More Civic Activism In 2012: Avetyan Case, Green Campaigns Seen As S


HUMAN RIGHTS | 26.12.12 | 12:04

The year 2012 in Armenia has been marked by a number of initiatives
that resulted in consolidation of civil society and a successful
outcome of civil campaigns. While problems connected with human rights
protection and environmental issues have not decreased in Armenia,
civic groups have still managed to make a number of achievements due
to their consistent battle.

The greatest civil consolidation took place in June of this year as
reaction to an incident in which a military doctor was beaten to death
at a restaurant owned by pro-government lawmaker Ruben Hayrapetyan’s
family. The man, Vahe Avetyan , a 33-year-old father of two, died in
hospital of his severe head injuries 12 days after the beating in which
several of his friends also suffered at the hands of men believed to
be Hayrapetyan’s bodyguards. The incident angered the civil society
sector, stirring a tide of protest demanding that those responsible
for the incident, including Hayrapetyan, be punished.

As a result, Hayrapetyan resigned his seat in the National Assembly
and apologized for the incident. He, however, was not involved in the
criminal case either as a suspect or witness. (Activists claim the men
were beaten at Hayrapetyan’s orders). The trial of six people accused
in what became known as the Harsnakar case is currently in progress. A
Vahe Avetyan pressure group consisting of civil society activists
was set up in the wake of the incident and it is now following the
course of the trial to alert the public of whatever irregularities
there may be.

Before the Avetyan movement another major victory was one by
environmental activists, who “occupied” a central park in Yerevan
and opposed its being turned into a row of boutiques in mid-February.

Their 90-day consistent struggle culminated in the visit to Mashtots
Part by President Serzh Sargsyan in early May (shortly before the
parliamentary elections) and his effectively ordering the removal of
the kiosks from there .

The park that was previously neglected is now in good order and
serving the recreational needs of the community.

Green activists, meanwhile, were also attentive to environmental
issues outside capital Yerevan, revealing what appeared a case of
illegal hunting in the Khosrov Reserve . A video released by a group
of environmentalists in September showed traces of hunting of some
of the wild animals included in the Red Book of Endangered Species.

As a result, the director of the reserve was fired and activists
were also consistent in monitoring the further proceedings relating
to filling the vacancy.

At the end of the year a group of Jehovah’s witnesses , who are
conscientious objectors, were successful in defending their rights at
the European Court of Human Rights that ruled in their favor against
the Republic of Armenia and awarded them with a total of about $145,500
to be paid to them from the state coffers.

The Armenian society also consolidated around the civil campaign to
render aid to Syrian Armenians suffering from the consequences of a
bloody conflict in the Middle Eastern country. Through the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation a movement was set up, Help Your Brother,
to gather food, medicines and other essentials for Armenians in Syria.

Numerous small and large organizations as well as individual citizens
responded to the initiative. Three airlifts to Syria were organized
at the end of the year.

Despite these apparent achievements by civil society in the field
of human rights protection, much still remains to be done. This
is, in particular, what the annual report of the Armenian Ombudsman
shows. In presenting his report Ombudsman Karen Andreasyan emphasized
that courts, which are supposed to be the main guarantors of human
rights protection, in reality remain one of the most vulnerable points
in Armenia

People with disabilities rallied again to promote better conditions for
public access. Presently, most institutions and few public properties
have proper – if any – access for the physically challenged.