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An urgent appeal to all Armenians in the diaspora and friends

As you have all been following the news and developments in Armenia, forced measures were taken to elect Serj Sargsyan as prime minister on 17th of April, 2018, surrounded by barb wires and heavy police presence despite the growing national uprising of thousands of peaceful protesters against him and his corrupt and oligarchic regime.

Since then the numbers of peaceful protesters joining the nation-wide civil disobedience declared by opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan and a group of civil society activists are growing each day, and merely in the Republic Square of Yerevan those are more than 60,000. The protests that started in Yerevan have expanded to reach all the regions and most populated cities of Armenia and many more are joining each day. Students and young people have taken the initiative to raise their voices, closing streets, marching non-stop to fight for their freedoms and right for a better Armenian free of oligarchs, injustice and corruption. Their main concern is that the third and likely the life-long term of S.Sargsyan as the leader of the country would leave Armenia in the enduring catch of dictatorship.

Now is the moment to join in support of the incredible change that is happening in Armenia. People need your support in the diaspora to be able to fight this regime and restore democratic processes without violence and bloodshed.

Recently, Serj Sargsyan met with opposition leader Pashinyan in front of the media to negotiate. But he clearly refused to resign, which is one of the conditions put forward by protesters. Moreover, Sargsyan mentioned March 1, 2008 by which he implied to threaten the peaceful population that his regime is ready to use once more violence and brutal force to stop the uprising and to keep the power.

For the past 10 days, many thousands of people are on the streets peacefully protesting against the corrupt regime. More than 850 have been detained or arrested illegally. Police is using disproportionate force against citizens, beating and detaining even minors, spreading fear and threats. Oligarchic members of the Republican Party of Armenia supporting Serj Sargsyan are sending their groups of thugs to beat people on the streets and commit acts of vandalism, creating an atmosphere of fear and chaos. On April 21 and 22, police started arrests of the organizers of peaceful rallies, also detaining Nikol Pashinyan and two other MPs, members of the Civic Contract, who have an immunity according to the Armenian Constitution. While the peaceful civic disobedience is growing in scope and intensity, S.Sargsyan’s regime represses demonstrations with increasing brutal force of police and use of organized criminals.

 

Your support is crucial at this time and can help prevent violent attacks against peaceful protesters using civil disobedience as a mean to reach their goals. All of us in Armenia fighting for a democratic country and for justice are urging all members of the diaspora in different countries to

 

  • join the struggle by holding solidarity protests in front of Armenian embassies in your countries;
  • write letters to the president of Armenia;
  • inform and mobilize the international community;
  • engage the diasporan public figures;
  • initiate other peaceful actions that can support people’s struggle on the ground.

We can prevent violence together and Armenia needs you right now!

The free and independent citizens of Armenia need you in their struggle for democracy!

 

 

Civil society organizations (open to more signatures)

  1. 1. Women's Resource Center NGO
    2. Analytical Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation NGO
    3. Transparency International Anticorruption Center NGO
    4. “Armenian Program of Innocence” NGO
    5. Martuni Women’s Community Council NGO
    6. "We" Youth NGO
    7. “Youth For Change” Civil Society Development NGO
    8. Ijevan Civic Youth Center NGO
    9. Power of Right NGO
    10. Helsinki Association human rights NGO
    11. Public Journalism Club
    12. “Lore” Ecoclub NGO
    13. Urban Foundation
    14. Real World, Real People Social NGO
    15. “Veles” NGO
    16. GALA TV
    17. Non-discrimination and Equality Coalition
    18. Human Rights House Yerevan
    19. Women's Support Center NGO
    20. Tufenkain Foundation
    21. Territorial Development and Research Center NGO
    22. Peace Dialogue NGO
    23. “Colorful House” Social-cultural and Human Rights Defender NGO
    24. World Vision Armenia
    25. Sose Women Issues NGO
    26. Meghri Women's Resource Centre NGO
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Date: 21 April 2018, 7pm, Yerevan

To: United Nations, Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, European Commission, Diplomatic missions in Armenia

URGENT APPEAL TO INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AND DEMOCRATIC STATES

We, the undersigned civil society organizations in Armenia, would like to bring your attention to the political situation in Armenia that is a clear confrontation between the existing autocratic corrupt regime and the hope for democracy.

