as an example to both reporters who are denied access to public information and officials who refuse to provide it. As one organization of journalists stated, “from now on, the bureaucrats must understand a refusal to provide any reporter or citizen with information will cause material damage to the state budget of Armenia.”[1076]

International Obligations

Armenia ratified the CoE Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No.185) on October 12, 2006. [1077] It has signed and ratified the ECHR.[1078] In a July 2007 statement, President Kocharian said that Armenia is not looking to join either NATO or the EU.[1079]

Armenia joined the European Union Neighborhood Policy Union in 2004. In August 2006, the European Union and Armenia successfully completed negotiations on the Final Policy Action Plan, which will serve as the main instrument for bilateral relations for the next five years. The plan sets out clear steps that the Armenian government should achieve in numerous fields including rule of law, democracy, economic and business development, trade, energy, and resolution of internal conflicts. The report identifies media independence and plurality as being one of the key areas of needed improvement.[1080]

[1060] Consitution of the Republic of Armenia, article 23, English version available at <>.

[1061] Id. at article 24.

[1062] Law of the Republic of Armenia on Personal Data, article 2.
[1063] Id. at article 4.

[1064] Id. at article 6.

[1065] Email from David Sandukchyan, Global Internet Policy Initiative, to Allison Knight, Research Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center, June 11, 2007 (on file with EPIC).

[1066] Criminal Procedure Code, article 225.

[1067] US State Department Human Rights 2006 Report – Armenia, available at <>.

[1068] Id. at article 15.
[1069] Id. at article 239.

[1070] Id. at article 240.

[1071] Id. at article 241.

[1072] US State Dept. Human Rights 2006 Report, supra.

[1073] A department/division that operates within the structure of information center of the police of the Republic of Armenia, where data on the following category of persons are collected, processed, coordinated and stored.
[1074] Criminal Procedure Code, article 132, part 1, point 1 states: “The detained shall be released on the basis of the decision of the body which carries out criminal proceeding if the suspicion about his committing an action forbidden by criminal law has not been proven correct.”

[1075] Law on Archives, article 22.

[1076] “The State Pays Damages to Journalists,” Hetq online: Investigative Journalists of Armenia, June 19, 2006, available at <>.

[1077] Signed November 23, 2001; enacted October 12, 2006; entered into force Febraury 1, 2007 <>.
[1078] Signed January 25, 2001; enacted April 26, 2002’ entered into force April 26, 2002 <>.
[1079] “Armenia Says Not Aiming For NATO, EU Membership,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Libery, July 16, 2007, available at <>.

[1080] European Union External Relations page, <>.

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