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2021 Aug

Armenian parliament adopts bill criminalising swearing

The article has initially been published on CSO Meter website

The new amendments are a step back from decriminalising defamation.

On July 30, 2021, the 7th convocation of the National Assembly (NA) held its last extraordinary session, where it discussed and approved  a package of draft laws amending the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. The amendments were authored by the NA deputies and aimed at criminalising swearing.

High fines

In particular, the amendments envisage liability for “serious insult to a person, swearing or insulting his dignity in another extremely indecent manner”, which shall be punished by a fine in the amount of one hundred to five hundred times the minimum wage (100,000-500,000 AMD = 170-860 EUR). The aggravating circumstances introduce liability for the same actions:

  • committed through using information or communication technologies or in another public way, or
  • committed due to the public activity of the person, as well as
  • through dissemination of materials containing serious insult to a person.

In this case, the sanctions include fine from to five hundred to thousand times the minimum wage (500,000-1 million AMD = 860–1700 EUR). More aggravating circumstances are the same actions committed against the same person on a regular basis: in this case, the punishment can be fine of up to three thousand times the minimum wage (3 million AMD = 5100 EUR) or detention from one to three months.

No public debate

The draft did not pass any public discussion, and since it was proposed by the parliament it was not posted on the e-draft platform. The draft was included in the extraordinary session of the last working day of the 7th convocation of the parliament and approved in two readings immediately on the same day.

Pressure on free speech

The amendments were criticized by CSOs and experts, mentioning that this initiative contradicts to the PACE Resolution 1577 on defamation. In their assessment, this is a hastily made decision in an atmosphere of secrecy, which has not been discussed with the professional community. In terms of content, this is a step back from 2010 legislative amendments, when slander and insult were decriminalized.