Published on Eurasian Perspectives

The 5 biggest challenges to reforming Armenia’s justice system

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View of Mother Armenia Statue, the city and Ararat mount View of Mother Armenia Statue, the city and Ararat mount

Armenia has set out ambitious goals in its Government Program 2021-2026 related to democracy, rule of law, anticorruption, growth and creating equal opportunities for all. Critical for achieving these goals is a high performing justice system, which in Armenia will require addressing integrity, efficiency, accountability, independence, and performance as outlined in the country’s Strategy for Legal and Judicial Reforms 2022-2026. Despite the many steps taken in recent years to strengthen Armenia’s justice system, authorities as well as judges and court personnel on the ground are facing an uphill battle:

  • Caseloads are exploding with increases of more than 40% since 2017, putting timely and efficient judicial service delivery at risk. The situation is particularly difficult for judges, clerks, and other personnel at first instance courts who handled more than 90% of all cases in 2021. As a result, the judiciary struggles to reach and maintain favorable clearance rates, forecasting significant backlogs for the foreseeable future.

  • A fractured and complex system of information and communication technology (ICT) adds to the challenges. With support from the World Bank, initial progress towards digitalization of judicial services was made in the 2000s. Building on this support, sector stakeholders have added systems and applications over time, but the result today is an excessively complex ICT architecture, with seven different systems underpinning the main business processes in the judiciary duplicating efforts in some areas while leaving gaps in others. These systems are supported by servers located in 18 server rooms, neither of them meeting the desirable standards of a data center. Even worse, no secondary location exists for disaster recovery, such as earthquakes, fire, flood, or cyber-attacks, and no security policies have been adopted or implemented leaving sensitive data vulnerable.

  • Financial resources are scarce. Contrary to the trend in demand, budget allocations for the judiciary have decreased over time by 1.7% from 2019-2021, reinforcing Armenia’s position as the Council of Europe (CoE) member state with the lowest spending on its judiciary both in per capita and per share of GDP terms. Spending of scarce resources is dominated by the wage bill, crowding out all other functions and leaving little to no room for innovation, investments, maintenance, and ICT upgrades.

  • Despite recent increases in wages, recruiting and retaining qualified staff is a challenge for the judiciary. Long hours of work due to the high case load, unfavorable working conditions due to dire physical infrastructure and a complex ICT structure seem to deter potential judge applicants and lead to high turnovers in critical positions such as judicial assistants. According to the French University of Yerevan Law Faculty only 15% of their law graduates consider a career in the judiciary with the vast majority opting for the private sector.  

  • Weak data stymie effective management. Weak data collection, coupled with a case management system that does not provide statistical reports, makes any planning exercise a nearly impossible exercise. Given the lack of meaningful ICT support and court management skills, the Supreme Judicial Council and its subordinated courts in Armenia continue to manually monitor and manage judicial workloads.  

Forward look on reforms

To produce tangible results, follow through on the ambitious reform agenda to reach European standards of efficiency in Armenia’s justice system, and political will and commitment would need to be translated into concerted efforts to tackle the above issues. Simply adding financial or human resources—while tempting—is not sustainable or a full solution. Investments will need to be prioritized and enhancements in both court procedures and rules for the judiciary’s governance and management set-ups should facilitate efficiency and quality while fostering trust and integrity.

Our recently released Forward Look report—funded by the European Union—seeks to facilitate discussions with policy- and decision-makers, civil society, as well as technical staff at the Ministry of Justice  and the judiciary on tackling these issues. Across seven chapters it: (a) reviews the legal and institutional structure of the sector; (b) analyzes questions of judicial performance, including drivers of systemic inefficiencies by case type, court type, and court location; (c) examines existing practices and procedures in budgeting and financial management and the evolution of and trends in judicial expenditure levels; (d) analyzes linkages between HR and judicial performance and how HR management contributes to or impedes the delivery of judicial services by courts; (e) reviews to what extent current ICT resources, systems, and tools satisfy needs; and (f) examines the judiciary’s physical infrastructure and its needs for maintenance and investments.

The report concludes with practical and actionable recommendations for consideration by Armenian authorities as they advance on implementing justice sector reforms—critical for meeting the needs of Armenia’s citizens and businesses, helping attract foreign investment, and building more resilient and inclusive economic growth.


Eva Melis

Senior Governance Specialist

Nane Harutyunyan

Public Sector Specialist

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