Armenia Human Rights - History

Armenia Human Rights - History

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government attempted to influence media outlets for favorable or uncritical coverage. Broadcast and many larger circulation print media generally expressed views sympathetic to their owners or advertisers--a mix of government officials and wealthy business people--while print and online outlets tended to be more critical. There were several instances of violence against journalists in connection with their coverage of elections and other local developments.

Press and Media Freedom: Broadcast and larger circulation print media generally lacked diversity of political opinion and objective reporting. Private individuals or groups owned most broadcast media and newspapers, which tended to reflect the political leanings and financial interests of their proprietors, who in turn were often close to the government. Broadcast media, particularly national television, remained the primary source of news and information for the majority of the population. Politicians in the ruling party and politically connected executives owned most television stations, which tended to present uncritical views of government policy and events.

There were instances of officials blocking press access to events and information. In March, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) local service was not allowed to cover talks between the secretaries of Armenia’s and Russia’s National Security Councils. When the Russian ambassador saw the RFE/RL reporter at the session, he reportedly asked why the RFE/RL reporter was there. Following that statement, an Armenian Security Council official blocked the RFE/RL crew from entering the hotel while allowing six other outlets (three Armenian and three Russian) to cover the event.

Independent media outlets, mostly online, were not self-sustainable and survived through international donations, with limited or no revenues from commercials. Advertisers often shied away from advertising on sites critical of the government, seeing such support as risking official harassment.

According to media experts, the dominant positions in the television and online advertising market of a few companies limited diversity of opinions. According to a report presented in September 2016 by the Armenian Center for Political and International Studies, the advertising sales house Media International Services (MIS) controlled 74 percent of the country’s television advertisement gross value, with exclusive rights to sell advertising on the country’s five most watched channels. Another company, DG Sales, was majority owned by MIS shareholders and controlled more than one-third of the online commercial market, operating in a manner similar to MIS.

Regional television channels provided some alternative viewpoints, often through externally produced content. By the end of the year, however, 10 regional television stations faced risk of closure due to the mandatory transition from analog to digital broadcasting in October 2016. Although amended legislation allowed regional stations that did not have licenses to broadcast via the state-funded public multiplex to continue their analog broadcasts until a private multiplex entered the market, the requirements established for a private multiplex were too prohibitive for any company to bid. The affected regional stations remained available to a smaller audience through cable, but they faced serious financial strains due to a loss of commercial revenues.

The government did not generally control the content of online media, which together with social media, served as an important alternative source of information and diverse political opinions. Online news outlets nevertheless continued to show increasing signs of influence by politically connected owners and advertisers. There were credible reports that both online and broadcast media were in the hands of a few government-affiliated individuals. Media company ownership was mostly nontransparent.

Violence and Harassment: There were several cases of violence and professional intimidation against journalists during the April 2 parliamentary and May 14 Yerevan municipal election campaigns. Investigations were underway into cases from 2016, when police targeted journalists covering public protests, subjected them to violence, and deliberately destroyed their professional equipment. Authorities did not charge any police officers with violence against journalists in those incidents. Media watchdog groups criticized the slow pace and ineffectiveness of investigations, despite the abundance of audio and video evidence of police violence. While in the country October 6, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir emphasized the need for safe working conditions for journalists.

During parliamentary and municipal elections, several cases of violence against reporters took place. On April 2, for example, RFE/RL reporter Sisak Gabrielyan was assaulted inside the campaign headquarters of ruling RPA candidate Hakob Beglaryan after he went inside and tried to film the premises, having noticed people leaving the headquarters with what appeared to be bribes. Later that day Araratnews journalist Shoghik Galstyan and Sisak Gabrielyan were assaulted near the same headquarters while making similar reporting efforts. Beglaryan’s supporters reportedly beat them and took away their video equipment. The SIS decided not to open an investigation into the incident involving Gabrielyan inside the campaign office, concluding that the reporter did not have a right to enter the building. Law enforcement officials also suggested that the money distributed inside the campaign office were salaries, not election bribes. The SIS, however, opened a criminal case in the second incident involving the Araratnews reporter. Authorities charged two individuals, Levon Gasparyan and Julieta Kokolyan, with using violence against the reporters and preventing them from performing their professional activity. As of year’s end, the case was pending in court.

On July 28, nine prominent media watchdog organizations publicly denounced the slow pace of official investigations into the abuse of journalists during a rally of persons who sympathized with the demands of the Sasna Tsrer armed group in July 2016. The nine organizations asserted police officers and civilians targeted 27 journalists and camera operators from various media outlets, that police used physical violence against 19 of them, and prevented eight others from performing their professional activity. The action also involved the deliberate damaging of the journalists’ photo and video equipment, seizure of memory cards, and destruction of video footage. While charges were brought against eight civilians, as of year’s end, authorities had not brought charges against any law enforcement officer involved in the action. Those identified by the public as having participated in the action included the head of security for national Chief of Police Vladimir Gasparyan and two of Gasparyan’s personal bodyguards. In December 2016 President Sargsyan awarded a medal to the national chief of the internal police troops, Levon Yeranosyan, who allegedly gave the order to disperse the protesters forcibly, for “excellent maintenance of public order.”

On September 28, Narine Avetisyan, the editor in chief of Lori television, was attacked while filming a video of asphalting work being carried out in a heavy rain. According to Avetisyan, Tigran Nazaryan, the head of the Shinpuls construction company doing the work, and his employees used violence to seize Avetisyan’s mobile telephone and throw her to the ground. According to Avetisyan, this was the fifth such incident against her, and in none of the previous cases had authorities brought the perpetrators to justice. Human rights NGOs and the ombudsperson’s office condemned the violence and demanded a prompt investigation. The Investigation Committee opened an investigation into the case.

In August 2016, more than a year after police beat and detained journalists while dispersing a peaceful 2015 protest in downtown Yerevan, the SIS announced it had charged four police officers, Davit Perikhanyan, Kostan Budaghyan, Tachat Noratunkyan, and Artur Ayvazyan, with obstructing the activities of four reporters. Media NGOs considered the charges inadequate, given that two dozen journalists had been affected by police abuse, which, they maintained, had been ordered by high-ranking police officials. On February 20, the court fined Budaghyan, Noratunkyan, and Ayvazyan 500,000 drams ($1,000) each but allowed them to continue holding law enforcement positions. Perikhanyan was fined 600,000 drams ($1,200) for deliberately damaging or destroying the property of others, causing serious damage; he subsequently lost an appeal of the decision.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Media outlets, particularly broadcasters, feared reprisals for reports critical of the government. Such reprisals could include lawsuits, the threat of losing a broadcast license, selective tax investigation, or loss of revenue when advertisers learned an outlet was in disfavor with the government. Fear of retribution resulted in media self-censorship. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reported on July 10, “undue interference of media owners into editorial autonomy resulted in self-censorship of journalists and discouragement of critical reporting of the government, including on public television.”

Libel/Slander Laws: Shortly after the NGO Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) released recordings of school and kindergarten directors involved in campaigning for the RPA in March, the progovernment daily Iravunk published personal information available only to law enforcement agencies concerning Daniel Ionnisyan, the program director of the UIC, and his family. While the Investigative Committee initially opened a criminal case into the leak, it was later dismissed for failure to identify the alleged perpetrators. With public support from RPA representatives, 30 of the school and kindergarten directors implicated by the UIC report sued Ionnisyan for libel and defamation, asking two million drams ($4,000) each in damages. After significant support from civil society for Ionnisyan, the directors withdrew their suits in July.

INTERNET FREEDOM

Individuals and groups could generally engage in the expression of views via the internet, including by email. Some human rights activists and opposition party members claimed, however, that authorities monitored their email and other internet communications (see section 1.f.). On April 2, as voters went to the polls for a parliamentary election, unknown actors targeted some of the country’s leading independent media voices on social media. Four Twitter accounts subsequently were suspended after being flagged by their Russian-language profiles; the accounts owners also attempted to hijack the election’s hashtag to spread a fake letter about foreign involvement in the election. In addition, prominent academic and commentator Babken DerGrigorian reported two attempts to hack his Facebook account; Facebook allegedly informed him the attack was state sponsored.

The International Telecommunication Union estimated that 62 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The administration and student councils of the most prominent state universities were politicized and affiliated with the ruling RPA (see section 3). For example, President Serzh Sargsyan was the president of the Board of Trustees of Yerevan State University. Government ministers led, or were members of, the boards of trustees of other universities. According to human rights observers, student councils in most universities experienced various forms of pressure to support the interests of the university rather than those of the student body and to keep the student body focused on nonpolitical and less sensitive issues. Despite this political influence, most members of academia felt they were able to deliver openly content that could be construed as critical of political institutions and processes.

In July organizers of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival canceled the screening of two LGBTI-themed films after negative public reaction (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).

On September 11, media reported that the Ministry of Culture had ordered the early closing of an exhibition, entitled “Eclipse,” at the House Museum of Tumanyan that was devoted to the victims of the political repressions in the country during the Stalin era. The closing created a significant reaction in society, to which the Ministry of Culture and other officials responded that the exhibition was too “political” and that it had not been “sanctioned” by the ministry.


There are historical records that attest the presence of Jews in pagan Armenia, before the spread of Christianity in the region by St. Gregory the Illuminator in 301 AD. Early medieval Armenian historians, such as Moses Khorenatsi, held that during the conquest of Armenian King Tigranes the Great (95–55 BC) he brought with him 10,000 Jewish captives to the ancient Kingdom of Armenia (which encompassed what is commonly known as Greater Armenia) when he retreated from Judea, because of the Roman attack on Armenia (69 BC). Tigranes II invaded Syria, and probably northern Israel as well. [2] [3] A large Jewish population was settled in Armenia from the 1st century BC. One city in particular, Vartkesavan became an important commercial center. [4] Thus, Armenia's Jewish community was established. Like the rest of Armenia's population, they suffered the consequences of regional powers trying to divide and conquer the country. [5] By 360–370 AD, there was a massive increase in Jewish Hellenistic immigration into Armenia many Armenian towns became predominately Jewish. During this period (4th century AD), after the conquest of Armenia by the Sassanid King Shapur II he deported thousands of Jewish families from Persian Armenia and resettled them at Isfahan (modern Iran). [3] [6]

In 1912 the archaeologist Nikolai Marr announced the discovery in 1910 of a tombstone in the village of Yeghegis that carried a Hebrew inscription. [7] In 1996 investigations at Yeghegis, in Armenia's province of Vayotz Dzor, discovered the remains of a medieval Jewish cemetery from a previously unknown Jewish community. In 2000, a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem excavated on the southern side of the Yeghegis river, opposite the village, a Jewish cemetery with 40 gravestones with Hebrew inscriptions dating between 1266 and 1497. One non-Hebrew word in the inscriptions may indicate the origin of the community. Michael Nosonovsky has stated that "The word khawajah is of Persian origin and it probably indicates that the Jews who settled in Yeghegis came from Persia and kept Persian as their spoken language. Biblical quotations and Talmudic formulas are evidence of a high learning standard in the community." [8] A group of Armenian and Israeli archaeologists and historians excavated the site in 2001 and 2002 and found 64 more tombstones. Some are decorated with motifs of the Orbelian kingdom. The archaeological team also found three mills, which the bishop says show that the community had a business because one mill could feed several families. Twenty of these tombstones had inscriptions, all in Hebrew except for two, which were in Aramaic. The oldest dated stone was from 1266 and the latest date was 1336/7. [9]

  • [10]
  • [11]
  • [12]
  • The Jewish population data includes Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews, Bukharan Jews (or Central Asian Jews), Krymchaks (all per the 1959 Soviet census), and Tats. [13]

