(July 27, 2015) On May 27, 2015, the President of Armenia signed into law amendments to the Law on Organization of Funerals and Operation of Cemeteries and Crematoria, the main purpose of which is to allow private cemeteries to operate in the country. (Law on the Organization of Funerals and Operation of Cemeteries and Crematoria, Law No. 40/2006, OFFICIAL GAZETTE (Apr. 7, 2006), ARLIS [Armenian Legal Information System] website (in Armenian).) This measure is expected to remedy Armenia’s dearth of state and municipally-owned cemeteries. In 2013, 11 out of 27 cemeteries in the capital city of Yerevan were filled and closed to new burials. (Gohar Abrahamyan, Cemetery Debate: NA Committee Ponders Privatizing Final Resting Grounds, ARMENIANOW.COM (June 13, 2013).) The initiative was opposed by several legislators who claimed that the Law would create separate cemeteries for the poor and the rich. (Id.)
Under the new Law, private cemeteries must meet a long list of requirements, such as having at least three hectares (about seven acres) of fenced territory; a room for memorial services (of at least 1,000 square feet); a funeral banquet hall (at least 1,500 square feet); a morgue; a crematorium and a columbarium for urns; parking space for 30 vehicles; a funeral vehicle; a flower shop, etc. (Law No. 40/2006, art. 19.1.)
The Law requires private cemeteries to sign contracts with customers for provision of services for a minimum of 15 years. After the contract has expired, the cemetery will notify the family of the deceased and maintain the grave for another year; the family may extend the contract, have the corpse reburied in another cemetery, or have it cremated. If the family fails to take action, the cemetery can use the allocated space for another burial, including by removing and cremating the corpse. In the latter case, the cemetery must keep the ashes for another five years and then destroy them if they remain unclaimed. (Id. art. 19.2.)
Private cemeteries will be subject to payment of annual local taxes in the amount of AMD2.5 million to AMD10 million (about US$5,300-$21,000) per year depending on their size. (Law of the Republic of Armenia on Local Fees and Duties, No. 185/1997, art. 10, OFFICIAL GAZETTE (Jan. 11, 1998), ARLIS website (in Armenian).)
Written by Nerses Isajanyan, Foreign Law Consultant, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.