An online debate entitled “Human Rights Violations and Brutality Cases at the Baghramyan Protests” was held at the initiative of the Media Center and cybercast at A1plus.am. The speakers included: Levon Barseghyan, Head of Asparez Journalists’ Club, Gyumri; Artur Sakunts, Head of HCA Vanadzor; Tigran Yegoryan, Lawyer at Europe of Law, NGO; Daniel Ioannisyan, Project Coordinator at the Union of Informed Citizens; and Arman Danielyan, Head of CIS.
“Why force was used on the morning of June 23, I can't still figure out. I call the use of force with such an arsenal another cynical display of force which sought only to frighten people into ceasing protests. The days that followed, however, showed the police had failed,” Artur Sakunts said.
Earlier, the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) – a 100% subsidiary of Inter RAO (Russia), applied to the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) to raise the electricity tariffs. The company suggested increasing the daytime tariff from the current 41.85 to 58.93 AMD per 1kWh and the nighttime tariff from the current 31.85 to 48.93 AMD per 1kWh.
Despite the vehement public protests, on June 17 the PSRC took a decision to partially satisfy the ENA’s application. At the PSRC meeting a decision was made to raise the tariffs by 6.93 AMD instead of 17 AMD suggested by the ENA.
The decision led to public discontent that has grown into unrest and mass protests. On June 22, the protesters blocked Baghramyan Avenue in Yerevan, in front of President Sargsyan’s residence. On the morning of June 23, 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.
“The illegitimate authorities, coupled with clumsy and inefficient policies, have thrown the country into a state when even a small-scale local problem may be a danger to the authorities. The clash on June 23 comes to show the non-professionalism of the law enforcement and public administration agencies,” believes Tigran Yegoryan.
Daniel Ioannisyan said the authorities in Armenia were scared of the “maydan” technologies.
“During the next two weeks the authorities never laid a finger on any protester because they feared any further action might double the number of protesters and make stricter the demands and methods of the struggle.”
In 2013-14 the riot police detained 286 citizens while only during the night of June 23 and later on July 6 exactly the same number of people were taken to police stations.
“It means all records are broken and it is a punitive act,” Ioannisyan said.
Levon Barseghyan believes the police acted with inertia.
“The same day 13 people were arrested at Theatre Square in Gyumri. They were undressed and all the clothes and mobile phones were confiscated. Some even asked, “Why don’t you take us also to the police station” but the officers replied that there was not enough space in the cars. These were absurd actions,” Barseghyan said.
Arman Danielyan referred to Article 12 of the law on police which fixes that officers will wear uniform at all times. “The outfit must have an identification number and the name on it. Actually, the hand patch bearing the word “police” violates both the law on language and law on police. The society does not have any other means of getting their opinion heard than a public event.”
Invitations were sent to the Special investigative Service, Police and National Assembly, but the above-mentioned structures refused to participate in the debate.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
Please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.