Armenia has made only “limited progress” in improving its human rights record, strengthening the rule of law and democratizing its political system over the past year, the European Union said on Wednesday.
“There were no tangible developments in the implementation and enforcement of legislation on human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the EU said in an annual report stemming from its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).
“Several reforms remained at drafting stage and only some steps are missing to make them legal reality. Shortcomings stated in previous progress reports, such as the lack of trust in the judicial system and the fight against corruption, persisted.”
The EU found no “tangible developments” regarding what human rights activists call a widespread ill-treatment of criminal suspects in Armenian police custody. “There is concern about the use of coerced confessions in trials and the failure to investigate defendants’ allegations that confessions have been obtained using torture,” it said.
The progress report drawn up by the EU’s executive European Commission notes in that regard that a “human rights action plan” adopted by the Armenian authorities in February 2014 does not address the country’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture (CAT).
It also points to a continuing lack of pluralism in the Armenian broadcast media thought to be almost fully controlled by the government and its loyalists. “Media independence remained insufficient and there were no developments regarding pluralism in the broadcasting media and transparency of media ownership,” it says.
“Overall, Armenia made limited progress in implementing the ENP Action Plan, with some efforts to establish deep and sustainable democracy and put sound macroeconomic policies and structural reforms in place,” concluded the European Commission. It called for “more concrete legislative measures and their implementation and enforcement.”
The report came shortly after the commission asked the EU’s 28 member states to authorize official negotiations with Armenia on a new agreement to deepen EU-Armenia relations. It expects to receive the negotiating “mandate” at an EU summit in Riga slated for May.
The new deal sought by Yerevan would serve as a substitute for an Association Agreement which the two sides were close to concluding in 2013. The agreement was cancelled after Armenia’s unexpected decision to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.