15.03.2019 | 15:16 | Democracy and Human Rights
The US Department of State has published its annual report on human rights in Armenia, according to which the main human rights issues in Armenia in 2018 were torture, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, police violence against journalists, instances of physical intervention of law enforcement authorities in the freedom of assembly, restrictions on political participation, systemic state corruption, violence or abuse against LGBT people, degrading treatment of persons with disabilities, including children, the worst forms of child labor.
However, according to the State Department report, the new government has taken steps to investigate and respond to instances of abuse, especially at the highest levels of government and law enforcement agencies. On July 3, the Special Investigation Service (SIS) brought charges against several former high-ranking officials in relation to the alleged role they played in post-election clashes in 2008.
Respect for the Integrity of the Person
The “Respect for the Integrity of the Person” section of the report states that no cases of arbitrary deprivation of life or politically motivated killings were registered in Armenia in 2018. There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
According to the report, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Armenia expressed concerns that the government did not promptly and accurately report incidents of deaths in the army. According to the Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor, there were 24 noncombat deaths reported during the first half of the year. In response to information requested by the Peace Dialogue NGO, the Ministry of Defense reported 31 such incidents for the same period. Nevertheless, human rights NGOs noted that the Ministry of Defense became more open following the May change in government in responding to requests for information on the number of deaths in the army.
The report also highlights that officials responsible for inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens were not prosecuted. According to the report, police abuse of suspects during their arrest, detention, and interrogation was recorded in April 2018. The report also indicates that conditions in prisons are harsh and often life threatening.
According to the report, after May 2018, following the release of certain individuals considered by some local human rights NGOs to be political prisoners, there were no reports of political prisoners in the country.
The report states that after the “velvet revolution”, the media environment became more free as some outlets began to step away from self-censorship; however, some still refrained from critical comments of the new government not to appear “counterrevolutionary.”
According to the report, the country’s few independent media outlets survived through international donations, were not self-sustainable and with limited or no revenues from advertising, and the media advertising market remained monopolized.
The report also mentions instances of violence against journalists in April, as well as the death threats MediaLab.am founder and editor Marianna Grigoryan received after publishing a satirical cartoon mocking then defense minister Vigen Sargsyan.
The report states that after April the government mainly respected the right for peaceful assembly.
Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
According to the report of the US Department of State, parliamentary elections in Armenia in December were held in equal conditions. The report also cites the assessments of OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, noting that “early parliamentary elections were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms. The parliamentary elections on December 9 are described in the report as the first “truly competitive” elections in the country.
However, at the same time, the report states that the participation of women in the political process continues to remain low. There were no female governors in the country’s 10 regions; the first female mayor was elected on October 21. According to the report, some female politicians, as well as human rights and environmental activists, were subject to gender-biased posts and discriminatory comments on Facebook.
The section of the report referring to corruption indicates presence of systemic corruption in all three branches of government. After the May “velvet revolution,” the new government opened investigations that revealed systemic corruption encompassing most areas of public and private life. The SIS launched numerous criminal cases against alleged corruption by former government officials and their relatives, as well as parliamentarians, with cases ranging from a few thousand to millions of U.S. dollars.
The report also mentions that some Facebook users politically affiliated with the former government started a campaign against some civil society organizations.
Besides, the report by the US Department of State mentions instances of domestic violence, sex-selective abortions, unequal treatment of women in the labor market, cases of violence against LGBTI persons, discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, and a number of other issues.
Union of Informed Citizens