“I’m always looking for local and regional examples of what we need to teach in human rights… what I felt was really valuable was our discussion about the ethics of protecting witnesses and victims… that level of ethics leads to a certain professionalism that will build our reputation as human rights defenders and the idea of building trust with the community.” commented Vahan Bournazian, Professor, Centre for European Studies, and participant of the training session.
The training aimed at providing the participants with the tools and expertise for conducting professional and ethical observation, and documentation of freedom of assembly violations in Armenia.
Commenting on the House to House project fund, which supported the training, Daiva Petkeviciute, HRHF’s Administration and Fundraising Manager stated “Human Rights Houses have a variety of strengths and expertise and it is often the case that a House may possess knowledge and experience that other Houses could benefit from. HRHF’s House to House project aims to seize these opportunities for knowledge and competency sharing through the solidarity and collaborative nature at the heart of the network of Human Rights Houses”.
Based on extensive experience of observing public gatherings and documenting violations in Belarus and Ukraine, the participants explored the safety of and security rules for observers, necessary precautions and preparations to make, monitoring ongoing rallies and taking statements from the victims of violations. The Armenian HRDs also learned how to plan and organise observation missions, how to use technology and maps in their work, critically analyse collected data and report on the objectively established facts.
The training covered some of the core issues; the scope of the right to peaceful assembly under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court’s case-law, the relevant regulations and cases from Armenia as well as lawful interference from a state on the right to free assembly.
Participants learned, discussed and debated the ethical principles of being an objective and neutral observer of a public gathering, without active participation and while staying within the ethical boundaries of human rights work.
The training was prompted by Armenia’s track record of excessive use of force during public demonstrations, including against human rights defenders. Armenia has seen several high-profile cases of violations of the right to free assembly in recent years, including the “Erebuni” mass protests and arrests that took place in Yerevan in summer 2016, and the “Electric Yerevan” protests in summer 2015. These events have exposed a need for Armenian civil society to strengthen their expertise in documenting human rights violations during mass rally dispersals.
This article was first published as part of the newsletter of the Human Rights Houses and HRHF. Sign up to receive news and insight into human rights issues and country situations, the projects and activities of Human Rights Houses, and portraits and interviews with human rights defenders.
Upper row: Slaven, Mikhail, Milan
Lower row: Oleksii, Valeriia and Kety
As a part of Human Rights House Foundation’s House-to-House programme, the training session at HRH Yerevan brought several international experts to Armenia:
- Milan Antonijević (Human Rights House Belgrade/Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
- Oleksii Bida – Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv/Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
- Mikhail Matskevich – International Law In Advocacy Program alumnus/Legal Transformation Center Lawtrend
- Slaven Raskovic – Human Rights House Zagreb/Documenta, Centre for Dealing with the Past
- Valeriia Rybak – Human Rights Vector /former OZON monitor
- Kety Abashidze – Human Rights House Foundation, Representation in Tbilisi.