In 1828, the Russo-Persian War came to an end and Eastern Armenia (currently the Republic of Armenia) was annexed to the Russian Empire with the Treaty of Turkmenchai. Polish and Iranian Jews began arriving, as well as Sabbatarians (Subbotniki, Russian peasants who were banished to the outskirts of Imperial Russia during the reign of Catherine II. They were Judaizing Christians and mostly converted to mainstream Judaism or assimilated). Since 1840 they started creating Ashkenazi and Mizrahi communities respectively in Yerevan. [6] Up to 1924, the Sephardic synagogue, Shiek Mordechai, was a leading institution among the Jewish community. [3]

According to the 1897 Russian Empire Census, there were some 415 people in Alexandropol (Gyumri) [14] and 204 in Erivan (Yerevan) [15] whose native language was "Jewish" and significantly smaller numbers elsewhere 6 in Vagharshapat, [16] 15 in Novo-Bayazet. [17] The number of self-reported Jewish-speakers was the following in other Armenian-populated areas of the Russian Empire that now lie outside Armenia: 4 in Shushi (Artsakh), [18] 93 in Elizavetpol (Ganja, Azerbaijan), [19] 4 in Igdir (now Turkey), [20] 424 in Kars (Turkey), [21] 111 in Ardahan (Turkey), [22] 189 in Akhalkalaki (Georgia), [23] 438 in Akhaltsikhe (Georgia), [24] 72 in Shulaveri (Georgia). [25]

As for Western Armenia (Turkish Armenia), according to official Ottoman figures from 1914, 3,822 Jews lived in the "Six vilayets" that had significant Armenian population: 2,085 in Diyarbekir Vilayet, 1,383 in Van Vilayet, 344 in Sivas Vilayet, 10 in Erzurum Vilayet, and none in Bitlis and Mamuret-ul-Aziz (Harput). There were further 317 Jews in historical Cilicia: 66 in Adana Vilayet and 251 in Maraş Sanjak. [26]

The Russian Jewish communities moved to Armenia on a larger scale during the Soviet period, looking for an atmosphere of tolerance in the area that was absent in the Russian SSR or Ukrainian SSR.

Following World War II, the Jewish population rose to approximately 5,000. In 1959, the Jewish population peaked in Soviet Armenia at approximately 10,000 people. Another wave of Jewish immigrants arrived in the country between 1965 and 1972, mainly intelligentsia, military, and engineers. These Jews arrived from Russia and Ukraine, attracted to the more liberal society. [3] However, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union many of them left due to the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. Between 1992 and 1994, more than 6,000 Jews immigrated to Israel because of Armenia's political isolation and economic depression. [3] Today the country's Jewish population has shrunk to around 750. [5] In 1995, the Chabad House was established in Yerevan.

There are about 300–500 [1] Jews presently living in Armenia, mainly in the capital Yerevan. [1] They are mostly of Ashkenazi origin, while some are Mizrahi and Georgian Jews.

There is a tiny community of Subbotniks (believed to be a Judaizing community that evolved from the Molokan Spiritual Christians) whose ancestors converted to Judaism, and who are quickly dwindling. [27]

The Jewish Community in Yerevan is currently headed by Chief Rabbi Gershon Burshtein from the Chabad Lubavitch, and the sociopolitical matters are run by the Jewish Council of Armenia.

The President of the Jewish Community in Armenia, Rima Varzhapetyan-Feller, has stated on January 23, 2015, that "The Jewish community feels itself protected in Armenia, and the authorities respect their rights, culture, and traditions. There is no anti-Semitism in Armenia, and we enjoy good relations with the Armenians. Of course, the community has certain problems that originate from the general situation of the country." [28]

In 2005, Armen Avetisian, the openly anti-Semitic leader of the Armenian Aryan Union, a small ultranationalist party, alleged that there are as many as 50,000 "disguised" Jews in Armenia. He promised that he would work to have them expelled from the country. He was arrested in January 2005 on charges of inciting ethnic hatred. [29]

There have been two recorded incidents, in 2007 and in 2010, of vandalism by unknown individuals on the Jewish side of the Joint Tragedies Memorial in Aragast Park, Yerevan that commemorates both the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust. This monument had replaced a smaller monument that had been defaced and toppled several times. [30] [1] [31]


The word "Ombudsman" has Swedish roots and the literal translation means “grievance person”. This word in its modern meaning was first used by the Swedish parliament in the 19th century when establishing the office of justitieombudsman. This office was responsible for defending the citizens when they had issues with the government. In 1697 the Swedish King, Charles XII, dedicated his first 17 years of his governance to wars, hence was mainly out of the country. During this period he established an office called the King's Highest Ombudsman. The main job of the office was to confirm and consistently check that all the governmental workers were acting according to the king's rules, while he was away from Sweden. However this office was closed when the king returned. [1]

Human rights defenders operate all over the world. Independent of whether the state is stable or not due to internal conflicts, non-democratic one or has a strong democratic practice, economically developing or not, the defenders role in a country is always crucial. They seek to promote and protect human rights in the context of a variety of challenges, including HIV/AIDS, development, migration, structural adjustment policies and political transition. [2]

The office of Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia was founded in the beginning of 2004 by the law of the Republic of Armenia on the Human Rights defender signed by the president of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan.

To be considered as a candidate for the position of the human rights defender of Armenia one must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an Armenian citizen
  • Have lived in Armenia for the past 5 years
  • Minimum age of 25
  • Possess sufficient knowledge and experience in the defense of human rights field.

The National Assembly shall appoint the Defender by a vote of more than 3/5 of the general number of deputies from candidates nominated by the President of the Republic, 1/5 of the National Assembly deputies. He/she shall be appointed to office for a term of 6 years, with not more than two consecutive terms.

The Defender should take the following oath upon his/her appointment:

"Having accepted the commitments of human rights defender I hereby swear to be faithful to RA Constitution and laws, the principles of justice and civil society as to defend the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals. I swear to act in impartial, honest and diligent manner"

From the foundation of Human Rights Defender's office, Besides the Defender in Chief, Tigran Bazarchyan, Armenia had only 4 human rights defenders:

    was the first human rights defender in Armenia, who was appointed by the decree of the president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan on 19 February 2004. Mrs. Alaverdyan began her duties on 1 March 2004. was the second Human Rights Defender of Armenia and first one who was appointed by the elections taken place in National Assembly. He was elected obtaining more than 3/5 votes of deputies on 17 February 2006. Armen Harutyunyan assumed his responsibilities of the RA Human Rights Defender on 20 February 2006. He sent a statement for resignation to the RA National Assembly on 1 February 2011, as he assumed to take up the position of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Representative in Central Asia. was the third human rights defender in Armenia. On 2 March 2011, the National Assembly of Armenia elected the new Armenian Ombudsman, with 83 parliamentarians voting for and 13 against. Karen Andreasyan assumed his responsibilities as Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia as of 3 March 2011. became the fourth ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia. He was elected by the Parliament in February 2016. Arman Tatoyan was the former deputy minister of justice.

Power Edit

The Defender is independent in executing his/her powers and is guided only by the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of Armenia, as well as norms and principles of International Laws. The Defender is not subordinated to any central or local self-governing agency or official. The Defender is not required to give explanations, including as a witness, about the essence of complaint or documents in their possession or provide them for familiarization, except in cases prescribed by law and order. The decisions of the Defender are not administrative acts and cannot be appealed. The Defender has the right to be present at the sittings of the Government of the Republic of Armenia and other state agencies, and make a speech if there are discussed issues regarding the human rights and the fundamental freedoms of people, as well as provide questions concerning the violation of the human rights or the fundamental freedoms by the agency where the sitting is taking place or the subordinate agencies or officials of that agency. The Defender or his/her representative has the right to be present at the sittings of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, make a speech ordered by the law of the Republic of Armenia “The Regulation of National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia” when there are discussed issues regarding the human rights and the fundamental freedoms of people. The Defender or his/her representative has the right to unrestrictedly visit, by their own initiative, military units, police detention centers, pre-trial or serving their sentence in penitentiaries, as well as other places of corrective detention in order to receive complaints from the applicants which are kept in those places. The conversations of the Defender or their representative with the people mentioned above are not subject for interference or being wiretapped. After making the decision regarding the adoption of the complaint the Defender is eligible to apply to appropriate state agencies or their officials to promote the investigation of the circumstances, which are subject of revelation. The investigation of the issues mentioned in the complaint cannot be done by the central or local self-governing agency or their officials which decisions or acts (idleness) are being appealed. The Defender is eligible to:

  1. have free access to every state organization or institution, including the military units, prisons, inter alia preliminary detention facilities and penitentiaries
  2. require and receive necessary materials and documents regarding the complaint from every central or local self-governing agency or their officials
  3. receive clarifications regarding the issues arisen from the investigation of the complaint from the central or local self-governing agencies or their officials and public servants, except the Courts and judges:
  4. instruct relevant state agencies to carry out expert examinations and prepare findings on the issues subject to clarification during investigation of the complaint
  5. familiarize with those criminal, civil, administrative, disciplinary, economic and other cases of violation of rights on which the respective Court verdicts and decisions have entered into legal force, as well as materials related to such cases on which no proceedings have been instituted
  6. familiarize with every material and document regarding the complaint.

The officials of central and local self-governing agencies are obliged to provide every required material and document regarding their jurisdiction, as well as provide any information to the Defender necessary for the discussion of the complaint free of charge and without hindrance. Within his/her jurisdiction the Defender enjoys the right of urgent reception of central and local self-governing agencies, their officials, as well as the heads of organizations and other officials, and coercive detention facilities. While investigating the complaints the Defender is obliged to give an opportunity to those central or local self-governing agency or their official whose decision or acts (idleness) are being complained to make clarifications about the complaint and the results of investigation, as well as fully substantiate their position. After the discussion in 10 days the results about the complaint are being given to those central or local self-governing agencies or their official whose decision or acts (idleness) are being complained. The mentioned is obliged to send his position and clarifications to the Defender no later than 15 days after receiving the results of investigation. This deadline can be extended by the Defender.

Who can apply and not discussable complaints Edit

Any individual regardless of their nationality, citizenship, place of residence, sex, race, age, political and other views, and capabilities can appeal to the Defender. Persons who are under arrest, in preliminary detention or serving their sentence in penitentiaries, as well as persons in other places of coercive detention also have the right to appeal to the Defender. The Defender or their representative are guaranteed to have confidential, separate, unrestricted communication with persons in military units, under in preliminary detention or serving their sentence in penitentiaries, as well as persons in other places of coercive detention. Conversations of the Defender or his representatives with persons mentioned in this paragraph are not a subject to any interference or eavesdropping. Having appealed to the defender does not result in any administrative, criminal or other liability, nor in any discrimination towards the applicant. Legal entities may also appeal to the Defender. A complaint made on behalf of a legal entity relates to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, if the violation of the legal entity's rights entails violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms and legitimate interests of physical persons participants of the entity (shareholders, stockholders, members, etc.) and its officials, or the violation of the legal entity's rights has caused them damage or there exists the potential for damage. Only representatives of a person or family members and devisees of deceased persons can appeal to the Defender with the purpose of protecting other persons' rights. Central and local self-governing agencies, except for the agencies of trusteeship and guardianship, do not have the right to appeal to the Defender. State officials shall have the right to appeal to the Defender only for the protection of their individual citizen rights (human rights) that have been violated. The Defender sends the copy of the decision to the applicant as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after receiving the complaint. The Defender is eligible to start the discussion of the issue on their initiative, especially in those cases when there is information about the mass violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms, or it has unique social meaning, or is related to necessity of defending such persons’ interests who are not able to use the legal means of their defense themselves. The Defender does not discuss the complaints which have to be solved only by judicial order, as well as stops the discussion of the complaint if after starting the discussion the interested person submitted a claim or complaint to the Court. The Defender is eligible not to discuss the anonymous complaints and those which were given after a year from the day when the applicant has known or should have known about the violation of their rights and freedom, as well as the complaints which, in the opinion of Defender, do not witness about violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms or do not demand anything. If in the complaint the issue by its nature can be solved by other state agency or official, and if that person did not discuss the given case previously, the Defender in agreement with the presenter of the complaint can hand the complaint to them, taking control over its discussion. In this case, the applicant is being informed that the complaint is handed to another official.

After discussing the complaint Edit

Based on the results of the discussion about the complaint the Defender must accept one of these decisions:

  1. to recommend to the central or local self-governing agency or their official in whose decisions or acts (idleness) the Defender sees violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms to eliminate those violations by indicating the possible events which should recover the human rights and fundamental freedoms
  2. about the absence of violation of human rights and freedoms if during the discussion of the complaint a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the central or local self-governing agency or its official is not revealed
  3. to stop the discussion of the complaint by the law if during the discussion of the complaint reasons are revealed regarding not to discussing the complaint or stopping the discussion of the complaint.
  4. to bring an action before the court on invalidating in full or partially the normative legal acts of the central and local government agencies or officials that violate human rights, fundamental freedoms and lawful interests and contradict the law and other statutes, if the central or local government agencies or officials, who committed the named violation, do not invalidate in full or partially their corresponding legal act within the prescribed period
  5. to recommend that the authorized state agencies execute disciplinary or administrative penalties or file criminal charges against the official whose decisions or acts (idleness) violated human and civil rights and freedoms and (or) violated the requirements of this Law.

The state agencies after receiving the complaint Edit

Central or local self-governing agencies or their official who received the Defender's motion in 20 days is obliged to inform to the Defender in written form about the undertaken events. The deadline can be extended in agreement with the Defender, if necessary. If necessary, he Defender can present special reports to the President of the Republic of Armenia and to National Assembly. The Defender can publish in mass media special information about the central or local self-governing agency or official who failed to respond to their motion or did not comply or only partly complied with the requirements of the motion, together with the responses of the central or local government agency or their officials to the decision of the Defender and motion if all other means of resolving the issue through state authorities have been exhausted.

The Human Rights Defender of Armenia shall be guided only by the Constitution and the Laws of the Republic of Armenia, as well as norms and principles of International Law.

By the law on Human Rights Defender in Armenia signed by the president, the person who is elected as a human rights defender shall not:

  1. Hold any state or other office or perform other work for compensation, except for scientific, pedagogical or creative activities.
  2. Be a member of any political party
  3. Nominate his/her candidacy for elections
  4. Participate in pre-election campaigns

Within 14 days after assuming Office, the Defender shall discontinue any activity that is inconsistent with these requirements.

  1. Intervene into judicial processes (S/he may ask for information on any case that is on the stage of trial and direct recommendations/comments to the court, as to guarantee the rights of citizens to fair functioning of the court system as enshrined in the Constitution and norms of International Law)
  2. Publish any personal data about the complainant or any other person that were disclosed during examination of the complaint without their written consent.

In addition, the Defender's decision cannot hinder the person from protecting his/her rights, freedoms and legal interests by other means not prohibited by law.

According to the law of the human rights defender in RA:

  1. After assuming his/her responsibilities the defender cannot be prosecuted or hold liability because of the actions s/he did on his post, including the opinions expressed in National Assembly (if they are not offensive or defamatory).
  2. No criminal prosecution shall be brought against him/her s/he cannot be detained or arrested without the consent of the National Assembly. In case the Defender is caught in the act of crime, the official person executing the arrest shall immediately inform the President of the National Assembly about the fact.

Every year, amid the first quarter of the year, the Defender should convey a report on his exercises and on the human rights circumstance in the earlier year to the President of the Republic of Armenia and the agents of official, administrative and legal powers. The reports should be exhibited to the National Assembly amid the first sitting of the National Assembly's spring session. The Defender likewise displays his/her answer to the broad communications and important NGOs.

In excellent cases that create far reaching open reaction, or if there should be an occurrence of blatant infringement of human rights or mass event of non-disposal of the infringement in due time, the Defender might have the privilege to convey unscheduled reports.

  1. The Defender's powers shall terminate 6 years after his oath.
  2. In case of termination of the Defender's powers, the new Defender shall be appointed within a month from the date of termination of the powers of the previous Defender.
  3. The Defender's powers shall be terminated prior to the end of the term if:
  • A verdict of the Court convicting the Defender enters into legal force
  • The Defender loses citizenship of the Republic of Armenia
  • The Defender repeats his/her letter of resignation to National Assembly of Armenia not more than 10 days after first letter of resignation.
  • The Defender is declared disabled, partly disabled, missing or deceased by an effective decision of the Court
  • In case of Defender's death.

Ombudsman strongly condemns any case of violence against human rights activists Edit

On the sixteenth of April with profound misgiving we gain from our Rapid Response group in Lori marz, that the human rights activists of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office had been assaulted.

As per the declaration of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office a few subjects, who were against screening of Azerbaijani movies, tossed stones towards the human rights association's office, ill-used, harmed the property and even hurt one of the officers.

Savagery towards any individual is unequivocally censured, and brutality towards persons with exceptional mission including human rights shields and writers is over and again denounced. Savagery towards human rights guards and writers is a wrongdoing, as well as disgrace and disgrace for the general public. It would be more disgraceful if such activities don't get a sufficient open response, and law authorization bodies don't completely secure human rights protectors and rebuff the liable with all the strictness of the law.

I am against screening of Azerbaijani movies in Armenia, particularly in the current circumstance, when Azerbaijani riflemen execute our siblings on the fringe, when Azerbaijan shows scorn towards us all over the place, specifically Azerbaijani President's late wild indication that stunned and disturbed numerous Europeans. We see ourselves as Europeans. Our goals are unequivocally situated towards Europe. Our Christian and national qualities have dependably driven us towards resilience and humanism. A genuine Christian, an accommodating Armenian, an advanced European can't express his difference by tossing stones. A law authorization body with a Christian philosophy, drove in its activities by sacred qualities and the letter of law, can't stay detached in such inadmissible case and shun brief uncovering and rebuffing the liable of the wrongdoing submitted. [3]

RA Human Rights Defender Preliminary Observations on the Presidential Elections 2013 Edit

Each election is always followed by certain results and various assessments. Above the actual election results much more important is the public's confidence in regards to those results. Public's confidence can be formed only by neutral and objective assessments. From today on many local and international organizations will present their assessments on these elections.

Nonetheless, no rating can be full and reliable for the Armenian society, if the Armenian Police doesn't present objectively on how many calls related to the following serious electoral violations were and how many of them were valid:

Voting bribes, Double voting, Directed voting, Ballot stuffing, Committee member or proxy's pressure during the calculation of votes Falsification of results of vote counting

Moreover, the Police should also publicize basis and reasons for considering those calls valid or invalid.

Also is essential to find out urgently and to inform the society on why the Gala TV website activities were disrupted during the Election Day. It's also crucial to find out all the cases of journalist and observers activity obstacles and to take to responsibility the guilty ones.

Not credible activity of the RA Police may obscure positive achievements of all the phases of these Elections. Hence, the RA Policy is responsible to carry the heavy burden of the public's reliability on the Elections results and of the Elections’ general assessment. I urge all the institutions and individuals to cooperate with the Police, in order to swiftly and efficiently reveal all the electoral crimes and for the society to receive the actual picture and amount of the electoral violations.

On the abovementioned essential and other electoral violations the Human Rights Defender received 253 calls. Before presenting our comprehensive assessment on the elections we will continue receiving calls on the electoral violations during the election different stages, follow relevant publications of mass media, assessments of the observer organizations and post-electoral developments. [3]


Contents

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) (signed in 1996 and in force since 1999) serves as the legal framework for EU-Armenia bilateral relations. Since 2004, Armenia [1] and the other South Caucasus states have been part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). An ENP Action Plan for Armenia was published on 2 March 2005, "highlighting areas in which bilateral cooperation could feasibly and valuably be strengthened." The plan sets "jointly defined priorities in selected areas for the next five years." In November 2005, formal consultations on the Action Plan was opened in Yerevan. [3] However, most scholars and commentators have criticized the effectiveness of the ENP in facilitating reform objectives outlined in the Action Plan, especially in relation to democracy, corruption and civil society engagement. [4] Regardless, on January 12, 2002, the European Parliament noted that Armenia and Georgia may enter the EU in the future, as both countries are considered European. [5] Armenia entered the EU's Eastern Partnership in 2009. [1] Armenia is additionally a member state of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe, and takes part in various other European programs and treaties such as the European Cultural Convention, European Higher Education Area and the European Court of Human Rights, among others.

Armenia and the EU began negotiating an Association Agreement, which had included a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement, to replace the old PCA in July 2010. [6] In November 2012, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle stated that the AA negotiations could be finalized by November 2013. [7] The new EU Centre in Armenia, set to become the European Union's communication hub, officially opened in central Yerevan on 31 January 2013. [8] However, on 3 September 2013 Armenia announced their decision to join the Eurasian Union. [9] [10] According to EU politicians, Armenian membership in the Eurasian Customs Union would be incompatible with the agreements negotiated with the EU. [9] [10] President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan stated at the 2 October 2013 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe session that Armenia was ready to sign the AA during the November 2013 Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, without the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area component of the agreement that contradicts Armenia's membership in the Eurasian Customs Union. [1] [10] [11] A spokesperson of EU Commissioner Füle responded a few days later by saying "No Armenia-EU document is being readied to be signed at a Vilnius summit" and “We’re trying to find routes for further cooperation with Armenia, based on the existing achievements”. [10] This was followed by other EU officials who echoed this statement. [12] No AA was ultimately initialed at the summit. [13] In December 2013, the Polish ambassador to Armenia said that the EU and Armenia were discussing a less in-depth bilateral agreement on their relations, and did "not rule out the possibility that it may be an association agreement in a different form". [14] [15] In January 2015, the EU commissioner for European neighbourhood policy and enlargement Johannes Hahn stated that the EU was willing to sign a revised AA without free trade provisions. [16] Negotiations were launched in December 2015. [17]

Although Armenia's trade with EU states far exceeds that with Eurasian Union members Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan combined, Armenia is dependent on Russia for security. [1] Armenia's alliance with Russia, and its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, is seen by Armenia as a counterbalance to Azerbaijan’s sharp hike in military spending (Azerbaijan bought tanks, artillery cannons and rocket launchers worth billions of US dollars from Russia in 2011, 2012 and 2013). [1] [18] [19] This is seen by Armenia as a threat given that the first Nagorno-Karabakh War (an armed conflict that took place from 1991 to May 1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan [20] [21] ) remains unresolved. [1] Russia (also) has a military presence in Armenia, the Russian 102nd Military Base is an active base located in the city of Gyumri. [1]

On February 24, 2017 Tigran Sargsyan, the Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission stated that Armenia's stance was to cooperate and work with both the European Union and the Eurasian Union. Sargsyan added that although Armenia is part of the Eurasian Union, a revised European Union Association Agreement between Armenia and the EU would be finalized shortly. [22]

On February 27, 2017 the European Union and Armenia finalized a new agreement on deepening their political and economic ties. The Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, was in Brussels and met with European Council President Donald Tusk and other high-ranking officials. The new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement will expand and broaden the scope of relations between the EU and Armenia, [23] but will not be an Association Agreement. [24] It was signed by Armenia and all EU member states on 24 November 2017. [25] [26]

Developments in 2017 Edit

On April 3, 2017 the Prime Minister of Armenia, Karen Karapetyan said that Armenia tends to become a bridge between the European Union, Eurasian Union, and other economic blocs. He also said Armenia's membership in the Eurasian Union will not affect its growing relationship with the EU. [27]

A new political alliance in Armenia, comprising several pro-Western parties, had campaigned on opposing further integration into the Eurasian Union and pledged to seek a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union in the Armenian parliamentary election, 2017. [28] After the 2017 election was held, the European External Action Service Spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said that the EU is committed to a stable, democratic and prosperous future for Armenia and that the EU would strengthen political dialogue and continue supporting economic and social reform in Armenia. [29] Meanwhile, the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, stated that Armenia seeks to build stronger ties with both Russia and the EU during an election speech.

