The Human Rights House Foundation in Oslo is deeply concerned about the use of force against peaceful demonstrators in Yerevan, Armenia. It calls on national authorities to invite international organizations and local human rights groups to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the use of lethal force by the police. In addition, it asks Armenian authorities to lift the state of emergency and protect people’s right to demonstrate.
Violence broke out on the morning of 1 March 2008, when the local authorities sent police troops, armed with batons, stun guns and shields, to disperse the crowds of protesters at the Liberty Square in Yerevan. The demonstrators had gathered to challenge the official results of 19 February Presidential elections. After the police forces blocked the perimeter of the Liberty Square, the demonstrators gathered outside the French Embassy. Peaceful demonstrations have developed into violent clashes between protestors and police. In response to these events, President Robert Kocharian declared a 20-day state of emergency.
The Armenian Health Ministry reports that the clashes between the police and the demonstrators in Yerevan have resulted in at least eight deaths and 131 injuries. The local observers, however, do not trust that the official statistics reflects the actual number of deaths and injuries. In addition, some journalists and local observers report that many demonstrators have gone missing.
The Human Rights House Foundation in Oslo is deeply concerned about the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators and the reports about missing people. It is also concerned about the possible restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, which have resulted from the declaration of the state of emergency. As a result, it calls on the Armenian authorities to invite international experts to investigate the clashes, asks them to protect the people and allow them to have peaceful demonstrations, as well as lift the state of emergency without delay.