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Over the last months, Armenian human rights activists have been increasingly subject to pressure and intimidation, and in many cases media is used actively to spread intolerance towards activists and the vulnerable groups they protect, in particular topics of LGBTI and gender. The NHC has responded to this development by joining local partners in an alternative report to the UPR on Armenia and an open statement addressing these issues.
Den norske Helsingforskomité har vært engasjert i situasjonen i Armenia siden slutten av 1990-tallet. Vi overvåker utviklingen for menneskerettighetene og har observert flere valg. Valgene i Armenia de siste årene har hatt store mangler og myndighetene stoppet demonstrasjoner etter presidentvalget i 2008 med voldelige midler. Vi har også vært særlig opptatt av forholdene i armenske fengsler og psykiatriske institusjoner.
In an open letter to Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan sent today, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee highlights recommendations from the recent report on civic activism in Armenia and offers to discuss them in a meeting with the President in Yerevan later in June. The report examines developments within the Armenian civil society since the disputed presidential elections in 2008, and points to several issues that need to be addressed in order to counter the lack of trust in the Armenian society today.
New NHC report:
The NHC has monitored developments in Armenia closely since the disputed presidential election in 2008. This fresh report provides an analysis of trends within civic activism since the unrest that resulted in 10 deaths on 1 March 2008 until the recent demonstrations against the Russia-led customs union. – The authorities’ reactions to civic engagement in Armenia over the last weeks is definitely a reason for concern, says Armenia advisor in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Lene Wetteland. – Though Armenia has received praise for legal reforms and some positive developments in the EU rapprochement process, these recent actions should serve as a warning that these steps can easily be retracted, Wetteland says.
In September, Armenia’s President Sargsyan decided to sign initial agreements with the Russian-led Customs Union on the eve of when he was expected to sign documents on an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement with the EU.
The “Coalition for Trust”, a three-year regional project funded by the European Commission and co-funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, started in late 2012 and works in all entities of the South Caucasus to restore confidence and build people-to-people contact by opening up new perspectives on conflict transformation. The initiative is implemented on the ground by local partner and associate organisations in the regions. NHC is working with the partners to develop and deliver a broad-ranging educational programme for close to 300 students, journalists and civic activists.
One year after the bombing of the DIY pub and violent counter demonstrators attacked a Diversity March in Yerevan, Armenia still suffers from widespread intolerance and discrimination of minorities. The legislation does not include hate crime with intent towards gender and sexual minorities, and the government fails to protect the rights of these citizens. Media is more often used as a tool to build up under prejudice and intolerance, and homophobic statements are frequently used by stakeholders to gain popularity.
Universal Periodic Review Armenia:
Together with the Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have submitted a mid-term assessment (May 2010–December 2012) following recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council at Armenia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2010.
Election Day in Armenia was characterized by reports of ballot stuffing, multiple voting and intimidation of voters, following
a campaign where the three main opposition parties decided not to nominate their presidential candidates. This is the conclusion
of a delegation from the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), consisting of four experts of the Norwegian Helsinki
Committee, Swedish International Liberal Centre SILC, Sweden, Association GOLOS, Russia and European Exchange, Germany to
the Presidential elections on 18 February in Armenia.
-Though there were several reports about fraud before and during Election Day, social media showed that many Armenians took this opportunity to state their opinion, says NHC’s Lene Wetteland, who was present in Armenia for the elections. - Many demonstrated contempt by voting for American celebrity Kim Kardashian; one ate his ballot, another returned the 5000 AMD bribe with a note that not everyone can be bought, and surprisingly many voted for the runner-up Raffi Hovhannisyan, who is now arranging rallies in towns all over Armenia.
Voting at the 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia is underway, following a month of low key campaigning. The ruling Republican party’s candidate and incumbent president Serge Sargsyan is expected to win the majority of the votes in an election where the three largest opposition parties in the Parliament did not advance or support any candidate. NHC's Lene Wetteland is observing the elections in Vanadzor.
NHC together with partner organisations Civil Society Institute and The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) call upon Armenian authorities to eliminate violations in the administration of justice and ensure the establishment of an independent judiciary and the rule of law. These steps are fundamental to the further democratic development of Armenia, and should be a prerequisite for any further engagement with the EU.
Job vacancy announcement:
We are currently seeking a highly qualified person to be the regional coordinator of the (EU-funded) program “Coalition for trust” in the South Caucasus. The aim of the program is to contribute to building knowledge and trust between people in a region marked by conflict and human rights violations. Activities include education and training, network building, advocacy and activism.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee participated in a picket in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Oslo Monday, passing on a statement to Counsellor Vitalii Pantus. The statement comes as a reaction to the recent violent attacks on a peaceful demonstration organized by Ukrainian LGBTI organizations, where several activists were victims of violence. – We are concerned with the development in many European countries. It seems to be a trend of violent intolerance that is unacceptable in countries that are aspiring at rapprochement to Europe, hosting European Championships in Football, Olympic Games or applying for EU membership, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
On 16 April 2012, the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly Vanadzor, a partner organization of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, was subject to harassment by a large crowd on the eve of a movie screening. Police authorities did not protect the human rights defenders, and damage was made to the premises of the organization. Now, several international and regional organisations have sent a letter to the Armenian authorities, urging proper investigation of the events and protection of human rights defenders in Armenia.