On April 12, 2017 the Armenian Foreign Minister, Eduard Nalbandyan attended the EU Eastern Partnership and Visegrád Group meeting in Warsaw, Poland. The Minister stressed the importance of the Eastern Partnership and Armenia's relations with the EU. He touched upon the importance of interconnectivity on the European continent, beginning talks on visa liberalization, welcomed the decision to extend the Trans-European Transport Networks into Eastern Partnership countries, and Armenia's progress of joining the European Common Aviation Area. He also thanked the EU and the European Investment Bank for funding construction of modern highways and border crossing checkpoints with neighboring Georgia. The Minister stated that Armenia is a country willing to bring together the EU, Eastern Partnership states, and Eurasian Union members to foster economic growth and development. [30]

In May 2017, the delegation of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament met with the President of Armenia in Yerevan. The President said with satisfaction that in recent years Armenia has registered significant progress in the relations with the European Union. He also stated that the country is willing to expand the existing partnership with the EU in all possible areas. [31] Meanwhile, the Speaker of Parliament of Armenia stated that the EU remains one of Armenia's major partners and cooperation with the EU is based on a common value system, during the meeting. [32]

In August 2017, the Way Out Alliance emerged as a liberal political alliance in Armenia and declared that it was a serious mistake for Armenia to join the Eurasian Union. Party leaders stated that discussions on leaving the Eurasian Union will be on the agenda of the alliance. The alliance has a Pro-European orientation and believes that Armenia should have signed an Association Agreement with the EU rather than joining the Eurasian Union. [33]

Developments in 2018 Edit

As a result of the 2018 Armenian Velvet Revolution, Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan announced on April 23 he would resign to maintain peace in Armenia following daily protests. The EU applauded the peaceful nature of the changes. While opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan advocated for Armenia's neutral position and positive relations with both the EU and Russia. [34] Pashinyan further stated that should he become Prime Minister, he would deepen relations with the EU and will do everything possible for Armenian citizens to be granted visa-free access to the Schengen Area. However, Pashinyan confirmed he would not withdraw Armenia's membership from the Eurasian Union, despite previous discussions questioning Armenia's membership. [35]

Following the 2018 Armenian parliamentary election, Nikol Pashinyan was appointed Prime Minister of Armenia. During his first speech as Prime Minister, Pashinyan declared that Armenians deserved to travel freely within Europe, a perk already enjoyed by other Eastern Partnership members Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini congratulated the new leader. [36]

Meanwhile, Bright Armenia emerged as an official opposition party, becoming the 3rd largest party in the National Assembly. Edmon Marukyan, the leader of Bright Armenia stated that if Armenia should continue its membership in the Eurasian Union—even to the detriment of national interests, the Bright Armenia party shall act as an opponent, and demand that appropriate measures be taken toward withdrawing Armenia from the Eurasian Union and to begin the first steps of EU accession negotiations without delay. [37]

Developments in 2019 Edit

In October 2019, the Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia Tigran Avinyan stated that Armenia and the EU have a completely different level of relationship following the 2018 Armenian revolution. The Minister confirmed that the revolution strengthened ties between Armenia and the EU as both share the same democratic values. The Minister further stated that, "This new political situation is completely in line with the EU’s views". Avinyan also made clear that in the future, Armenia will have to decide whether or not to pursue an EU membership bid. The Minister advised that any decision for Armenia to join the European Union would have to be brought before the people and that future accession of Armenia to the EU would only occur following Armenia's complete withdrawal from the Eurasian Union. [38]

Developments in 2021 Edit

The European Union and Armenia ratified the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement which took effect on 1 March 2021. The agreement advances the bilateral relations between the EU and Armenia to a new, partnership level and regulates cooperation in political and economic sectors, while enhancing trade relations. The agreement is also designed to bring Armenian laws and regulations gradually closer to the EU acquis.

Since 2013, European Union citizens enjoy visa-free travel to Armenia. [39]

On 15 March 2017, the former President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan announced that Armenia currently takes part in a number of EU agreements and programs and that the EU is an important partner. He also announced that Armenia will launch talks with the EU over establishing visa-free travel for Armenian citizens into the EU's Schengen Area soon. [40] Meanwhile, the Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Switalski stated that, the action plan for beginning visa liberalization between Armenia and the EU will be on the agenda of the next Eastern Partnership summit in 2017 and dialogue for visa-free travel will begin in early 2018. He stressed the importance of better connecting Armenia with the EU. [41] The Ambassador also stated that Armenian citizens could be granted visa-free travel to the EU by 2020. [42]

On 10 April 2018, the former deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia confirmed that the EU will soon provide Armenia with an action program to launch visa liberalization dialogue. The Minister further stated that Armenia has already been implementing preconditions for launching dialogue over visa liberalization. [43]

On 1 May 2018, the newly appointed Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan announced that Armenian citizens would be able to travel within the EU's Schengen Area visa-free in the nearest future. [ citation needed ]

On 24 August 2018, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel during her meeting with the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan stated that, “Georgian and Ukrainian citizens do not need visas to enter the European Union, and we will do everything possible to reach visa liberalization with Armenia as well.” [44]

On 18 January 2019, preliminary dialogue on visa liberalization was launched as part of the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. [45]

In May 2020, Nikol Pashinyan announced that an agreement has been reached with the EU to start visa liberalization talks. [46] Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Armenia, Andrea Wiktorin confirmed that the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement stipulates that the EU will continue to promote the mobility of citizens through a visa facilitation agreement and that she expects official negotiations to begin in due course. [47]

Armenia is a member of Eurocontrol, the European Civil Aviation Conference and a partner of the European Aviation Safety Agency. After the new Armenia-EU Partnership agreement was signed in February 2017, Armenia began negotiations to join the European Common Aviation Area. During the first round of talks in April 2017, the Head of Armenia's Civil Aviation Department stated that Armenia attaches great importance to joining the common aviation area and that this will allow Armenian and European airlines to further boost their activities and allow more European airlines to fly to Armenia. [48] The EU Delegation in Yerevan stated that the agreement will enable Armenia to have a stronger connection with Europe and the outside world and will open up new travel routes, while reducing travel costs for passengers. Once the agreement is finalized, airlines will have the opportunity to operate new routes without any limitations and enjoy equal opportunities of servicing a market with a population of 500 million. [49]

Armenia benefits from the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences plus (GSP+) trading initiative. This offers Armenian exports advantageous access to the EU market by allowing complete duty suspension across approximately 66% of all EU tariff lines. More than 96% of EU imports eligible for GSP+ preferences from Armenia entered the EU with zero duties in 2017. The EU is Armenia's biggest export market, trade with the EU accounts for around 26.7% of Armenia's total trade. [50] EU-Armenia trade increased by 15% in 2018 reaching a total value of €1.1 billion. [51]

The EU is the biggest provider of financial support and a key reform partner in Armenia. [51] As part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, Armenia benefits from EU financial assistance. The amount allocated to Armenia depends on Armenia's commitment to reforms. Certain EU reform targets need to be met before money is paid. The planned amount of EU assistance to Armenia for the period 2017-2020 is up to €185 million. [52] [53]

A December 2006 public opinion poll in Armenia found that EU membership would be welcomed, with 64% out of a sample of 2,000 being in favour and only 11.8% being against. [54] Another poll conducted in the Armenian capital Yerevan in October 2006 suggested that "as many as 72% of city residents believe, with varying degrees of conviction, that their country's future lies with the EU rather than the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)." [54] Still, more than two-thirds of the country's population believed that Armenia would not be ready to join the EU until at least 2019. [54]

A 2007 opinion poll indicated an increase in Armenian EU interest, with 80% of the Armenian public favoring eventual membership. [55]

According to a 2012 opinion poll, 54% (26% strong support+28% rather support) of Armenians supported Armenia's membership in the EU. [56]

The 3 September 2013 decision by Armenia to join the Eurasian Union sparked a series of protests in Yerevan against the action, as many feared that Russia was trying to stop Armenia from building a deeper relationship with the EU just as they had tried to do in Ukraine leading to the Euromaidan demonstrations. [1] Eurasia Partnership Fund director Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan stated that, "We need to fight against Russian interference" however, he also acknowledged that,“The [Armenian] public largely supports joining with Russia. Plus they don’t like the EU, which they see as a source of perverted values,” he added “They love Russia, at least insofar as the monster you know is better than one you don’t”. [1]

According to a 2017 Gallup opinion poll conducted in Armenia, support for the EU increased significantly with 27.2% of those surveyed favoring EU integrating over other development paths. [57]

According to the 2018 survey by EU NEIGHBOURS east project: [58]

  • Pro-EU sentiments are rising in Armenia 48% of Armenians have a positive image of the EU, the same as in 2017. The number of persons with negative opinions of the EU is just 8%.
  • 80% of Armenians (up 4% on 2017) feel relations with the European Union are good - well ahead of the regional average (63%).
  • 70% of people in Armenia trust the EU (up 5% on 2017), while trust in the Eurasian Economic Union (48%) has declined.
  • 69% of Armenians (up 4% on 2017) are aware of the EU's financial support to the country, and two thirds feel that EU support is effective (66%- up from 62% in 2016 and compared to a regional average of 48% in the Eastern Neighbourhood countries).

According to the 2020 survey by EU NEIGHBOURS east project: [59]

  • 86% of Armenians (up 10% on 2016) feel relations with the European Union are good - well ahead of the Eastern Partnership regional average (70%).
  • 60% of people in Armenia trust the EU compared to 51% trusting in the Eurasian Economic Union.
  • 65% of Armenians are aware of the EU's financial support to the country, and 80% of those who are aware of the support feel that it is effective.

Individual opinions Edit

There is a lot of interest in Armenia eventually joining the European Union, especially among several prominent Armenian politicians [60] and the general public in Armenia. [54] However, former President Robert Kocharyan, has said he will keep Armenia tied to Russia and the CSTO for now, remaining partners, not members of the EU and NATO. [61] Former President Serzh Sargsyan took a similar position to this issue.

