(Listen to this statement as delivered at the Human Rights Council)
We thank both Special Rapporteurs for their reports and acknowledge Armenia’s openness toward making progress on issues relating to freedom of assembly and association.
We were pleased to hear the Armenian Foreign Minister speaking so positively of his government’s approach to women’s rights at the opening of this Council session, however, we also have concerns relating to the rights of woman human rights defenders, currently under real pressure in Armenia.
Throughout recent weeks, human rights defenders in Armenia have once again been subject to hate speech and smear campaigns. Such attacks, have a chilling effect and directly impact freedom of assembly and association.
In 2013, following concrete threats of violence made against the Women’s Resource Centre of Armenia, and its Director Lara Aharonian, we issued a joint letter of concern with over 50 partner organisations. In 2015 we issued a similar letter of concern about attacks and threats against another member NGO of Human Rights House Yerevan.
More recently, on 8 March 2019, Lara Aharonian, who works for the advancement of women’s rights, including here at the United Nations, started receiving threats of violence, death, rape and hate speech through television and social media. These threats have also targeted her husband and children, and emerged after Lara spoke about the need to treat women equally at an event on International Women’s Day.
We continue to urge Armenia to take a strong public stance on such cases of threats and harassment against women human rights defenders, and commend the Prime Minister’s recent statement condemning such threats. Voicing strong support for the activities of human rights defenders and civil society organisations is a key component in the creation of an environment where human rights, including assembly and association, can be enjoyed. Public support by state officials, and a message of accountability for perpetrators is essential to prevent further escalation and to better enable human rights defenders to carry out their essential work.
We ask both Special Rapporteurs what would be their recommendations to Armenia where human rights defenders can be subject to attacks and threats of violence, and where the consequences include de facto limitations on defender’s rights of assembly and association, as well as freedom of expression?
Thumbnail photo: HRHF