Until 2015, the Republic of Armenia had a semi-presidential governance system envisaging direct elections of the president of the country with maximum two terms of service. To maintain power after the expiry of his two terms, President Serzh Sargsyan changed the constitution through a largely rigged referendum held in December 2015.[1]

According to the new constitution, Armenia’s governance system changed to a parliamentary one. This provided for a stable majority of one political party in the National Assembly, eliminated direct elections of the head of state and diminished the powers of the president, transferring the major authorities to the prime minister elected by the parliamentary majority. Apparently, the new constitution was tailored to strengthen the predominant position of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and to keep Sargsyan in power as a ‘super’ prime minister with extended authorities and diminished accountability to both the parliament and the citizens. In the parliamentary elections of April 2017, characterized by widespread vote-buying and controlled voting[2] as well as by the absence of a strong opposition, the Republican Party of Armenia won the majority of seats in the National Assembly and set the stage for Sargsyan to appear in the state leader’s role for the third time.

Starting from mid-March 2018, civil society groups started a campaign to oppose the potential nomination and election of Sargsyan as the prime minister to prevent Armenia from turning into a life-long dictatorship, a common trend in former Soviet countries. The protests were started independently by different groups, particularly the “Civil Contract” political party, “Reject Serzh” and “Armenian State Salvation Front” civic initiatives, and quickly attracted the wide support of the Armenian people. Dissatisfied with 10 years of governance by president Sargsyan, tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets. Since April 13, for several days and nights, protesters occupied France Square in central Yerevan and peacefully marched through the streets, squares and bridges, paralyzing the traffic in the city and temporarily occupying government buildings in order to influence MPs and prevent their vote in favour of Sargsyan’s candidacy.

Surrounded by police cordons, heavy riot police machinery and barbed wire, the Armenian parliament elected Serzh Sargsyan on April 17th as the new prime minister with the simple majority of open-cast votes. Tens of thousands of citizens were demonstrating outside the police cordons. In response, police employed the “special means” of smoke grenades, injuring 46 people. At least 60 protesters were attacked, beaten and taken to police stations in the morning and kept there until the end of the session, thereby breeching the law on public assemblies. We note that this is the third time that Serzh Sargsyan has taken the highest position of the state in a situation of turmoil and police violence towards peaceful demonstrations.

Following Sargsyan’s election in the National Assembly, the leader of Civil Contract, MP Nikol Pashinyan made a call for non-violent civic disobedience throughout the country. This echoed not only in Yerevan, but also in other cities and towns, such as Vanadzor, Gyumri, Armavir, Gavar, Hrazdan, etc. Many thousands launched peaceful demonstrations against the prospect of the consolidating dictatorship. In response to the peaceful protests, the Armenian police has applied disproportionate force and extreme violence. Within 5 days more than 600 protesters, including minors, have been attacked, severely beaten, taken to police stations and detained, often for more than 3 hours without investigative or judicial proceedings. Many protesters and, particularly, school students have been severely beaten and arrested by police officers in civilian clothes without identification badges. Police attack and break the cars of people who join the protests by honking. Journalists are increasingly being subject to violence by police. The situation escalates every moment.

In parallel with their brutal treatment of peaceful protesters, the police have demonstrated surprising tolerance towards and cooperation with the organized criminal groups. There have been cases when dozens of policemen calmly witnessed the provocation by a criminal mob in the street engaged in the violence and damage of public property, disregarded multiple cars without number plates in the streets and the brutalities of criminal bands towards the people. Multiple criminal charges are being brought against the peaceful protesters, and, interestingly, there is no proceeding launched against the criminal groups.

While the civic disobedience is largely led by an oppositional political party leader, the movement is non-partisan. Its main purpose is to prevent Sargsyan’s third and life-long term as the leader of the country, which would leave the country in the long-term catch of dictatorship. According to a recent Freedom House report, Nations in Transit: Confronting Illiberalism, Armenia’s democracy score is sliding and has put the country within the group of semi-consolidated authoritarian regimes.[3] Hence, Armenian civil society organizations have launched a petition with a demand for Serzh Sargsyan to step down.

Whatever happens in Armenia, it is a fight for democracy, and fight against the corrupt regime. This current outburst of energy is the consequence of citizens’ political rights continuously being suppressed since 1995, and a firm demand to express people’s vote in free and fair elections.

We call on international organizations and countries that promote democratic values and systems to support the struggle of the Armenian people for a better future.

Life-long dictators must not be recognized and must be condemned by the agents of democracy.

Freedom of peaceful assemblies shall be protected by the Armenian state and any escalation of the situation and the consequences are the responsibility of Serzh Sargsyan.