According to Artur Baghdasarian, head of the Rule of Law party and former speaker of the National Assembly, Armenian membership in the European Union "should be one of the key priorities" of the country's "present and future foreign policy." Baghdasarian believes that "EU membership will open new avenues for Armenia to move to a new geopolitical milieu as well as a new economic environment." He also added that it "will enable Armenia to have access to a completely new security system." [60]

Armenia's former Minister of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanyan reiterated in 2005 that "Armenia is Europe. This is a fact, it's not a response to a question.". [62] Torben Holtze, head of the European Commission's representation in Armenia and Georgia and Ambassador of the European Union with residence in Tbilisi, stated recently: "As a matter of principle, Armenia is a European country and like other European states it has the right to be an EU member provided it meets necessary standards and criteria." [63] On 12 January 2002, the European Parliament noted that Armenia and Georgia may enter the EU in the future. [63]

Hovhannes Hovhannisyan said there is a quite strong opinion in Armenia that the country's future lies with Europe. “There is no talk about Asia,” he said, adding that Armenian society considers itself European and celebrates its European origins and values. He also said Armenia shares a significant history with Europe because Armenian comes from the same language family as many European languages. [64]

Mikael Minasyan, Armenia's Ambassador to the Holy See and Malta stated that "Armenia and Europe are, first and foremost, united by our common values. Armenia, Artsakh and Armenian people worldwide have been, and are, inalienable part of European civilization and the Eastern border of the Christian world". [65]

In March 2019, the Vice Speaker of the Parliament of Armenia Alen Simonyan stated, "Over the past 28 years following its independence Armenia, adhered to pan-European values and continues building its cooperation in the European direction," during a ceremony dedicating a section of Northern Avenue as "Europe Square". [66]

In July 2019, the President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian stated that “Armenia is not only a country that signed an agreement with the European Union, but also a country that is and has always been deeply European in terms of culture. Therefore, coming closer to the EU is very natural for us. Armenia is a cradle of European values, from our religion and culture to literature and music,” during a meeting with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Yerevan. [67] In return, Donald Tusk stated that “Armenia is an integral part of the European family and culture. A place of authentic people who cherish freedom. Sevanavank is a monument that testifies to Armenia's millennia-old imprint on Europe’s culture.” [68]

In November 2019, during an Eastern Partnership meeting, the Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan stated that "the Eastern Partnership is not a neighbourhood, it’s the eastern flank of Europe. That is the significance of Eastern Partnership. It’s not to the east of Europe, it’s to the east of the European Union, but the European Union is not the whole of Europe. The important challenge is to spread the sense of the Eastern flank of Europe further towards other parts of Europe." The Minister stated that Armenia shares European values of democracy, human rights and accountability to citizens. Mnatsakanyan also advised that a recent survey has shown 92% of the Armenian public considered relations with the EU as very good. The Minister supported the notion that Europe is Armenia's home. [69]

During a press conference, Tigran Khzmalyan, Chairman of the European Party of Armenia stated that, "We are convinced that Armenia is a European state, that we are not only European but also a key culture for Europe." [70] Khzmalyan also stated that the Eurasian Union is a corrupt, hostile and colonial system and that the European Party of Armenia will stand in opposition to Armenia's current membership while supporting the development of Armenia as a European state within the European family of states. [71]

The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) is a grassroots umbrella organization, based in Belgium, which represents a significant portion of the Armenian diaspora in Europe. The organization was founded in 2002 and actively works on strengthening ties and deepening cooperation between Armenia and the 27 member states of the EU.

The European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA) is an international non-governmental organization established in 2009, which aims to promote cooperation between the European Union and Armenia. The organization is based in Belgium and coordinates activities between the European Parliament, civil societies, associations and NGO's, as well as the Armenian diaspora and political organizations across Europe.

There are several political parties in Armenia which advocate for closer relations with the EU or support Armenia's EU membership. These include:

    , which is currently the third largest party in the National Assembly of Armenia. The party advocates to increase relations with the EU to a strategic partnership level and to renegotiate a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement with the EU. [72] , the party is staunchly anti-Russian and calls for the immediate withdrawal of Armenia from the Eurasian Union. The party's manifesto supports Armenia to apply for membership in both the European Union and NATO. [71] , the party believes that Armenia should withdraw its membership from the Eurasian Union. [73] , a pro-European party which formed a political alliance with the Free Democrats, named the We Alliance. , the party advocates for the integration of Armenia into the European Union and ultimate accession. [74] , the party reaffirms that the eventual membership of Armenia in the EU should be one of the key priorities of Armenia's present and future political agenda. [75] , the party advocates for deeper European integration. [76] , the party believes that eventual EU accession will result in a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. [77] , a strongly anti-Russian party which calls for the withdrawal of Armenia from both the Eurasian Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. [78]

In contrast, Prosperous Armenia is the main Euroskeptic party in Armenia. The party advocates for maintaining strong relations with Russia and is currently the second largest party in the National Assembly.

Like Cyprus, Armenia has been regarded by many as culturally associated with Europe because of its connections with European society, through its diaspora, its Indo-European language, and a religious criterion of being Christian. On 12 January 2002, the European Parliament noted that Armenia may enter the EU in the future. [79]

In December 2019, following the eighth Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, a resolution was passed by all members outlining various EU integration goals to be achieved by 2030. The resolution affirms that the process of EU enlargement is open to Eastern Partnership member states and that future enlargement of the EU will be mutually beneficial for both the EU and Eastern Partnership members. The resolution praised the progress made in Armenia following the 2018 Velvet Revolution. The resolution also stated that, "Armenia is the only country in Europe to transition from being a hybrid regime in 2017 to a democracy in 2018" and that the ratification of the new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) by the Armenian Parliament in April 2018 is considered evidence of a strategically reinforced partnership between Armenia and EU. [80]


Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and laws provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2018 the country held snap parliamentary elections, preceded by a short and heated, but free and competitive, campaign with generally equal opportunities for contestants. Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step coalition won more than 70 percent of the vote and most seats in the National Assembly the Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia parties also won seats, with 8.3 percent and 6.4 percent of the vote, respectively. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) 2018 preliminary and March 2019 final reports noted, “Early parliamentary elections were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms…The general absence of electoral malfeasance, including of vote buying and pressure on voters, allowed for genuine competition.” The final report noted, however, that although electoral stakeholders did not report any systematic efforts of vote buying and other electoral malfeasance, several interlocutors alleged that short-term contracting of a number of campaign workers and citizen observers was done, mainly by the Prosperous Armenia Party, possibly for the purpose of buying their votes.

ODIHR observers stated contestants “were able to conduct their campaigns freely fundamental freedoms of association, assembly, expression and movement were fully respected.” At the same time, they emphasized that disinformation, as well as inflammatory exchanges between some candidates, on social networks, were noted during the campaign. Among the few issues that marred the electoral process, the observers noted, “The integrity of campaign finance was undermined by a lack of regulation, accountability, and transparency.” For example, organizational expenses such as for office space, communication, transportation, and staff were not considered election-related and therefore could remain unreported, “undermining the credibility of the reporting system and the transparency of information available to election stakeholders.” Other shortcomings highlighted by OSCE observers included the narrow legal standing for submitting electoral complaints.

On June 18, the National Assembly adopted amendments to the electoral code and other relevant laws, which transitioned the system for local elections from majoritarian to proportional representation. The amendments apply to communities with more than 4,000 voters and multisettlement communities. The amended law was a result of cooperation between the government and all three parliamentary factions aimed at elevating the role of political parties at the local level and enhancing the scope for their participation and development.

Political participation was sometimes marred by mutual personal insults between members of the ruling My Step faction and some opposition parties, which at times were followed by violence. For example, on May 8, verbal altercations led to violence on the National Assembly floor when My Step member of parliament Sasun Mikaelyan hit Edmon Marukyan, chair of the opposition Bright Armenia faction, leading to a scuffle between members. The prime minister denounced the violent incident but blamed the opposition, stating it provoked the ruling faction and was serving the former administration’s interests.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The law does not restrict the registration or activity of political parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minorit y Group s: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, but the patriarchal nature of society inhibited large-scale participation by women in political and economic life and in decision-making positions in the public sector. Women held 7 percent of ministerial positions, 9 percent of elected seats in local legislatures, and 23 percent of the elected seats in parliament. There were no female governors in the country’s 10 regions the first female mayor was elected in 2018.

The OSCE’s reports on the 2018 parliamentary elections noted all candidate lists met the 25 percent gender-quota requirement and that women accounted for 32 percent of the 1,444 total candidates. The OSCE stated, however, that this quota did not provide for the same proportion of representation of women in parliament, as one-half of the seats are distributed according to preferential votes. Parties rarely featured women candidates in their campaigns women only occasionally campaigned on their own and rarely appeared as speakers in rallies. Female parliamentarians and other female officials often faced gender-related insults, rather than content-based criticism.

There are government-mandated seats in parliament for the country’s four largest ethnic minorities: Yezidi, Kurdish, and the Assyrian and Russian communities. Four members of parliament represented these constituencies.


Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights issues statement on trial of illegally held Armenian POWs in Baku

WASHINGTON, DC — The Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC) is outraged by the trial of illegally held Armenian prisoners of war (POWs), including Lyudvik Mkrtchyan, Alyosha Khosrovyan and Lebanese-Armenian Viken Euljekian, in Baku. Azerbaijan continues to fabricate excuses under the pretext of the first Artsakh War to hold these people captive in contravention of statements by the United States, France and the European Union.

“We reject Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s attempts to mischaracterize the status of these POWs and abuse them through the charade of legal proceedings.” stated ALC chairperson Kenneth Hachikian. “The United States and Europe must stop emboldening Azerbaijan and must pressure this dictatorial regime to release and repatriate these POWs.”

ALC has partnered with the International & Comparative Law Center (ICLaw) based in Yerevan, Armenia, to file cases and advocate before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of nearly 100 Armenian POWs taken captive by Azerbaijan. Last month, ALC and ICLaw published a list of 19 Armenian POWs who were alive in captivity and were subsequently tortured, abused and murdered by Azerbaijan. The list of 19 murdered Armenian POWs includes seven elderly, three disabled and 13 civilians.


Armenia v Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights

On 28 September 2020, Armenia lodged a request for interim measures against Azerbaijan in view of the recent reignition of the conflict in and around the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

One day later, the European Court of Human Rights decided to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court. While the decision itself remains confidential as all interim measures, the press release details that the Court was of the view that “that the current situation gives rise to a risk of serious violations of the Convention, the European Court of Human Rights decided to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.” As the press release details further the sitting chamber of seven called upon both Azerbaijan and Armenia “to refrain from taking any measures, in particular military action, which might entail breaches of the Convention rights of the civilian population, including putting their life and health at risk, and to comply with their engagements under the Convention, notably in respect of Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the Convention.” The Court further invited both countries to inform it, as soon as possible, of the measures taken to comply with their obligations, which is foreseen by Rule 39 § 3 of the Rules of the Court. In a statement of 1 October, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović-Burić implored “all sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and implement without delay the interim measures decided by the European Court of Human Rights.”

A golden age of inter-State applications

Repeatedly, I have stated that inter-State applications are rare occurrences. This seems to be true but for the year 2020, where Armenia’s application is already the third in three months, after the Netherlands lodged an application against Russia in July and Liechtenstein took action against the Czech Republic in August. Now, eleven sets of inter-State proceedings are pending before the Court, while overall, the new case is only the 27 th in the history of the Convention. Geir Ulfstein and I provided a broader overview of the challenges the Court faces on this blog earlier this year. In a recent interview about the apparent “golden age of inter-State applications” led by Justine Batura and Lukas Kleinert for Völkerrechtsblog, I had the opportunity to comment on some of the many issues surrounding the type of proceeding and the ongoing reform considerations about it.

Nagorno-Karabakh

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan persists since the breakup of the former Soviet Union some thirty years ago. The self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave within Azerbaijan, which enjoys the support of Armenia.

The wider conflict has kept the Strasbourg Court busy. The cases of Chigarov and others v Armenia and Sargsyan v Azerbaijan can be labelled as “disguised” inter-State applications. In both cases, the home governments of the respective applicants intervened in the proceedings under Article 36 § 1 ECHR. The Court confirmed in Chigarov that Armenia exercised effective control over Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territories and thus exercised (extraterritorial) jurisdiction in terms of Article 1 ECHR. In Sargsyan, the Court held that although the village from which the applicant had to flee was located in a disputed area, Azerbaijan exercised jurisdiction over it. There are currently more than one thousand similar individual applications pending before the Court which were lodged by persons displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh in and in the aftermath of the 1992 conflict.

