The history of international law is replete with cases when NGOs have successfully stimulated international or national law-making. As early as 1983, 23 NGOs through the Informal NGO Ad Hoc Group on the Drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child were able to influence the process of convention negotiations. Another successful example is the coalition of 11 human rights groups that succeeded in accelerating the process of adoption of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture in 2002 establishing a system of visits to places where people deprived of their liberty are held. At regional level a similar successful coalition of NGOs succeeded in bringing about the adoption of the European Torture Convention. A more recent success story is the one about the coalition of more than 800 NGOs playing a significant role at the world conference where the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was drafted.
The Europe in Law Association, an NGO composed of lawyers, media and other experts with solid skills, knowledge and experience in both domestic and international law has played a major role in standard-setting in Armenia. We have done so through recommending changes in domestic legislation on the basis of our findings resulting from the activities of the organization, as well as ELA’s individual members.
ELA has availed itself of the entire arsenal of the ways and means afforded to the NGOs by the existing international and regional organizations and tribunals. It has already had significant achievements in assisting Armenia in domesticating the media standards by teaching, legal advice and assistance. We will continue our work in this direction to ultimately contribute to ensuring greater compliance of the country’s legislation and judicial practice with the mentioned standards to bring about a more enhanced protection of human rights in Armenia.
Besides the right to freedom of expression, ELA’s efforts of standard-setting include such priority areas as monitoring of processes of public significance, free and fair elections, freedom of assembly, etc. Apart from changes in the judicial practice following its efforts in the area of the protection of the right to freedom of assembly, right to liberty and security of a person, right to a fair trial, right to an effective remedy, non-discrimination, etc., ELA’s legal expertise has been instrumental in improving electoral legislation in 2016. It was with ELA’s direct participation that the ruling and non-ruling parties agreed in 2016 to declassify the signed voter lists and make several other important amendments to the Armenian electoral legislation.
Through its strategic cases lodged with domestic courts during national and local elections, ELA has achieved important changes in the positions of domestic courts. First, the courts started acknowledging that observation organisations do have the legal standing to bring complaints on behalf of the observers representing them. Second, the courts upgraded their efforts in protecting the rights of observers. ELA has gradually achieved enhanced protection of election observers by courts by invoking the important ‘public watchdog’ function the observers perform during elections by receiving and imparting election-related information to the wider public. As a result of its painstaking efforts in the area of strategic litigation in connection with a number of cases directed at the improvement of good governance in Armenia by means of increased transparency and fairness of the recruitment and selection to public positions ELA has secured an important ruling by the Armenian Constitutional Court, which opened up the government-held contests for appointment to public positions to monitoring organisations, such as ELA (see “Our Priorities” for more details).