 

Civil society organizations

  1. Transparency International Anticorruption Center NGO
  2. Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor NGO
  3. Open Society Foundations Armenia foundation
  4. Journalists’ Club “Asparez” NGO
  5. Helsinki Committee of Armenia
  6. Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation NGO
  7. “Pink Armenia” NGO
  8. "New Generation" Humanitarian NGO
  9. “Power of the Right” human rights NGO
  10. Martuni Women’s Community Council NGO
  11. Media Initiatives Center NGO
  12. "Elegia" educational-cultural NGO
  13. “Colorful House” Social-cultural and Human Rights Defender NGO
  14. Ecotourism Association NGO
  15. “Ecoright” NGO
  16. “Hakastver” NGO
  17. Armenian Progressive Youth NGO
  18. Women’s Support Center NGO
  19. "Human Rights Research Center" NGO
  20. Helsinki Association for Human Rights NGO 
  21. Goris Press Club NGO
  22. “Union of Informed Citizens” NGO
  23. "Agate" Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities
  24. "Lore Eco Club" NGO
  25. “Shogher Union” social-educational NGO
  26. "Khazer" Ecological and Cultural NGO
  27. Europe in Law Association NGO
  28. “Free Citizen” NGO
  29. “Ecolur” NGO
  30. Women’s Resource Center NGO
  31. “Femida” NGO
  32. "Socioscope" Societal Research and Consultancy Center
  33. Human Rights House Yerevan
  34. GALA TV Studio
  35. “My Defender” NGO
  36. Public Awareness and Monitoring Center NGO
  37. “For Equal Rights” NGO

 

[1] https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/220656?download=true, https://transparency.am/en/publications/view/119

[2] https://www.osce.org/odihr/328226?download=true, https://transparency.am/files/publications/1511346003-0-749870.pdf

[3] https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2018/armenia

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Freedom House: “Nations in Transit 2018” Report

The Freedom House has released its Report of “Nations in Transit 2018”. Here is a part from the section of "Judicial Framework and Independence".

“Lawyers representing the Sasna Tsrer reported harassment by police, court officials, and civilians. In June and July, police officers arbitrarily searched some lawyers before granting them entry to the courtroom. In one instance, court officials barred two lawyers from entering without submitting to a search, leaving the lawyers’ clients to undergo a hearing without representation. The presiding judge sanctioned the lawyers for absence for an “unacceptable” reason, leading other defense lawyers and the defendants themselves to boycott the proceedings. Separately, in August lawyer Arayik Papikyan received messages threatening his safety and that of his family due to his work in the Sasna Tsrer case”.

See the full text of the report in English at https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2018/armenia.

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PRESS RELEASE

Today, April 13, at the “Garni” Hall of the “Ani Plaza” Hotel, a round-table meeting was held during which challenges and difficulties in the public defense system of the Republic of Armenia were discussed. Additionally, suggestions were offered aimed at the improvement of thepublic defense system based on current issuesin Armenia and the findings of research of public defense systems in the US and a number of European countries.

The meeting was organized by the “Helsinki Association”human rights NGO. Representatives of the Chamber of Advocates, the Office of Public Defender, human rights NGOs, the mass media, individual advocates and other interested people attended.

The meeting lasted longer than planned. Agreeing with the presented challenges, the participants initiated an active and interesting discussion, presented their views and made new proposals, also agreeing that further meetings would be required.

The meeting was the first round-table discussion held within the framework of the project "Human Rights Monitoring and Advocacy". The project aims toincrease the efficiency of justice in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor, to raise public awareness and legal protectability. Among the activities of the project is the monitoring of trials in involvement with public defenders in the courts of different instances. The second meeting is scheduledfor the next month, which will be more expanded and representative-oriented and will focus on summarizing the received proposals.

The round-table meeting materials will soon be available at www.hahr.am and www.hrtv.am.

“Helsinki Association” NGO

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PRESS RELEASE

On March 19, 2018, the presentation of the Report “Behind the Glass Wall - the Right to a Fair Trial in the Sasna Tsrer Cases” of the fact-finding mission to Armenia of the Civic Solidarity Platform (www.civicsolidarity.org) was held at the "Nairi" Hall of "Ani Plaza" Hotel.

The report summarizes the results of the fact-finding mission organized by the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR, www.iphronline.org) within the framework of the Civic Solidarity Platform. The full text of the report is available at https://goo.gl/2d6yyi.

Joana Smętek, Research Coordinator of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR), Warsaw, Poland, presented the report.

Representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Armenia, international structures and human rights organizations, as well as lawyers, journalists and activists were present in the event.

 The mission took place in September 3-9,2017, in Yerevan, aimed at establishing facts on obstacles faced by defence lawyers involved in the trials of “Sasna Tsrer” cases. The mission delegates conducted 33 interviews with 45 advocates, activists, journalists, as well as representativesof human rights NGOs, the Chamber of Advocates and the Armenian authorities.

“Helsinki Association” NGO

 

www.hahr.am;www.hrtv.am

 

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This web-site creation was made possible by the support of Counterpart International’s Civil Society and Local Government Support Program and the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International through “Helsinki Associaiton”. Content, views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s), and the responsibility of Helsinki Association and do not necessarily reflect the views of Counterpart Armenia, USAID or the United States Government.” 

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