Armenia: UN human rights expert lauds peaceful transition

Scoop, New Zealand
Nov 17 2018

Armenia: UN human rights expert lauds peaceful transition

YEREVAN () – A UN human rights expert has praised this year’s peaceful transition of power in Armenia, and urged the country’s new leadership to stay the course in pursuing a strengthened democratic system based on human rights, a culture of dialogue and strong independent institutions.

“The Armenian people are reshaping their own future – one that is moving towards a more inclusive society based on the rule of law in which every individual enjoys all fundamental freedoms,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, said at the end of a 10-day official visit.

“I have high hopes for sincere change in Armenia, and that the driving force behind the velvet revolution – the desire for equality and freedom – will prevail.”

Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Armenians took to the streets to protest against cronyism and corruption, and to call for a change in the country’s leadership. Their protests led to the election of Nikol Pashinyan, who upon tactical resignation on 16 October is the acting prime minister.

Voule said the snap parliamentary election on 9 December would be another key moment for the Armenian people. “I call for free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections that will contribute in creating a favourable atmosphere to the required reforms and transformation,” he said.

The expert welcomed the initial steps that the Government has taken during the transition, and reminded the authorities that the pathway to development and progress depends on the extent to which the consolidation of the rule of law, a culture of respect of human rights for all and diversity is deeply anchored in the society.

“Armenia has come a long way with recent reforms and the adoption of new laws that regulate the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; however authorities need to ensure the consistent enforcement of the current regulations,” Voule said.

He said challenges persist even amidst great enthusiasm for change. For example, the expert expressed concerns about the lack of prosecution and sanction of those responsible of arbitrary arrests and disproportionate use of force during protests in previous years.

Voule said he was dismayed to learn that during his visit the Forum of LGBT Christians of Eastern Europe and Central Asia was cancelled due to allegations of lack of the safety of its participants. He raised his concerns with the authorities and urged them to do their utmost to maintain an enabling environment for associations to freely carry out their work without any discrimination and avoid similar situations in the future.

The Special Rapporteur visited the country at the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Armenia and met with Government authorities, including the Deputy Prime Minister and representatives of independent institutions. He also held meetings with various actors of civil society and representatives of UN agencies and the diplomatic community.

The conclusions and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur will be presented during the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2019. The preliminary findings of the visit are available here.