“Human Rights in 25-Year-Old Armenia”
The human rights protection in 25-year-old independent Armenia is still far from being proper. There are numerous cases of human rights violations in public, social, political and economic spheres. This is the opinion of human rights defenders who participated in a discussion on the current issues and challenges of human rights protection on September 20 at Media Center.

“If we compare the human rights protection up to 1980s and now, there is an incomparable improvement. If we characterize today's situation, it is far from the desired result," Larisa Alaverdyan, Executive Director of "The Foundation Against the Violation of Law” NGO, said 

She clarified that she does not draw parallels with "exemplary countries" in human rights perspective. The issues of human rights protection and the construction of a legal state were described in one sentence. “We pass through this way not so much balanced and definite, full of problems and obstacles."

Elinar Vardanyan, Chairman of NA Committee “The Protection of Human Rights and Public Affairs” and Vardan Harutyunyan, Human Rights Defender, Chairman of "Rights and Freedom Center" NGO also participated in the discussion on “Human Rights in 25-Year-Old Armenia” at Media Center.

It is hard for the experts to make a clear assessment of the human rights and freedoms protection. This is a large topic for a study. A similar study is carried out by the international human rights organization “Freedom House”, to which Larisa Alaverdyan referred in her speech. 

“According to the research of that organisation, it appears that in fact we are almost at the same place in the last 6-7 years. According to the ratings compiled by the organization, we remain among partly free countries," she explained. 

There is such an impression that the progress recorded in this sector is despite the authorities.

“Whatever the civil society does, it seems to be despite the authorities,” Alaverdyan said.

Vardan Harutyunyan noted that today’s situation in Armenia reminds of the Soviet period of 1970s. 

“It is a period when there is a swamp and people are desperate, when they do not know what to do, when they leave the country losing their hope. These are the worst things," Harutyunyan said, speaking also about the achievements, "We certainly have achievements. Today we have freedom of speech. Our authorities want it or not, it is their business. No one is sentenced for freedom of speech and expression. There are activities for which people are convicted, unfortunately." 

As the international experts said, rather disturbing developments took place in Armenia in the sphere of human rights and freedoms in recent times. According to observers and human rights organizations, in December of the previous year, there were serious problems related to electoral violations during the constitutional referendum.

In addition, during the events related to the electricity price increase of last year and the activities of “Sasna Dzrer” this year, there were numerous violations of human rights during peaceful rallies, demonstrations and marches. The performance of journalists was hindered; many of them were subjected to violence. Statements made by international human rights organizations were of great concern.

Despite the evidence and videos, no law enforcement officer stood in front of the court. All these give reason to human rights activists to claim that the authorities did not only exercised enough political will to tackle the problems in the field, but also they try to cover up the committed offenses.

"I think that in any country the government should only have one sentence in its programs and mind – “not to hinder the realization of human rights”," Vardan Harutyunyan said.

According to Elinar Vardanyan, the achievements in the field of human rights "are not the merit of the state. 

"It's the merits of the society. It is the merits of various non-governmental organizations. Because the commitments that the state should comply for example with regard to the development of the judiciary, the independence of the judiciary, we unfortunately do not record any achievements in this area," she said, presenting a closed cycle of human rights violations.

“When the rights are violated, the citizen applies to the court, the court cannot exercise the protection of his rights properly and this in turn leads to human rights violations," Vardanyan said, considering normal the fact that in this situation the European Court of Human Rights has become a lifeline for citizens.

According to her, people are waiting to exhaust the domestic remedies and appeal to the European Court.

"Maybe it's an option for citizens, but it is very sad when a citizen does not have much confidence in the judicial system of his own country. When the suit is filed, the first thought is to go to the European court," she said. 

She also disagreed that Armenia stands on the same place in terms of protection of rights and freedoms. She believes that there is a regress during the recent years.

"If Mrs. Alaverdyan believes that we are at the same place, I believe that we are registering a leap, given the grave violations of right to freedom of assemblies during at least the last two years. If there were violations in the past, during the past two years, they are conducted in an openly rude manner and are naturally stipulated in the reports of various international organizations," she concluded.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

To contact the author please send an email to arshaluismghdesyan@pjc.am.

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