A request for referral to the Grand Chamber is pending in the case of Makuchyan and Minasyan v Azerbaijan and Hungary. The case is about Azerbaijan’s alleged failure to enforce a prison sentence for an ethnically motivated hate crime.

Before the most recent hostilities emerged, Julia Emtseva provided an overview of the long history of the conflict, and highlighted the lack of grip of Security Council Resolution 2532, which – widely unsuccessful – called for a global ceasefire in view of the ongoing pandemic.

The role of Turkey: a possible co-respondent?

As international media outlets report, Turkey vowed support for Azerbaijan. It allegedly deployed F 16 fighter jets. Armenia could, from a procedural view, include Turkey in the inter-State proceedings under Article 33 ECHR as a co-respondent concerning Turkey’s role in the escalation of the conflict. The relationship between Armenia and Turkey is marked by the death some 1.5 millions of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during the first World War.

The value of interim measures by the European Court of Human Rights: supervisory deterrent effect

The use of Rule 39 interim measures in acute inter-State conflicts is not new to Strasbourg. Similar measures were taken in the case of Ukraine v Russia in 2014 as well as Georgia v Russia II in 2008, as analyzed by Philip Leach on this blog. In the context of the Ukraine v Russia case, Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou warned that it was “unrealistic to burden the Court with such an unattainable task as the prevention of war”. While I share the view that it is important to carefully manage the expectations towards the Court to achieve what many other bodies and initiatives have failed to do, it would be much worse if the Court remained silent when approached by a ECHR member state regarding the outbreak of hostilities and the loss of human life. The Court does not have the choice of which cases come before it.

When it comes to said management of expectations, one must add here that the compliance record of Azerbaijan with binding judgments of the Court certainly is among the worst in Europe, which is for example illustrated with the Ilgar Mammadov Article 46 § 4 ECHR proceedings.

What legal analysis permits of the available press release is that the Court does not impose new legal obligations on Armenia and Azerbaijan. Rather, it underlines existing and previously agreed treaty obligations enshrined in the Convention.

The value of the request for information is further to be highlighted. The use of interim measures can, and there must be always hope when dealing with human rights law, that there is a supervisory deterrent effect of a request for factual clarification.

The voice of the Court

The conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh will not be solved in Strasbourg. Interim measures from Strasbourg can help, at least one can hope, to contain the worst human rights violations by drawing attention to this theatre of – currently – acute conflict, even after the immediate media interest fades. The voice of the Court is a reminder for all involved that basic human rights obligations are to be respected. How the Court will deal, at a later stage of what will be certainly long ensuing proceedings, with the factually complex unfolding of events and the possible applicability of international humanitarian law, as well as the role of Turkey, remains to be seen.


The Armenian Genocide: 100 Years of Denial (And Why It’s In Turkey’s Interest to End It)

On April 24, we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. On that date in 1915, some 250 Armenian political leaders and intellectuals were arrested and subsequently tortured and murdered by Ottoman Turkish authorities, effectively launching the genocide in which approximately 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered. This grim centenary marks not only the crime itself but also a century of its denial by the Turkish state and wide swaths of Turkish society.

Denial is the final fortress of those who commit genocide and other mass crimes. Perpetrators hide the truth in order to avoid accountability and protect the political and economic advantages they sought to gain by mass killings and theft of the victims’ property, and to cement the new reality by manufacturing an alternative history. Recent studies have established that such denial not only damages the victims and their destroyed communities, it promises a future based on lies, sowing the seeds of future conflict, repression and suffering.

The facts of the Armenian genocide are well known and documented, and any honest debate is not about whether the genocide happened but about the exact number of murdered, the worth of their stolen property and the long-term impact of this crime.

The Ottoman authorities of the day (the government of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), often referred to as the Young Turks) and their allies carried out the systematic murder of some 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1917, destroying a large percentage of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire at that time. Then, from 1918 to 1923, many of the surviving Armenians and others, including Greeks and Assyrians, were driven from their homes, robbed of their remaining possessions, starved, and murdered.* Like other genocides, the mass killing of Armenians was hardly spontaneous. It was planned and executed with efficiency, without mercy.

Armenian refugees approach British front lines after expulsion.

Turkey’s Culture of Denial and its Spoils

A hundred years on, despite a mountain of evidence, there remains a culture of official denial in Turkey. In a pallid public statement “on the events of 1915,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently extended “[Turkey’s] condolences to [the] grandchildren” of the Armenians “who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century.” Rubbing salt in the wounds, he trivialized the suffering caused to Armenians at the time by equating them to that of “every other citizen of the Ottoman Empire.”† Considering the scale of the slaughter and the nature of the genocidal effort directed at Armenians, Erdogan’s attempts to equate their suffering to that of “every citizen of the Ottoman Empire” constitutes a form of denial in itself.

Although such rhetoric is not new, the culture of denial in some respects has intensified in Turkey over the years. In 1919, albeit under international pressure, the Ottoman authorities established a tribunal that convicted two senior district officials for deporting Armenians and acting “against humanity and civilization”. The tribunal found that the perpetrators and their co-conspirators had executed a top-down, carefully crafted plan, specifically finding:

The disaster visiting the Armenians was not a local or isolated event. It was the result of a premeditated decision taken by a central body [. ] and the immolations and excesses which took place were based on oral and written orders issued by that central body.‡

However, a few years later, after a new government was formed in Ankara, the Nationalists annulled all of the sentences.§ Moreover, in another crime against humanity,‖ pursuant to the orders of Kemal Ataturk, who later became the President of the Republic of Turkey, Armenians who remained in the western Cilicia region of Turkey were expelled, along with the Greek and Assyrian populations. Several high-level perpetrators of the genocide became senior leaders in Turkey and others were celebrated as national heroes.¶

While it is argued that the culture of denial arose as a result of the close connection that the Armenian genocide has with the birth of modern Turkey,** this is an explanation of possible causes, not a justification for the most serious of crimes. A parallel can be drawn with the conquest of the Americas by the United States and the continental powers in their multitudinous abuses and genocidal killings of Native Americans: the explanation may be the rapacious hunger for land, but it is not a defense for the crimes committed. Looking for such justification for these systematic crimes amounts to a strategy of normalization and denial.

Armenian refugees approach British front lines after expulsion.

A closer look at Turkey’s refusal to reckon with the truth about the genocide invites two important questions: How is denial perpetuated? And how does a society move beyond denial?

Before these questions can be addressed, some understanding of how denial is formulated and promulgated is required. Israel Charny has pointed to a "template of denial," which owes much to the Turkish handling of the Armenian genocide. He identifies a number of rules (or in more contemporary terms a kind of playbook), on how to get away with genocide, including: Do not acknowledge that the genocide took place transform it into other kinds of events portray the victims as the perpetrators insist more victims were from the perpetrator's group and relativize the genocide in whatever way possible.††

A key element of any effort to deny genocide is to try to reinterpret international laws and conventions, to say that the crimes do not fit the legal definition of genocide,‡‡ thus rendering the crime not so serious after all. As if the mass killing of 1.5 million human beings does not scream out for justice, regardless of the state of the law at the time.

Another of Turkey’s tactics is to pressure other states not to recognize the genocide. In the latest development, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican for "consultations" just hours after Pope Francis referred to the mass killing of Armenians as the “first genocide of the twentieth century." Turkey was successful in lobbying members of the U.S. Congress during the Reagan and Bush administrations to defeat congressional resolutions that would have made April 24 a national day of remembrance.§§ However, it is noteworthy that such pressure failed in other cases, and dozens of countries, including Argentina, France, Greece and Russia, have all officially recognized the Armenian genocide, despite Turkey’s threats and reprisals.

Another ploy in the denier’s bag of tricks is to manipulate statistics, downplaying the number of victims (or, in this case, the number of Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire in 1915), and destroy official documents.

The genocide of the Armenians proved to be an opening act in a century replete with mass extermination: from the furnaces of Auschwitz to the killing fields of Cambodia to the genocide in Rwanda (marked earlier this month by its 21st anniversary) to the slaughterhouse of Bosnia and to much of the barbarity that we see in the world today. The butchers have learned the lessons all too well.

Hitler himself took succor in the genocide of the Armenians and famously remarked: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"‖ Hitler learned the lessons of the Armenian genocide well and drew on them as he planned the extermination of Jews and other groups that stood in the way of his murderous vision of “Aryan superiority”.

Armenian dignitaries and women stand around skulls of victims of Armenian genocide.

Consequences of Denial and Benefits of Acknowledgement

The consequences of denial are deep and lasting, not only for the descendants of the Armenians, but also for Turkey itself, in large and small ways. Putting perpetrators of genocide in the Turkish pantheon of national heroes has its price.

Indeed, Turkey today bears the dubious distinction of having the highest number of judgments for violation of human rights rendered against it by the European Court of Human Rights.*** It is criticized for legislating such vague and groundless crimes such as "insulting Turkish identity,"††† which has now been reformed to "denigration of the Turkish nation, the state of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish Parliament (TBMM), the government of the Republic of Turkey and the legal institutions of the state”.

Even Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel Laureate, faced an official order for his books to be removed from the shelves of public libraries and burned after he referenced the Armenian genocide to a Swiss newspaper. These are not actions of a state grounded in the rule of law and human rights.

There is a different path to follow, one traveled by other countries with as heavy or heavier burdens of history, and it points to approaches that might be useful for Turkey.

The first step includes ending the politics of denial and embracing acknowledgement. One need only think of the experience of post-war Germany, which, despite the Nuremberg trials, spent several decades (at best) ignoring, if not denying, the massive crimes of the Nazi period. Over time though, West Germany and then a reunited Germany began to deal with the horrendous crimes of the Holocaust through important trials, such as those held in Frankfurt in the 1960s, which exposed the awful crimes committed in Auschwitz in chilling detail.

Over time, it began to remove some of the culprits from the police, military and political ranks, and importantly reformed its political legal institutions. In one of the most iconic acts of acknowledgement, Chancellor Willy Brandt went to his knees in front of a monument dedicated to victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was a symbolic act that spoke of contrition and apology it carried enormous significance and meaning for the victims and their survivors as well as the world at large.

Germany is not alone, other countries have moved past the stage of denial, whether expressed or implied, to address the violations of the past. We are now celebrating the 30th anniversary of Nunca Mas (“Never Again”), the final report of an official effort to document the vast system of enforced disappearances perpetrated in Argentina during the military dictatorship and “Dirty War,” which led to trials of some of the most responsible perpetrators and a much clearer understanding of that dark period in the country’s history. We have seen similar experiences in much of Latin America, through truth commissions, other commissions of inquiry and historical clarification, trials, and reparation programs.

Some countries have taken other approaches to uncovering their sordid histories. In South Africa, the history and abuses of apartheid were partly exposed through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Many countries in eastern and central Europe have pursued processes of lustration (or vetting) after the Cold War, exposing and penalizing those behind state-sponsored abuses. In the former Yugoslavia, denial is still strong in some places regarding crimes like the genocide in Srebrenica yet, trials at the national and international levels have established the culpability of many of the perpetrators and helped get the truth to the public.

There are many other experiences to draw on, and they all point to the importance of acknowledgment of both genocide and other serious crimes and the state’s failure to protect its citizens. In the case of Turkey, where there are no perpetrators of the genocide presently alive, criminal trials have no role left to play that makes it all the more important that criminal processes not be turned against those who tell the truth, who expose the genocide and speak for the victims, as in the case of Pamuk.

That would be a small but significant step toward addressing Turkey’s historic debt to the Armenians and one expected of a country that proclaims to be a member of the family of modern democracies.

