HRW Calls on Armenian Govm’t to Investigate Excessive Use of Force

A1 Plus | 14:23:48 | 29-04-2004 | Politics |


On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(PACE) held an urgent debate on Armenia, calling on the government to
investigate abuses and to create “fair conditions for the media,” and
warned the government that if no progress on this by September, the
PACE may “reconsider the credentials of the Armenian delegation.”PACE
also called on the opposition to work within the country’s
constitutional framework.

In early April, Armenia’s political opposition united in mass peaceful
protests to force a “referendum of confidence” on President Robert
Kocharian and to call for his resignation. The government responded
with mass arrests, violent dispersals of demonstrations, and raids on
opposition party headquarters. Hundreds were detained, many for up to
15 days, and some were tortured or ill-treated in custody.

“The Armenian government is repeating the same sorts of abuses that
called into question the legitimacy of last year’s election and
sparked the protests in the first place,” said Rachel Denber, acting
executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia
division. “The cycle of repression must end.”

Excessive police force, particularly at a nonviolent opposition rally
on the night of April 12, caused dozens of injuries among
demonstrators. The Human Right Watch briefing paper, based on an
investigation in Armenia in mid-April, documents this violence and
other abuses. Human Rights Watch found that some of the worst injuries
at that rally were caused by stun grenades, which inflicted deep
wounds in many protesters. Police also beat journalists and
confiscated their cameras.

The opposition protests derived from the government’s failure to
redress the deeply flawed 2003 presidential election won by Kocharian,
the incumbent. At that time, the authorities detained about 250
opposition activists and supporters in an attempt to intimidate and
disable the opposition in advance of the vote. The Armenian
Constitutional Court subsequently recommended that the government hold
a referendum of confidence. The government rejected the
recommendation, while the opposition insisted that the referendum be

In its report on the 2003 presidential election, the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found the vote to be “marred
by serious irregularities,” owing to “a lack of sufficient political
determination by the authorities to ensure a fair and honest process.”

“Armenia has to address the underlying causes of the opposition’s
demonstrations,” said Denber. “A first step would be to implement the
recommendations made by the OS?E following the 2003 elections.”

Human Rights Watch also called on the Armenian government to
investigate the excessive use of police force on the night of April
12, and to cease the use of stun grenades and electric-shock equipment
for the control of nonviolent public demonstrations.

Armenia’s international partners – including the European Union, the
United States government, the OSCE and the Council of Europe – should
closely monitor the situation and condemn any new abuses that occur,
Human Rights Watch said. In particular, the United States and the
European Union should closely monitor any security-related funding,
particularly for crowd-control equipment, to ensure that it does not
fuel human rights abuses.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS