A constitutional referendum will be held in Armenia on December 6. Let us see to what extent the mechanisms of protection of citizens’ rights have increased or decreased.
Article 6 of the current Constitution clearly stipulates that “The Constitution of the Republic shall have supreme legal force and the norms thereof shall apply directly”. This means that even if there is no law that enacts the constitutional provision, anyway, that provision is directly applicable. However, in the proposed Draft of the Constitution, the provision on direct applicability has been removed, which means that the citizens may not be able to use their constitutional rights if the National Assembly does not adopt a respective law.
Article 21 of the current Constitution stipulates that “The defendant shall not be obliged to prove his/her innocence. The remaining suspicions shall be interpreted in favor of the defendant”. But these provisions are not present in the new draft of the Constitution. This may result in significant problems in that innocent people will have to prove their innocence.
The right to a fair trial is also deformed in the new draft of the Constitution. According to the current Constitution, it is prohibited to use evidence obtained through violation of the law. However, by the new draft, it is prohibited to use evidence obtained through violation of basic human rights or evidence that would undermine the right to a fair trial. It results that the frame of protection of that right is narrowed because the frame of issues regulated by the law is much wider than the basic human rights stipulated by the Constitution. Hence, it will be allowed to use illegally obtained evidence in the courts.
The current Constitution stipulates that the citizen can decide not to testify against a close relative. But according to the new draft, that right has been limited. Moreover, the prohibition of being tried twice has also been limited, as a result of which the citizen acquitted by the court may be accused again of the deed for which he/she has already been acquitted.
And though Chapter 35 “Fundamental Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms” will become Chapter 59, the increase in the articles is mainly conditioned more by the editorial approach without substantial changes and without increase in rights protection mechanisms.