Such opinion was expressed by Artur Sakunts, Chairman of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor, at the discussion hosted by the Media Center on April 12.
Haykuhi Harutyunyan, Chairperson of Protection of Rights without Borders NGO, and Robert Revazyan, lawyer at the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, also took part in the discussion.
The human rights activists summed up the human rights violations at peaceful assemblies within Serzh Sargsyan's 10-year presidency.
"Following the state terrorist act of March 1, Serzh Sargsyan remained loyal to the state terrorism practices by further improving them and in some cases treated citizens the same way. Serzh Sargsyan took the path of restricting freedoms and we saw the feedback on such practices in the Freedom House Report.
Note that those 10 years were marked with quite an active civic life in Armenia: ‘Electric Yerevan’, ‘Sasna Tsrer’, ‘Dem em’ (‘I'm against’), movements against transport fee hikes, Mashtots Park struggle and other environmental movements.
Artur Sakunts recalls that Serzh Sargsyan took his office just by the mass persecutions and illegal actions by the authorities during the March 1 assemblies, including by the use of armed forces against citizens that resulted in 10 victims, with 8 civilians.
Sakunts notes that after March 1, 2008 about 40 large-scale assemblies were held and there has been not a single assembly so far when the authorities did not violate the rights of the protesters.
"Every year, we identify more and more evidence that the police illegally apprehend assembly participants to police stations. I think such apprehension aims to prevent people from reaching the assembly venues," Sakunts says.
He also recalls the peaceful demonstration of the mothers of the military servants deceased in the army when the black-clothed mourning women suffered violence by the police and no one has been held responsible so far. He also provides the example of the special means used in Sari Tagh district on the days of Sasna Tsrer armed group’s attack and causing a young man to lose one of his eyes.
"The most disgraceful case occurred in July 2016 as the citizens taking part in a peaceful protest held in parallel to the armed rebellion, were moved to the military unit of the internal troops; it’s a military service unit and the apprehended were detained in dishonorable conditions there," Sakunts says.
Haykuhi Harutyunyan says that in 2008-2018, the human rights protection in Armenia regressed.
"Over the past 10 years, the area and scope of the exercise of human rights and freedoms have gradually reduced and we can witness such decline at the level of legislative initiatives as well. For instance, now we have some legislative initiatives on the judiciary that put forth regulations not promoting the right to a fair trial in any way. Or, another such example is the procedure for the government activity that is directly viewed in the context of restricting a person’s rights to information and freedom of expression," Harutyunyan says.
According to the human rights activist, such developments fully describe the framework for human rights protection in RA.
And Robert Revazyan adds that in terms of human rights violations, Armenia is in a stable negative poor situation.
"In recent years, human rights violations have increased along with intensified political and civil movements. In 2011, we adopted a new Law on Peaceful Assemblies that is not a bad law in itself but the practice shows that the police act as necessary, i.e. by orders, rather than by law. And the law is pushed into the background," Revazyan says.
For continuation, watch the video.
Lilit Arakelyan, Media Center Project Editor/Coordinator
To contact the author, please feel free to email her: Lilitarakelyan@pjc.am