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Armenians awaiting accountability for police violence

Human rights hous“This is the second time in recent years that journalists have been targeted during protests. Last year during the events of ‘Electric Yerevan’ journalists were targeted for the first time in recent years,” commented Helsinki Association for Human Rights, contributor to the report Burnt, Beaten and Betrayed: Armenians Awaiting Accountability for Police Violence.

The report presents the Civic Solidarity Platform’s monitoring of the Erebuni protests of July 17–30. Helsinki Association, a member of Human Rights House Yerevan, cooperated with other organisations within the Civic Solidarity Platform on the report. 

Helsinki Association highlighted the main issues during the Erebuni protests. These were violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and disproportionate use of force by Armenian law enforcement officials, illegal arrests and ill-treatment in detention, and targeted attacks on journalists, all of which are documented in the report.

“To this day no one has answered for the illegal actions by the police [during Electric Yerevan in 2015]. Impunity for last year's actions led to more serious consequences during the ‘Erebuni’ protests,” commented Helsinki Association. 

Helsinki Association also drew attention to protestors being beaten by police officers in police stations during the Erebuni protests. According to witness statements and information in the report, the majority of detainees were held in police stations from five to 15 hours, and in some cases as long as 24 hours. Adequate medical assistance was rarely provided and no food was offered while in detention, and only some were given water and allowed to use the toilet.

The Helsinki Association commented on the importance of civil society cooperation on such reports: 

“Some members of civil society provided a great deal of information and support to human rights defenders and lawyers. We believe that civil society still has a lot of room to grow, but at the same time it’s important to emphasise the high level of cooperation during this difficult period for Armenian human rights.” 

The report provides a legal analysis of the events and outlines recommendations to the Armenian government on the steps necessary to ensure accountability for human rights violations and restore justice.

The report is the work of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Helsinki Association for Human Rights, in partnership with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Protection of Rights without Borders, and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor. Helsinki Association for Human Rights and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor are members of Human Rights House Yerevan.

The report was dedicated to the memory of the founder of the Helsinki Association and Chairman of Human Rights House Yerevan, Michael Danielyan.

HRHF response to Erebuni protests 

On 4 August 2016, 58 NGOs from 11 Human Rights Houses issued a joint letter to the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, expressing concerns relating to the “Erebuni” protests and urging all parties to refrain from the use of force. It called on the Armenian authorities to:

  • Respect the right to peaceful assembly – Immediately stop the disproportionate use of force and end the unlawful detention of protestors. The State must only use force as a last resort and in a proportionate manner against violent elements. The authorities must take all necessary steps, including meetings and negotiations with civil society, to prevent the use of force against peaceful protestors.
  • Investigate – Investigate all cases of violence and alleged ill treatment, particularly against peaceful protesters and journalists, and bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Counter the climate of fear – Release timely and transparent information about police activities and detentions, and publicly support and protect the right to peaceful protest, including through a public debate in Parliament.
  • Support human rights defenders – Support the work of human rights defenders in the context of peaceful protests, as Armenia committed to doing by co-sponsoring the resolution on human rights defenders adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2013.
  • Revise operational doctrine of law enforcement – Initiate an inclusive process with international experts and independent Armenian non-governmental organisations, in order to revise the operational doctrine of the law enforcement responsible for managing peaceful protests. 
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