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October 30, 2009

Political Prisoners’ day was first observed in 1974 in Soviet labor camps, honoring those who had been unjustly imprisoned and remembering those who had lost their lives to political repression. It is deplorable that today, thirty years later in independent Armenia, there are seventeen political prisoners, and there has been no justice for the victims of March 1, 2008.

In the course of the fraudulent presidential election of February 2008 and the government’s March 1 crackdown on peaceful protesters, ten people were killed, hundreds of opposition supporters were arrested, and many more were forced into hiding.
The election and its aftermath represented an attack on democracy; what followed was the ruin of the judicial system. Rather than trying to discover what really happened on March 1, and why so many people lost their lives, the government launched a program of smear campaigns and show trials. The sordid partial amnesty, in which many of the political prisoners were released, was no substitute for justice.

Worse, it left seventeen men in prison.  All of these men have been convicted unjustly, many solely on the basis of police testimony.  Yet they face sentences of up to nine years in prison. Regional developments and geopolitical concerns seem to have overshadowed the fact that so many political prisoners remain, but we must not allow them to be forgotten. Every day these men spend in jail brings with it additional risks to their health and additional hardship for their families.    

On the occasion of October 30, Political Prisoners’ Day, we join the families of the seventeen political prisoners in calling for the immediate release of their husbands and fathers, sons and brothers. We join the families of the victims of March 1 in calling for justice for their loved ones so tragically lost. We demand an end to political repression in Armenia. 

Armenian Helsinki Association
Helsinki Assembly, Vanadzor
Democracy Today
Armenian Helsinki Assembly, Yerevan
Jurists against Torture
Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK)
Women´s Resource Center Armenia
Vernatun- Political Prisoners’ Wives
Asparez, Journalist Club, Gyumri region

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