On July 5, 1995 the Armenian people, based on the fundamental principles of Armenian statehood and national aspirations engraved in the Declaration of Independence of Armenia, asserting their faithfulness to universal values, adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia.
The Constitution defines the responsibility of the state to ensure the protection of human rights and freedoms based on the Constitution and laws in accordance with the principles and norms of international law (Article 4).
The first attempt to create the first state organization aimed at the protection of human rights in the Republic of Armenia based on the mentioned constitutional norm was made in late 1990’s. Particularly, based on the need to ensure the protection of human rights and freedoms and to create reliable guarantees for that, by the decree NH-32 of the RA President dated April 27, 1998, the Commission on Human Rights under the President of the Republic of Armenia was established. The decree stated the composition and charter of the Commission, defined its main goals and tasks.
The Commission was an advisory body whose main tasks were the support and protection of human rights and freedoms, the analysis of draft legal acts presented to the President on human constitutional rights and freedoms, giving an opinion on the laws submitted for the signing and Government decisions submitted for ratification by the President on human constitutional rights and freedoms, discussion of complaints submitted to the President or the Commission regarding violations of human rights, preparation of the annual report on the guarantees and state of protection of human rights, etc.
In order to address the above-mentioned problems the Commission was authorized to require and obtain from state and local self-government bodies and officials information necessary for its operation, perform studies and research with the consent of the President, if necessary, make working groups or sub-groups from its members, organize conferences, seminars, TV programs on the issues of protection of human rights, etc.
The activities of the Commission became the basis for the formation of the Human Rights Defender as an independent official and his staff in the Republic of Armenia.
On October 21, 2003, the RA Law “On the Human Rights Defender” was adopted. In January 2004, after the Law came into force, the Commission on Human Rights under the President of the Republic of Armenia stopped functioning.
The RA Law “On the Human Rights Defender” stated that the Defender was an independent and irremovable official, who protects human rights and freedoms violated by state and local self-government bodies and officials governed by the fundamental principles of legality, civil society and social justice (Article 2). The law defined the main directions of activities and powers of the Human Rights Defender.
The establishment of the Institute was a significant step aimed at ensuring the regulated protection of human rights and freedoms in the country. The Human Rights Defender became the member of the worldwide family of the traditional “Ombudsman institutions” established in other countries already in the 18th century. The word “Ombudsman” is of Scandinavian origin: it was first used by the Swedish king in 1713 when founding the “Royal supreme ombudsman” institution.
Presently there are Ombudsman institutions in more than 100 countries.
As a result of the constitutional amendments adopted by referendum on November 27, 2005, defined were a number of legal norms that stated the role and importance of the Human Rights Defeder as a constitutional institution.
In particular, Article 18 of the Constitution declared that everyone shall be entitled to have the support of the Human Rights Defender for the protection of his/her rights and freedoms on the grounds and in conformity with the procedure prescribed by law.
The Constitution guarantees the independence and inviolability of the Human Rights Defender, establishes the duty of the state and local self-government bodies to cooperate with the Human Rights Defender. At the constitutional level the Human Rights Defender became an independent and irremovable official. The Constitution also stipulates that any person held in high esteem by the public may be elected as a Human Rights Defender.
As a result of the Constitutional amendments adopted by the referendum in 2015, a separate chapter - Chapter 10 established the procedure for the election of the Human Rights Defender, his main functions, performance guarantees, the state’s obligation to ensure the proper financing of the activities of the Human Rights Defender, etc.
Article 103 of the Constitution for the first time stated that the Law on the Human Rights Defender is a constitutional law.
The Constitutional amendments stipulated that the Human Rights Defender is an independent official who ensures the protection of human rights and freedoms by state and local self-government bodies and officials, and in cases defined by the Law on Human Rights Defender – by organizations as well, contributes to the restoration of violated rights and freedoms, improves the normative legal acts related to the rights and freedoms (Article 191).
Now the Institute of Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia complies with the requirements and standards of the National Ombudsman Institute. The Institute has an “A” status, which indicates compliance with the Paris Principles, as well as being an accredited National Institute of the United Nations.
Besides, the Human Rights Defender is an independent national preventive mechanism stated by the Optional Protocol to the “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”.