On 28 May an activist of youth oppositional movement “Hima” (Now) and “Sksela” (It Has Started) Arsen Kharatyan was brutally beaten in Yerevan. The Armenian authorities which are reluctant to investigate the offences occurred during the presidential election and dispersal of peaceful demonstrations, commit new outrages and pursue a policy of the dictate of force.
The demands of the international community to carry out democratic changes in the country and to conduct an impartial investigation into the crimes as provided for in the PACE Resolution 1609 are neglected. Ordered trials into the cases of representatives of the opposition and made-up and unproven charges brought against them are still underway. Harassment of the General Prosecution directed against the Ombudsman of Armenina A. Harutyunyan is nothing but a pressure on any manifestation of dissent opinion. There is no place in the civilized world for a country which has more than a hundred of political prisoners.
Once more does the Helsinki Association apply to the world community with a necessity to exert pressure on the authorities of Armenia in order for the latter to conduct immediate democratic changes and live up to all obligations taken before the world community.
Helsinki Association, having observed the 19 February 2008 presidential elections in Armenia and following closely the post-election period, states that the past elections did not correspond to democratic standards.
Ballot-stuffing, intimidation of voters, assaults on media representatives, the presence of local “criminals” at polling-stations as members of commissions, proxies or observers, vote-count fraud could not but affect the election returns. All this reasonably prompted counteraction on part of the opposition which took the form of peaceful demonstrations.
In the early morning of 1 March, upon an order of R. Kocharyan, a special police operation was carried out aimed solely at dispersal by force of a peaceful assembly of the opposition on Liberty Square. Later in the day the opposition rallied for a peaceful action of protest at Myasnikya monument, but once again the crowd was dispersed with an excessive force resulting in casualties.
Helsinki Association states with full responsibility that the Armenian authorities bear the whole blame for what happened.
Helsinki Association finds it as its duty to appeal to international organizations with the following requests:
• Not to recognize the results of the 19 February 2008 presidential elections; • To demand that the President of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, immediately cancel the emergency rule in Yerevan declared on 1 March 2008; • To demand that all political prisoners currently in jail in Armenia be released; • To demand that the Armenian authorities conduct an impartial and full investigation with an involvement of international experts into the use of excessive force against the protesters resulting in casualties. • To suspend both the membership of Armenia in international organizations including the Council of Europe and all economic and financial aid programs for Armenia, until it fully observes the undertaken international democratic and human rights standards.
When Azerbaijan and Armenia became members of the Council of Europe in January of 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly of this organization noted the availability of problems of political repressions and political prisoners (Opinion 221, iv, par. b,c and Opinion 222, iv, par. b respectively). Following Opinions 221 and 222, the Secretary General of CE appointed the group of experts who had examined 25 “pilot cases” on these countries and worked out criteria of “political prisoner”.
The CE experts have been operating in Azerbaijan on basis of these criteria and a principle worked out by CE’s general secretary W. Schwimmer as early as 2001: “One political prisoner is one too many. This problem should not exist in a Council of Europe member State”. PACE appointed special reporters on political prisoners in Azerbaijan (George Clerfayt, then Malcolm Bruce) in order to render assistance Azerbaijani Government and provide information to CE. As a result of the activity of these reporters, hundreds political prisoners were released.
Unfortunately, in autumn 2005, PACE decided not to assign new special reporter and this affected the dynamics of release of political prisoners. Moreover, new political prisoners emerged after the Parliament elections in Azerbaijan in 2005. Last years, the journalists also were imprisoned under the defamation accusations. According to the list compiled by the Federation of Human Rights Organizations of Azerbaijan, at least 55 political prisoners are detained. Among them, 29 people remained from the time of Azerbaijan’s accession into the Council of Europe.
Thus, the problem of political prisoners remains actual even today. But nowadays this problem gains a dramatic feature and becomes significant for other countries of South Caucasus. Political prisoners emerged in Armenia and Georgia due to the falsification of elections. The number of political prisoners in Georgia is at least 26 people whereas in Armenia this number differs 138 to 192 (this figure is constantly changing as courts issue their verdicts on the charges brought and many are given suspended sentences). The preliminary analyses of their criminal cases held by human rights activists shows that these people correspond to political prisoners’ criteria given in the report SG/Inf (2001)34 as of October 24th 2001. However, unlike Azerbaijan, this problem is not considered as emerging in other countries of South Caucasus. In this regard, representatives of some of PACE members claim on existence of “double standards” of CE toward different countries of South Caucasus.
From our point of view, the criteria and approaches which were developed for Azerbaijan in 2001-2007 have to be applied toward political processes and prisoners in Armenia and Georgia. Therefore, we urge you to initiate the motion for appointment of special rapporteur on political prisoners in South Caucasus during the June session of PACE or special rapporteurs for all countries of the region. This problem would be in line with the agenda of the June session which will discuss the situation in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In our opinion, the appointment of such reporter will help the Assembly to understand better the situation as well as promote PACE’s cooperation with the governments of South Caucasian countries for the solution of the problem.
Azerbaijan From Federation of Human Rights Organization: Leyla Yunus, Institute of Peace and Democracy Eldar Zeynalov, Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
Armenia Mikael Danielyan, Helsinki Association of Armenia Anahit Bayandur, Armenian National Committee of Helsinki Citizens Assembly
Georgia Ucha Nunuashvili, Human Rights Center of Georgia (HRDIC) Emil Adelkhanov (Emmanuil Steinberg), Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development
“Սույն վեբ-կայքի ստեղծումը հնարավոր է դարձել իրականացնել Քաունթերփարթ ինթերնեշնլի հայաստանյան ներկայացուցչության կողմից իրականացվող Քաղաքացիական հասարակության և տեղական ինքնակառավարման աջակցության ծրագրի, և Ամերիկայի Միացյալ Նահանգների բնակչության առատաձեռն աջակցության շնորհիվ` ԱՄՆ Միջազգային զարգացման գործակալության պայմանագրի շրջանակներում “Հելսինկյան Ասոցիացիայի” միջոցով: Սույնի բովանդակությունը, արտահայտված տեսակետերը և կարծիքները պատկանում են հեղինակին` “Հելսինկյան Ասոցիացիային” և հնարավոր է, որ չհամընկնեն Քաունթերփարթ ինթերնեշնլի հայաստանյան ներկայացուցչության, ԱՄՆ Միջազգային զարգացման գործակալության և ԱՄՆ կառավարության տեսակետերի հետ:”