Orphans of the Armenian genocide

An important first step would be for President Erdoğan to apologize to the Armenian community for the genocide. A tepid statement using euphemisms like “the events of 1915" only makes matters worse. He is in a strong position in Turkey, and politically he can afford to take this morally right action. It is his duty as president of all citizens of the country to set the record straight. Official contrition would help in healing the deep injuries and damage suffered by the Armenian community, in Armenia and in the diaspora. Such an apology ought to be accompanied by measures to establish full diplomatic relations with the Republic of Armenia, which would be a meaningful goodwill gesture.

The benefits of such an act would not only be directed at Armenians, but at Turkey itself. By acknowledging these crimes, the Turkish state would send a message to the many minorities within its borders and to all of its citizens that the state takes their rights and the rule of law seriously. It would also be a signal that when the state violates or fails to protect its citizens’ rights, the Turkish authorities would provide a remedy to them, in line with international law.

Its current position is not only morally unsustainable but undermines its position as an honest partner and a legitimate regional power. A break with the current policy of denial would show the maturity of Turkish democracy and could help to increase regional stability. The potential impact of an apology on its neighbors, notably the Republic of Armenia, would open the possibility for dialogue and strengthen Turkey’s role in the region regarding unresolved issues like Nagorno-Karabakh.

Not only would this apology send an important message inside Turkey and to its neighbors, it is a message that would resonate well beyond the borders of the country. In the Balkans, where Turkey has increasing sway, denial is alive and well, and presents a significant obstacle to re-establishing confidence between former warring parties, such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo. An act of acknowledgement would substantially increase Turkey’s ability to mediate and support initiatives in contexts where impunity reigns, from Israel and Palestine to Syria to Sudan and many other places.

If Turkey and President Erdoğan were serious about reversing the culture of denial, there is more to do. A crucial measure would be to establish a truthful and accurate historical record of what happened to the Armenians. This could be in the form of an official Commission of Historical Clarification, composed of impartial and respected experts, which would examine the historical record and issue a report that would accurately reflect the history of the period and establish how the crimes were committed. Such a commission would need to be composed of experts that were objective, credible and fair minded.

Using international commissioners or a mixture of international and national experts, which has occurred in a number of truth commissions and other processes, would add considerable credibility to the process. The Commission for the Truth in El Salvador and the Commission for Historical Clarification in Guatemala are good examples of mixed national-international commissions. Such a commission should build on the work of the earlier unofficial Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission.

Some form of reparations for the Armenian community in Turkey would have to be provided. After all, the plunder of their property enriched the modern Turkish state. While too much time may have passed for individual reparations to be awarded, projects could be undertaken to support Armenian communities inside and outside of Turkey to address their material needs and, at least symbolically, their losses. Symbolic reparations in the form of monuments and memorials can serve an important purpose in recognizing victims and helping to remind the affected communities that the state acknowledges its failures and will guard against these abuses happening again.

Perhaps most important, Turkey can demonstrate a serious commitment to reforming laws and institutions that are meant to protect the human rights of all of its citizens. In doing so, the state would find effective ways to improve its weak record on these issues in the courts in Strasbourg and beyond. It would also send a message to its citizens that the crimes like those perpetrated against Armenians would never be permitted in contemporary Turkey.

There is no doubt many other steps could and should be taken in the Turkish case, but the process would best begin with an apology and acknowledgement by President Erdoğan. He need not go on his knees like Willy Brandt, for he is his own person, but in his own way he needs to apologize on behalf of the Turkish state, to say “never again.” In doing so he would personify a new Turkey, one determined to heed the warning sounded by Israel Charny: “We must fight denials because the denial of genocide is . . . a process which is intended to desensitize and make[s] possible the emergence of new forms of genocidal violence to peoples in the future."‡‡‡

* Sara Cohan, “A Brief History of the Armenian Genocide,” Social Education 69, no. 6 (2005): 336–337.

† Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, c2002., 14.

§ Alayarian, Consequences of Denial, 17–18.

‖ Cohan, “A Brief History of the Armenian Genocide,” 337.

¶ Kévorkian, The Armenian Genocide, 811.

†† Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen, and Robert Jay Lifton, “Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 9, no. 1 (March 20, 1995): 11.

‡‡ See, for instance, Michael M. Gunter, Armenian History and the Question of Genocide (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), chap. 2. It is worth noting that in a very legal narrow sense, the term genocide has its limits: the massive killings in Cambodia – some 25% - 40% of the population was exterminated, but because they were largely of same ethnic group, the killings fall into the category of crimes against humanity, rather than genocide.

§§ Smith, Markusen, and Lifton, “Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide,” 4.

‖‖ Iryna Marchuk, The Fundamental Concept of Crime in International Criminal Law: A Comparative Law Analysis (Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2014), 87.

¶¶ See, for instance, the Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on the initial report of Turkey adopted by the Committee at its 106th session (15 October–2 November 2012), UN Doc. CCPR/C/TUR/CO/1, 13 November 2010.

*** See Annual Report 2013 of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe, 203. From 1959 to 2013, there are 2,639 judgments against Turkey in which at least one violation has been found by the Court.

††† Alayarian, Consequences of Denial, 129.

‡‡‡ Israel W. Charny, The psychological satisfaction of denials of the Holocaust or other genocides by non-extremists or bigots, and even by known scholars, IDEA J SOC 1 (2001).

Photo: (Top) Tsitsernakaberd memorial for victims of Armenian genocide located above the Hrazdan Gorge in Yerevan, Armenia ([email protected])


Human Rights Watch: Armenia Still Has Problems

“The government of Nikol Pashinyan has embarked on an ambitious reform program, including in the area of ​​anti-corruption, economic equality and justice,” said representatives of Human Rights Watch, in their annual report on human rights.

The authors of the report once again emphasize that the parliamentary elections held in Armenia in December 2018, according to international observers, met international standards and were held in a truly competitive atmosphere.

At the same time, representatives of Human Rights Watch note that in the sphere of protecting human rights in Armenia, there are still problems and shortcomings. This is especially true for the “limited nature” of investigating cases of violence and the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies during the previous administration.

“The Armenian police have a history of disproportionate use of force during the dispersal of predominantly peaceful demonstrations,” Human Rights Watch experts wrote, recalling that a senior police officer was charged with killing a protester in June 2019.

“At the same time, investigations of the disproportionate use of force by the police against peaceful demonstrators and journalists in 2016 and 2015 remain suspended. The authorities claim that they cannot identify the perpetrators of the violence,” human rights activists say.

It should be noted that the cases indicated by Human Rights Watch concern clashes during the “Electric Yerevan” protests in June 2015 and protests in Yerevan’s Saritagh district in July 2016.

Regarding incidents between police and demonstrators during Pashinyan’s rule, the authors of the report note a protest in Yerevan last August against the exploitation of the Amulsar Gold Mine. During this protest, the authors of the report state that the police did not allow the rally to be held in a public park adjacent to the parliament building, detaining six demonstrators for a short period of time.

Among the human rights issues in Armenia, Human Rights Watch experts also note cases of domestic violence and the reaction of law enforcement agencies to them.

“According to official documents, in the first half of 2019, Armenian law enforcement authorities investigated 331 criminal cases of domestic violence, including 176 newly opened cases. In these cases, 209 official charges were brought and only 45 cases reached the court,” the authors of the report note.

Human Rights Watch also does not bypass cases of violence against sexual minorities and activists protecting their rights.

“Between January and August 2019, Pink Armenia and other organizations protecting the interests of the LGBTQ community reported 17 cases of violence in Armenia based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the report says.

Human Rights Watch also addressed the topic of discussions in Armenia regarding the Istanbul Convention, noting that often “hate speech was used.” At the same time, human rights activists consider it necessary to emphasize that “ratification of the Istanbul Convention will not contradict the country’s Constitution.”


Armenia Human Rights - History

First report dated 26 September 1995

Corrigendum dated 11 February 1997

Armenia was the first republic to declare independence from the Soviet Union in September 1991. Since then, the country has been in transition to a free market economy. The process has been marked by a dire economic situation exacerbated by internal political struggle and military conflicts in the region.

The 1995 and 1996 elections

In the last two years, Armenia has held its first post-independence parliamentary, constitutional and presidential elections -- all of which were criticised by international observers.

As a result of the parliamentary election in 1995, the Armenian National Movement (ANM), gained an overwhelming majority. 1 The UN and other observers declared elections "free but not fair." 2 Ten opposition parties, including an influential radical nationalist party Dashnaktsutioun, were barred from participating. Criticism also came from the fact that the government-controlled media announced the results even before the votes had been counted. 3 Although observers admitted that the contested elections were a step in the right direction, they criticised "the lack of peaceful dissent necessary for liberal democracy to sink roots and flourish." 4 Some argue that in Armenia there is "literally no civil society to liberate," because the country lacks centres of power independent of the government. 5 In the constitutional referendum, also in 1995, thirty eight percent of eligible voters supported the new Constitution, 6 which gave nearly dictatorial powers to the President: the right to dissolve parliament, call early elections and appoint a prime minister. 7

Levon Ter-Petrossian was reelected president by a narrow margin in September 1996. Again, observers criticised irregularities, procedural violations and breaches of the election law, combined with the continued ban imposed on the opposition Dashnak party. 8 The opposition rejected the official results and asked the Constitutional court to invalidate the results and order a new election. Mass protests followed. 9 The main opposition candidate claimed to have gained sixty percent of the votes. 10 In April 1997, about 20,000 opponents of Ter-Petrossian protested again in Yerevan and called for a new election. 11

President Ter-Petrossian has been criticised for his drift away from democracy in the last two years. Diminishing press freedom and human rights violations have been reported. The president has also been condemned for his avoidance of the press and his tendency to take vital decisions in secret. 12 But one political commentator noted that "very few people in this country have any real idea of what democracy means. I doubt things would have been much different regardless of who was in power." 13

Relations with Neighbours

In addition to internal political conflicts, Armenia has had troublesome relations with some of its neighbours. The conflict with Azerbaijan over the status of the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988 when the area declared independence from Azerbaijan. It gradually escalated following pogroms of Armenians within Azerbaijan and Karabakh. Armenia supported the Karabakh Armenians in the course of the war. Since the fighting began, some 25,000 people have died. The war also produced over a million refugees. 14

Eventually, the Armenian army prevailed and, in addition, the Armenians in Karabakh seized about twenty percent of Azeri territory. The international community condemned these actions, as well as human rights violations on both sides. The December 1994 cease-fire and subsequent peace talks have not yet resulted in a peace agreement, and the situation in the region remains unstable.

In April 1997, Azerbaijani and Armenian forces clashed along the border and in the vicinity of Nagorno-Karabakh in the most serious confrontation since the truce took effect. 15 Although Armenia has not officially recognised Nagorno-Karabakh's independence, the government of Ter-Petrossian has exercised influence and supported the region both militarily and economically. Opinion polls taken in Armenia have shown an overwhelming support for the absorption of the region into Armenia.

Armenia's south-west neighbour, Turkey, has supported Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by establishing an economic blockade against Armenia. Turkey and Armenia have been traditional enemies. The massacres of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 are deeply imbedded in the collective memory of the Armenian people. Over one million of their ancestors (out of approximately two million Armenian population living in the area at the time) perished, either killed or died of famine, disease of exhaustion, during Turkish mass deportations in 1915-1918. 16 Although the United Nations and several other international organisations recognised the genocide, the Turkish government has never officially admitted the crime.

Georgia, Armenia's northern neighbour, has been friendly but has been dealing with its own unresolved war of secession in Abkhazia. Also, the war in Georgia has resulted in cutting the vital rail connection between Armenia and Russia. Russia has kept a low profile in the Armenian-Azeri conflict, but it still maintains 12,000 soldiers in Armenia to protect its borders. 17 The relationship of Armenia with Iran has been good and the countries are trading partners.

