Concerned about attacks against human rights organisations in Armenia
Human Rights House Network and South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders members and partners are concerned about the latest attacks against human rights organisations in Armenia. We urge the authorities of the Republic of Armenia to ensure the security of human rights defenders in their work.
Friday, 18 May 2012, by HRHF
Letter to be downloaded on the right
On 16 April 2012 a gathering of more than 200 people outside the office of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Vanadzor (HCAV) turned into a public mobbing of human rights defenders and their organisation.
The organisation is well known and highly respected for its work to promote and protect fundamental rights of all people in Armenia.
The gathering took place because the Caucasus Centre of Peace Making Initiatives, within the framework of the Stop Film Festival, planned to organise the screening of Azerbaijani films in HCAV’s offices on 17 April 2012. A large group of young protestors entered the offices of HCAV, a private property, and insulted HCAV’s employees and threatened to break the equipment and furniture if they screened the films.
Since 28 March 2012, political parties, candidates to parliament and organisations close to the municipality leadership have organised pickets and demonstrations against a film festival to be held in the premises of “Asparez” Journalist Club in Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia.
On 12 April 2012, the Caucasus Centre of Peace Making Initiatives had to cancel the projection of four Azerbaijani short films. A group of 50 protestors blocked access to the premises of “Asparez” Journalist Club and threatened the organisers and the hosts of the film screening.
The leader of “Asparez” Journalist Club is a well-known and respected journalist who also covered the review of Armenia at the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review.
Both HCAV and “Asparez” are partners NGOs of the Human Rights House Network and member of the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders, a cooperation platform in the South Caucasus region for human rights defenders to share knowledge, experiences and different views.
The incidents above illustrate the problems of freedom of association and assembly in Armenia, in particular when it comes to restrictions on indoor gatherings focusing on sensitive issues.
The human rights organisations have the role to encourage respect and promotion of human rights. The issues and conflicts the organisations address are delicate, challenging and emotional for many people in Armenia and the region – but nevertheless, the issues are very important to address in the process of making peace and reconcile with the past.
As authorities, you have positive obligations in supporting and protecting these platforms for free debates and communications – and making the people understand why these processes are so important.
We believe that Armenian authorities should encourage regional cooperation platforms and protect human rights defenders and other actors who are trying to contribute to increasing respect and information sharing between people in the South Caucasus region.
NGOs therefore urge Armenian authorities to:
- To investigate all the cases of harassment and violence that occurred against human rights defenders and their NGOs since March 2012, in Gyumri, Vanadzor, and Yerevan, and bring those responsible to justice;
- As already recommended by the Special Rapporteur in her report on Armenia in 2010, to “publicly acknowledge the role and importance of human rights defenders in achieving a flourishing, pluralistic and democratic society”;
- To take all effective measures to ensure the right to exercise freedom of expression and association for all in Armenia, and to ensure physical security of human rights defenders and their NGOs when they organise events.
Declarations at the Committee against Torture
The Human Rights House Foundation is extremely worried that Mr. Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, has made declarations on 10 May 2012 at the 48th session of the United Nations Committee against Torture, linking human rights defenders and their NGOs working on human rights, including their reporting to the Committee, with anti-Armenian propaganda and hate-speech.
State representatives should acknowledge publicly the importance of human rights defenders and their work.