The Europe in Law Association (ELA) is a human rights non-governmental organization founded by a group of Armenian lawyers on 31 January 2011. Its main focus is on upholding the universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights holding together the advanced family of States of the world. It views Armenia as an important part of Europe and endeavors to achieve a more meaningful European integration throughout Europe including Armenia, striving to reach a higher level of respect for, protection and implementation of human rights.
The ELA started its first project entitled Enhancing Freedom of Expression for Journalists in Armenia in May 2011. It was the first in a series of events designed by the organization in response to the increasing number of court cases against the Armenian mass media and media workers.
Its aim was to enhance the legal awareness of Armenian journalists of the international freedom of expression standards to better perform their public watchdog function in a democratic society. It was meant to furnish them with the necessary knowledge and skills to achieve better enjoyment of their free speech rights, as well as to prevent them from involvement in costly and time-consuming litigation in the future.
The ELA’s next, not less important project – Enhancing Freedom of Expression for Jurists in Armenia – was launched in September 2011, and involves design and conduct of a workshop on the ECtHR freedom of expression standards for Armenian legal counsels and judges to enhance their awareness of the international media law standards and ensure better protection of this cornerstone right in a democratic society. The workshops were conducted early in November 2011.
Another important activity that the ELA subsequently implemented with journalists was supporting them in preparation of publications on some of the noisiest freedom of expression cases heard by Armenian courts in 2010-2011. The assistance included advice on how to make use of the principles established by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in hearing cases concerning the right to freedom of expression throughout its lifetime while writing articles of the above FOE cases.
This co-operation was truly beneficial for both the journalists as well as the ELA, as the journalists, in their turn, assisted the ELA in collecting an impressive amount of information on the state of compliance by the Armenian media workers, legal counsel and judges with the relevant media law standards. This information served as an important basis for the ELA’s compliance analysis, which was to serve as an important tool to assess inter alia the training needs of the three groups.
This aimed at ultimately contributing to the efforts directed at ensuring better adherence by the Armenian State to its international human rights obligations in the area of the right to freedom of expression. The ELA launched its ‘Self-Sufficient Civic Activism from a To Z’ project in the midst of a row of 12 protest actions emerged during 2013-2014 (protest rallies against the raise in the transport fare, protests against construction of multi-storey buildings in a number of districts of Yerevan, protests against Armenia’s joining the Customs Union, etc.) to address the numerous cases of violations of citizens’ rights. Since 2013 the ELA has been representing the interests of the RA citizens-activists in 230 cases relating to the right of the freedom of assembly.
The ELA’s initiative of Election Monitoring was first launched during the Presidential Elections in 2013, when a unique monitoring model was applied; a team of a monitor and a journalist was placed in the election precinct from the moment of its opening until the end of the election day. This model was successfully applied since then. During the Presidential Elections in 2013numerous breaches were registered by the ELA representatives, which served a ground for the application filed by the Heritage Party to the RA Constitutional Court challenging the legitimacy of the election.
During April 2013 Yerevan City Council Elections the ELA for the first time carried out election monitoring within the ‘Citizen Observer’ joint Initiative of four Human Rights NGOs including Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, ‘Asparez’ Club of Journalists and ‘Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly of Vanadzor’, to which several dozens of Diaspora Armenians and civic activists joined. Today, the monitoring of local self-government elections are also held jointly by the four NGOs within the ‘Citizen Observer’ initiative. During the autumn months of 2014, ELA conducted monitoring of the contests for recruitment of civil service positions held by the Civil Service Council, which was carried out within the ELA project ‘Public Oversight over State Officials’, however, shortly after its commencement, on
November 18, 2014, the Civil Service Council, after having allowed observance for over 2,5 months, finally issued a decision on discontinuing this practice and ‘not granting permission’ for the ELA request on allowing observance submitted in August 2014. The ELA has challenged this decision of the CSC at the Administrative Court. Within the same program, the RA Office of Prosecutor General has presently refused to allow monitoring of the contests held for recruitment of prosecutors requested by ELA substantiating this decision with the contests being closed
processes. Starting from autumn of 2014 the ‘Europe in Law Association’ has been monitoring the process of appointment of judges, the detailed results of which may be found in the subsequent reports. Since September 2014, the ‘Europe in Law Association’ has been monitoring the two contests held for selection of candidates for the position of a judge at the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the Republic of Armenia. See the details of the monitoring in the respective reports on the Selection Contests for 2014 and 2015 here. On June 26, 2015 the ELA has
commenced monitoring of the contests for recruitment of investigators held by the RA Investigation Committee. On December 6, 2015, the ELA observed the referendum on constitutional changes together with the other member organiozations of the Citizen Observer Initiative afterwards filing complaints on the basis of violations of observers’ rights with up to the European Court of Human Rights. Since December 2016 the Europe in Law Association has been implementing the project entitled “Public Oversight over 2017 Parliamentary Elections”.
Within the framework of this project the ELA together with the other member organizations of the Citizen Observer Initiative observed the Armenian parliamentary elections held on April 2, 2017. Now the organization continues filing complaints on the basis of violations fixed by the observers on the elections day. 96 complaints have been submitted to the Administrative court based on the above-mentioned violations.
On 14 May 2017, the ELA within the framework of the Citizen Observer Initiative observed the Elections for Yerevan Council. The violations fixed by the observers on the voting day are also being disputed in the appropriate administrative bodies: the complaints have already been submitted to the Administrative Court.