The Civic Movement Forced Russia Reckon with the Society in Armenia: Rights Defenders
Rights defenders urge the authorities to investigate the actions the police took against protesters at Baghramyan Avenue on the morning of June 23.

The Media Center held a discussion on the divided movement against the electricity price hike and the legal aspect of the claims. The speakers included: Avetik Ishkhanyan, Chairman at Helsinki Committee of Armenia; Artur Sakunts, Head of HCA Vanadzor; and Yervand Varosyan, lawyer at Bagin Law Firm

Earlier the morning of June 23, 5:30 a.m., the demonstration against the recent electricity price hike was dispersed with blasts of water and use of force by the riot police. 237 protesters were dragged away by the police. Journalists and bloggers reported that they, too, had endured rough treatment by uniformed and plainclothes officers.

“It is a vivid example of classic disobedience that we now see in Yerevan and other cities across the country: Vanadzor, Gyumri, etc. The police intend to investigate the case of damaging Sanitek trashcans but they refrain from investigating the terrorist actions the police officers took against protesters and citizens. Those responsible for the violations and brutality must be identified and convicted to eliminate further mass violations of human rights,” Artur Sakunts said.

A just and true movement has begun that has affected the Government which was trying to calm down the citizens, Avetik Ishkhanyan believes.

Yervand Varosyan shared his insights on the politicization of the movement. No movement or process in Armenia can be apolitical, he believes. “If one single person or his men make decisions in the country, any issue and movement cannot but become political. We don’t say “partisan,” we say “political.” Why should the young people have headed straight to Baghramyan Avenue? Simply they know where to go to get the problem solved,” said Varosyan.

This movement has pulled down some stereotypes, and now everyone understands that “protesting means to close streets, and make noise and disturb one another – surely depending on the number of protesters and the issue's importance.” The electricity price is possible to change only at the will of the authorities, Varosyan believes.

The decision to cancel the electricity price increase is closely connected with the Armenian-Russian relations that are “hierarchic,” Ishkhanyan said.

“The relations are not partnership ones. Armenia does not have independent bodies and agencies. By law they are all independent but they actually fulfill orders. The Special Investigative Service is supposed to investigate the June 23 case but it is still waiting for an instruction,” Ishkhanyan said.

Sakunts added a delegation from Russia for the first time visited Armenia – now a member of the Eurasian Economic Union.

“The society managed out this bright, luminous achievement. So far Armenia has been ignored in the international arena, but after the events the media kept the spotlight on Baghramyan 26. As for delegating Permyakov’s and Hrachya Harutyunyan’s cases to the Armenian justice, I consider it nothing but a bargain. The rallies, the protesters forced such a power as Russia to reckon with the society in Armenia and talk to Armenians through Serzh Sargsyan. It is an immoral bargain which proves those people are hostages,” Sakunts said.

The President of Armenia can finally settle on a solution to the problem, Ishkhanyan believes.

“And whether or not our government will have the courage to make that decision depends on those young people and on whether the movement will continue,” he said.

Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator

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