Parliamentary elections on Sunday 6 May was the country’s first elections since the disputed 2008 Presidential elections that led to strong protests and eight persons being killed by security forces. – There were a few improvements from previous elections, but abuse of administrative resources and pressure on voters remained a serious problem, says Lene Wetteland, Advisor who observed Sunday’s election. – Authorities had promised that elections would be conducted according to international standards. But if you are told that your job depends on supporting the President’s party, you stop believing in such promises, she continues.
Elections in Armenia:
Presidential elections of 19 February 2008 and the subsequent unrest of 1 March, where 10 people lost their lives, and more than hundred were arrested or injured. In the campaign leading up to the elections, President Sargsyan has on several occasions stated the importance of free and fair elections. - It is of utmost importance that these promises are followed up by action, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Norwegian Helsinki Committee's Lene Wetteland is in Armenia during the elections.
(07/04-2008) Mens over tusen opposisjonelle ropte slagord mot han to kilometer unna, vart Serge Sargsyan innsett som president i Armenia i Operabygningen, omkransa av soldatar og politi.
(14/03-2008) Helsingforskomiteens rapport fra det armenske presidentvalget 19. februar er nå tilgjengelig. Helsingforskomiteen oppfordrer armenske myndigheter til å sette i gang en dialog mellom opposisjonen og majoriteten i landet. Bare gjennom en slik dialog kan valgrutinene forbedres, og folkets tillit til offentlige myndigheter gjenopprettes. Dette er én av Helsingforskomiteens anbefalinger etter tilstedeværelse i flere uker før, under og etter valget.
(07/03-2008) The Armenian government must adhere to international law and should invite international investigations into unrest and government response to it.
(04/03-2008) Helsingforskomiteen har de siste ukene hatt en representant til stede i Jerevan for å følge valgprosessen og å rapportere derfra.
(03/03-2008) Lene Wetteland har i de siste ukene vært i Armenias hovedstad Yerevan. Hun har vært øyenvitne til de siste dagers dramatiske hendelser i forbindelse med presidentvalget 19. februar.
(26/02-2008) Fleire høgtståande og offisielle personar har no mista jobben eller blitt arresterte etter at dei meldte sin solidaritet med demonstrantane på Fridomsplassen.
(25/02-2008) After five days of demonstrating on Liberty Square, some demonstrators have taken a further step to get attention. 11 men are now on a hunger strike.
(22/02-2008) Etter misnøye med valresultatet og prosedyren overnatta fleire hundre tilhengjarar av opposisjonstilhengjarar på Fridomsplassen med krav om oppatteljing av stemmene.
(21/02-2008) I følgje den Sentrale Valkommisjonen og nasjonal TV er sitjande statsminister Serge Sargsyan Armenia sin nye president etter overveldande siger i første runde av valet.
OSSE kallar valet ”mostly in line” med internasjonale standardar, SUS kallar valet ”fritt og ope,” og tusenvis av opposisjonsvenlege demonstrerer i sentrum av Jerevan.
(20/02-2008) Den sentrale Valkommisjonen seier 1 641 672 menneske (69.25%) stemte ved presidentvalet i Armenia i går.
(20/02-2008) Over the last two hours there has been a significant increase in violations under the Armenian presidential elections.
(19/02-2008) Proxies, voters and cameramen have been subject to beatings at various polling stations in Yerevan.
(19/02-2008) Det ser ut til å bli stor deltaking ved presidentvalet i Armenia, men statsvitarar åtvarar mot å stola blindt på dei offisielle tala.
(19/02-2008) Tre timar etter at stemmelokala opna er det allereie kome meldingar om mistenkelege forhold med vallistene, og veljarar har fått utbetalt pengane dei vart lova for stemma si.
(18/02-2008) The main rivalling presidential candidates did not miss their last chance of campaigning this weekend before the elections on 19 February.
Presidentval i Armenia:
(15/02-2008) Organisasjonen for Sikkerhet og Samarbeid i Europa kallar den armenske valadministrasjonen ”well-prepared”. Men rapporten frå i går skildrar fleire hendingar som ikkje er i samsvar med internasjonale plikter.
Presidentval i Armenia:
(14/02-2008) Ti dagar før presidentvalet i Armenia stod Justisdepartementet i brann. Tre dagar etter var brannen framleis ikkje heilt sløkt, og det er framleis uvisst kva som årsaka brannen.
(13/02-2008) Grunnlovsdomstolen i Armenia avslår presidentkandidat Levon Ter-Petrossyan si klage over “uoverkommelege hindringar” retta mot han i valkampen.
(02/11-2007) Bare 50 internasjonale observatører er velkomne til Russlands parlamentsvalg 2. desember.
(06/02-2007) Psychiatric institutions in Armenia provide poor treatment of patients, serve inadequate food, and lack meaningful activities.