Economic Situation

Armenia is a small landlocked country with few natural resources and small amount of arable land. In addition to the blockade imposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan, the country's economic situation in recent years has been exacerbated by the closure of its only nuclear power plant following the 1988 earthquake.18 Yet, despite the energy crisis, according to the Economist, Armenia "performed the sort of budget-tightening that makes officials of the IMF glow with enthusiasm." 19 A tough reform program instituted by Ter-Petrossian has helped to steer the country towards a market economy, with low inflation and foreign debt, and rising industrial production. It is estimated that the GDP grew by 6.5 per cent in 1996. This "success," however, has come at the cost of the deterioration of overall quality of life of its citizens. A recent UNDP report characterised the society as comprising a rich elite and "a vast army of poor and deprived." 20 According to World Bank estimates, ninety percent of Armenians live below poverty level, 21 and unemployment reaches fifty percent in some regions. Ter-Petrossian has been increasingly criticised for his failure to improve living standards of the country's 3.5 million population. 22 For instance, according to commentators, his far-reaching privatisation programme has mainly benefited the old Armenian elite.

Emigration

The harsh realities of everyday life in Armenia, high unemployment and bleak prospects for the future have contributed to a huge outflow of its citizens in recent years. It is estimated that approximately 400,000 people, about one-sixth of its population, have emigrated since 1991. 23 Most have gone to Russia and to the United States. According to the data provided by NGOs, men are the majority of those who left. Consequently, women now constitute seventy percent of the country's population. 24

The following assessment of women's status in Armenia is based in part on the document "Declaration Regarding the Status of Armenian Women and Functioning of Non-Governmental Organisations" which IWRAW received from the Women's Council of Armenia. Written for the Beijing Conference in 1995, IWRAW received the document with a 1997 update prepared in collaboration with the League of Women Voters (LWV). The Women's Council of Armenia was established in 1987 and is one of the largest women's NGOs in Armenia. The Council states that it was established in order to defend the rights of women and children of the Republic and increase women's role in the political, socio-economic and cultural life of the country. LWV was created in 1996 in an effort to promote women's participation in the electoral process. IWRAW also received information from the Centre for Gender Studies in Yerevan, and the Association of Women with University Education.

MEASURES TO ELIMINATE DISCRIMINATION - Convention Article 2

Following independence in September 1991, the Armenian Parliament ratified most of the international treaties protecting human rights. However, sources say that the government has been extremely slow to begin establishing the mechanisms necessary to protect women from discrimination.

The Women's Council reports that after a Russian study of the various institutional mechanisms within the European Parliament was presented to the Armenian government, noting that similar structures existed in Russia and other CIS countries, a division of "family matters" was formed within the Ministry of Employment and Social Security. The Women's Council emphasises that this mechanism does not have adequate authority or status to deal with the problems assigned to it. The Council goes on to say that, in their opinion, women's development issues will not go forward without long-term projects in all spheres of government. Also, without a national structure, at the level of a women's ministry or office for women's affairs within the president's office, to promote women's equality, women's status will continue to deteriorate in all spheres of life.

BASIC RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS - Convention Article 3

Jails

Armenia's prisons are still run according to the rules of the Soviet prison system. The government has proposed prison system reforms which are to include the establishment of general and high-security prisons for women, but no information is available on the progress of these projects.

According to the Centre for Gender Studies, the conditions of women in prisons reflect violations and discrimination against women found in the Armenian society. The group conducted a study in the women's jail at Abovian which found that the prison lacks basic sanitary necessities and medical assistance. According to our sources, women are not provided separate rooms which would allow for a conjugal visit with their husbands while male prisoners are allowed to stay with their wives for several days. The group also reported that women incarcerated for simple crimes, such as petty theft, were kept in the same cells with criminals sentenced for more serious crimes. They claim that such a situation demoralises the prisoners instead of contributing to their rehabilitation.

TEMPORARY SPECIAL MEASURES - Convention Article 4

Women constitute the majority of students in institutions of higher education, but this has not translated into meaningful employment opportunities following graduation. Few women can be found in executive positions. The prevalent attitude in the society, echoed in the government report, is the belief that women's foremost role is as wives and mothers. The government's report to CEDAW repeatedly refers to women's traditional and natural role as mothers. Sources say that this is consistent with the fact that the government has not taken any substantial initiatives to promote the advancement of women in the public sphere. The National Commission on Women was formed only after pressure from the UN.

According to the Association of Women with University Education, after 1990 the government has adopted no laws aimed at the improvement of women's status in the society. To the contrary, especially in the last four years, laws that have been passed have reduced social guarantees and eliminated several important social benefits and services directly impacting women. The government lowered salaries and at the same time cancelled subsidies for children over 5 years old, which put women in an even more precarious position than before. 25

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN - Convention Articles 3,5,6,12,5 and 16

The old Soviet legal code is still in use in Armenia. It cites specific punishments for rape, forced abortion and forbidding a woman from marrying. There is, however, no specific law banning violence against women. According to the U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices, in the first nine months of 1996, the Interior Ministry registered 32 cases of rape and attempted rape. The actual numbers are thought to be much higher. Armenian society is traditional and patriarchal, and consequently the majority of cases go unreported. The government report to CEDAW states that the "amount of such cases may be higher and those who have suffered assault do not turn to the help of law-enforcement bodies, because they would prefer to talk about their case with female personnel." At the same time, the government does not explain whether there has been any effort to hire female staff who would be more appropriate to work on these cases.

SEX ROLES AND STEREOTYPING - Convention Article 5

According to the Association of Women with University Education, the government has done nothing to overcome the stereotypical understanding of women's role and place in the society. In fact, government officials continue to refer to the "natural" roles of women. Several other Armenian women IWRAW interviewed felt that this government's emphasis on the maternal role of women is meant to distract from the problems that women face in the society, which include their minimal role in political decision-making and lack of professional opportunities.

POLITICAL AND PUBLIC LIFE - Convention Articles 7 and 8

In the Soviet period, women's participation in the legislative and executive branches of the government reached 36.6 per cent. When the first free parliamentary elections were held in Armenia in 1990, the percentage of women in the legislative body decreased tenfold. Women in municipal and regional councils decreased to about 10.7 percent and in the executive branch even more. At present, there is only one woman minister, three deputy ministers, and one chief executive in a local authority is a woman. Only 12 out of 190 deputies in the parliament are women. Out of 124 judges, only 23 are female. In the Public Prosecutor's office women account for 20.7 percent of employees.

Although the women's party Shamiram won eight seats in recent elections and became the second largest group in Parliament, the overall number of women in this body still does not exceed five percent. The government explains that, unlike in Soviet times, "[they] are really engaged in the legislation making process and are not only formally registered as such for the sake of making the statistics look more 'democratic' . ." Nevertheless, women's NGOs have expressed alarm at this situation and have called for the establishment of quotas to increase women's participation in the executive and legislative branches of the government.

Women's NGOs

According to Barbara Hall of the NGO Training and Resource Centre in Yerevan, women actively participate in the political life of the country through various non-governmental organisations. Currently, there are thirty registered women's non-governmental organisations and several unregistered organisations which deal specifically with issues affecting women.

Aragast

Armenian NGOs have attempted to promote women's human rights by making the international human rights treaties known and available to the public. To serve this purpose, in 1994 they founded a women's weekly Aragast. In 1995, President Ter-Petrossian issued an order to close down the publication. In January 1995, women's organisations wrote a letter to the President explaining the importance of the newspaper for the advancement of women and its role as a unifying force for all Armenian women's organisations before the Beijing Conference. Despite repeated appeals from the Women's Council and other NGOs, the government has never responded.

EDUCATION - Convention Article 10

Women's right to education was incorporated into Armenia's constitution seventy years ago. 26 Education is highly prized in the society, and Armenia has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Both boys and girls receive equal educational opportunities, and at present more women receive university and postgraduate education than men. 27 Unfortunately, this has not led to meaningful professional opportunities for women.

EMPLOYMENT - Convention Article 11

The Centre for Gender Studies reports that men are routinely the preferred candidates in hiring, which is conducted by predominantly male bosses. An overwhelming number of women in Armenia occupy low-skilled positions. According to Barbara Merguerian of the Armenian International Women's Association, almost as a rule, even the most educated women are left out of the highest-paid and executive positions. Women predominate in non-managerial positions in manufacturing, primary and secondary education, and in health centres -- jobs which typically pay the lowest salaries. Women with higher education are often forced to work as restaurant cooks, provide cleaning services or do handicrafts. 28 Moreover, there are no mechanisms to enforce the anti-discrimination labour laws -- labour rights violations are commonly not reported and no measures are being taken to improve the situation.

Women NGOs state that the increasing social inequality and poverty in the country has affected women more than men. For example, women are the first victims of growing unemployment. The government report explains higher unemployment among women by the fact that "traditionally women are more oriented towards family and children." The NGOs, however, estimate that eighty percent of women who would like to work cannot find employment. In April 1997, the Director of the employment centre in Yerevan reported that 78 percent of the unemployed registered with his office are women, most of whom have higher education. 29 Sources indicate that the highest paying positions are out of reach for the majority of women in Armenia. Those who find jobs earn about 75 percent of men's salary.

Health care is one of the fields where women are in the majority. According to the Centre for Gender Studies, women comprise seventy percent of the doctors in Armenia. However, among doctors occupying senior positions, only about twenty percent are women. 30

Informal Sector

According to the Centre for Gender Studies report, women who do not fit into the official labour market have been forced to seek other ways to generate income. In recent years, there has been a growing trend for Armenian women to engage in unofficial trade. These women travel to neighbouring countries, such as Turkey, and bring merchandise for sale back to Armenia. Our sources say that the government is well aware of the extent of this phenomenon, but has done nothing to regulate or upgrade the growing industry. As a result, these businesses have no legal protection, cannot obtain insurance, and its owners are not entitled to health protection or social benefits. These women are often exposed to sexual violence and crime.

HEALTH CARE AND FAMILY PLANNING - Convention Article 12

Armenia has a high abortion rate -- 2.7 abortions per woman. Due to the lack of contraceptives and effective family planning information and services, abortion remains the primary means of fertility control in Armenia. The government report refers to these statistics, but states that, although higher than in most Western countries, the rate is the lowest among the other newly independent states. According to IWRAW sources, the government does not promote any programmes which would aim at improving the quality of family planning services.

NGOs also report on the poor condition of prenatal services. As a result, there has been a considerable increase in the incidence of anaemia in pregnant women in recent years, as well as deficiencies in breast-feeding, and other related health problems. As women's health deteriorates, the children are born weaker. Also, our sources report that, contrary to the government's official claims, malnutrition affects increasing numbers of children under the age of 5 years old.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DISCRIMINATION - Convention Article 13

Women's organisations have called for the establishment of special programmes in order to stimulate women's involvement in the privatisation process. According to the Women's Council, women have been generally left out of privatisation. Sources say that during the process of land privatisation, for example, land was registered in women's names only in cases where the man in the family was absent. The Association of Women with University Education claims that the government has violated women's economic rights by their exclusion from the process.

RURAL WOMEN - Convention Article 14

According to information received from the NGOs, the difficult economic situation of the country has particularly affected rural women. The overwhelming majority of rural women work as agricultural labourers. The countryside is plagued by constant shortages of water and cultivation equipment. The government report to CEDAW dismisses the severity of women's situation in villages by the fact that many of them are refugees "unaccustomed to rural life." Women NGOs emphasise the deteriorating physical and psychological condition of women living in the countryside and urge that it merits special attention from the government. Several NGOs felt that the government needs to take more committed action to improve the availability of health care services in rural areas.

Endnotes:

© COPYRIGHT 2003 All materials on this web site copyright of International Women's Rights Action Watch, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, USA.


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